Looking back on the impact of climate change on ecological systems and to the future.

Faculty: Forestry
Subject: Natural Resources Conservation
Year / Level: 3
Theme(s): Climate Science



Anthropogenic climate change has already risen the global temperature nearly one degree, with far more radical warming predicted in the coming decades. With this elevated temperature regime come shifts in frosts, precipitation, storms and extremes. Alongside these major physical impacts many aspects of ecological systems are changing. This course will build on the fundamental organizing units of ecology: individuals, populations, species, communities and ecosystems to build a framework to understand what has shifted in the last 40 years and what we may expect by the end of the century.

Learning objectives

  1. Explain the basic science of anthropogenic climate change.
  2. Describe the major physical and biological evidence of climate change.
  3. Debunk the top myths related to climate change impacts on our physical and biological world.
  4. Describe the organizing levels of ecology and how they are relevant to understanding and predicting climate change impacts.
  5. Describe the major ecological impacts of climate change and how they mechanistically occur.
  6. Understand the major sources of uncertainty about how much warming will occur in the future, and over what biological timescales.
  7. Explain what will happen to local, regional and global ecosystems under different warming scenarios.
  8. Be able to read and interpret scientific papers on climate change. This includes understanding a paper's basic study design and how the authors detect and attribute biological changes to climate change.


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Read a copy of the course syllabus to see reading lists, assignments, grading, and more.



Elizabeth M Wolkovich

"There is no textbook. The course changes actively with new science, new advances, and new methods to understand and mitigate the consequences of climate change on ecological systems."