Fall Quarter, 2014


Instructor: Dr. David Wallin; Office: AH310; Phone: 650-7526; e-mail:

Teaching Assistant: Lara Gaasland_Tatro; Office ES518;
Text: None; readings from the primary literature will be available online.  A few things may also be placed on reserve in the Main Library
 Click here for the list of readings.

Optional Supplemental Text: (A copy of this text is available in the reserve reading room of the Main Library)  Landscape Ecology in Theory and Practice by M. G. Turner, R.H. Gardner and R.V. O’Neill

Class Meets: MTWF, 3:00-3:50; AH18
Office Hours: MWF 1:00 - 2:00, T 4:00-5:00  (sign-up on office door) and by appointment.

Prerequisites: The course requires a background in ecology. As noted in the WWU Bulletin and the online Classfinder, All students must have completed BOTH ESCI 325 and 340 or Biol 325 and 340 or equivalent courses at another institution.

Student Learning Objectives: Upon completion of the course, students will be well versed in current topics, experimental design and data analysis techniques currently in use in the field of landscape ecology and will be able to effectively search, read and critically evaluate scientific literature.

Reasonable Accommodation: Reasonable accommodation for persons with documented disabilities should be established within the first week of class and arranged through Disability Resources for Students: Telephone 650-3083; email and on the web at


Course Outline for Fall Quarter 2014

The purpose of this four-credit course is to provide an overview of the field of Landscape Ecology.  The course is based entirely on readings from the primary literature (scientific journals).  No good textbook is available in this field. Several books come close and I will put these on reserve in the library as background material.  A few of the readings will come from these texts, but most of the course will be based on papers published in scientific journals. Lectures and discussion will be based on the primary literature.  The course requires a background in ecology. All students must have completed BOTH ESCI 325 and 340 or Biol 325 and 340 or equivalent courses at another institution.

Classes will consist of a mixture of lecture and discussion of the readings.  You will have several assigned readings each week and each of you will be expected to find additional readings on your own (more on this below).  During our discussions I may call on three or four students to briefly (5 minutes max) summarize the paper from the recent literature that you have found that relates to the lecture topic. All students will be expected to actively participate in the discussions.




Graduate Students

Mid-term exam



Final exam



Paper summaries



Term paper



Annotated Bibliography



Class participation



Discussion Lead




Grades: A >=93; A- 90-92; B+ 88-89; B 83-87; B- 80-82; C+ 78-79; C 73-77; C- 70-72; D+ 68-69; D 63-67 D- 60-62; F 0-59

Class Participation: I expect to learn a great deal from you this term and so do your classmates. I expect everyone to actively participate in all discussions. I recognize that some people are not as outspoken as others; some have a very hard time speaking out in class. This is something we all need to overcome. When you leave here and get a job (this has been known to happen), you will be judged to a large degree based on your ability to communicate with your peers. If you know you have a problem speaking out in class, please come see me.

If you are not in class, you deprive us of your insights. Although I hope you will be there for every class, everyone gets two unexcused absences; additional unexcused absences will have a major impact on your grade. Let me know if you have a good reason to miss a class (illness, family crisis, research, scientific meeting, a need to go to Stockholm to pick up your Nobel prize, etc.).


Literature Searches: Each week, you will be expected to find a paper from the recent literature that relates to the lecture topic(s) and assigned readings.  How do you find these papers?  Many approaches are possible.  Three of the common approaches involve:

1.      Search for papers that include one of the assigned readings in their list of citations.  Papers that cite the assigned paper probably build on this paper.  Here are instructions for doing a “cited reference search” (Click here for some hints on locating "new" papers using the SCIENCE CITATION INDEX (also known as THE WEB OF SCIENCE))

2.      You can also do key word or “subject” searches in the Web of Science or other data bases available through the WWU library.

3.      Scan the table of contents in promising journals.  (Click here for a partial list of relevant journals).

This independent reading that each of you will do is a very important part of the class.  First of all, by doing this reading, you will improve your ability to use the literature.  The ability to find papers in the literature on a given topic is an important skill.  Also, since each of you will be reading different papers, each of you will have something unique and valuable to contribute to our discussions.  We can’t read everything but collectively, we will be able to read quite a bit more.


Annotated Bibliography: Using the papers that you find, I want you to create an annotated bibliography.  We will be posting all of this online using (more on this below).  For each paper that you read, include:

1.      The full citation

2.      A link to the paper. Go here for proper formatting for the URL and instructions on creating links to articles in full-text databases.

3.      A list of key words and/or a couple of sentences that summarize the paper.  Feel free to include your frank assessment of the paper (e.g. “great paper” or “not worth reading”).

You will need to post these on our Wordpress site each week by 4PM on Friday.  I would like everyone to use a common format.    For this reason, please DO NOT get fancy with cute fonts, indents weird spacing or anything else. Please use the following sample format for your citations (make sure that your list of keywords begins on a new line).

Urban, D.L., R.V. O’Neill, and H.H. Shugart, Jr.. 1987. Landscape ecology. Bioscience 37:119-127. (link).
*Classic review paper from early days of landscape ecology, hierarchy theory, scaling, pattern and process linkage, disturbance, anthropogenic effects on landscape processes.

Compiled Annotated Bibliography Fall 2010

Compiled Annotated Bibliography Fall 2011


Paper summaries: At least five times over the course of the term, you will be expected to write a one or two-page summary of the paper you found for that week.  Your summary should include the full citation for the paper and a link to the paper.  If you do not know how to create a link to the paper, go here for instructions on creating links to articles in full-text databases.  You should still separately turn in your annotated citation (to the Wordpress site) for this paper as well. These summaries will be due at the end of each week (4PM Friday).  In the interest of saving a few trees, and in a effort reduce clutter and improve efficiency, I would like you to submit these summaries in digital form.  Prepare your summary in MS Word (or something similar), save it as a PDF (in MSWord, go to File-Save as-PDF) and then send me an email with your PDF attached.  Your PDF should have a standardized filename (e.g. yourname435_sum1_week2.pdf).  I will grade these and return them to you via email.    These summaries will be graded and I will use your best five grades when I calculate your final grade. Don't put this off until the end of the term! Under no circumstances will I accept more than one paper summary from you per week. At least two summaries must be turned in prior to the mid-term exam.  My intent here is to even out your workload and mine as well.  As discussed above, even if you elect not to turn in a summary in a given week, I still expect you to find a paper and read it. During the discussions, I will call upon students at random to briefly (5 minutes max.) tell us about the paper that you have read. Your verbal summaries count as part of your grade. Reclusive individuals can expect to be called upon frequently.

Wordpress / Online Comments: I’m trying something new this year. We will be posting our annotated bibliographies and summaries online using the blog.  Each of you will be able to post to this site and you will also be able to post comments and questions on entries made by your classmates. Furthermore, everything that we post to this site will be visible to anyone on the web.  My hope is that others who might be doing work or taking a class in Landscape Ecology will find our site and they may post comments as well.  My hope is that this will lead to some interesting discussions both with your classmates and with others outside WWU.  I’m just learning how to use Wordpress myself so I’m sure that we will get off to a bumpy start.  Please hang in there!  Instructions for using Wordpress


Academic Dishonesty: There has been a substantial increase in the number of cases of Academic Dishonesty in recent years.  For this reason, all faculty members have been instructed by the Registrar’s Office to provide students with explicit information about Academic Dishonesty.  Briefly stated, lying, cheating and stealing will not be tolerated in any form.  Actions of this type will result in severe consequences that could include a failing grade in the class and dismissal from the university.  Hopefully, this does not come as a surprise to anyone.  All students should review Appendix D, Academic Dishonesty Policy and Procedure Appendix D, Academic Dishonesty Policy and Procedure in the back of the University Catalog  for a more detailed discussion of what constitutes academic dishonesty.  For more information see:

Plagiarism Policies & Guidelines:

The Student’s Guide to Avoiding Plagiarism:

One particular category of academic dishonesty warrants special attention.  I have encountered a number of cases of plagiarism on writing assignments in recent years.  This seems to be particularly common on writing assignments that include summarizing or synthesizing the content of a scientific paper.  In many cases, these cases of plagiarism may have been unintentional and actually result from poor work habits.  Many students get into the very bad habit of lifting a section of text from a published paper with the intention of going back and revising this section of text prior to turning in their paper.  Unfortunately, they sometimes forget to do this and end up turning in a paper that includes significant sections of text that are lifted directly from someone else’s work.  This is plagiarism.  If this sounds a lot like the way you typically approach a writing assignment, then you definitely need to make some changes in your work habits.       


Term Paper (Graduate Students Only): The paper (about 10-15 pages) should provide a review of some aspect of landscape ecology based on a set of papers (6-12?) from the primary literature. All term paper topics must be approved by me no later than the date of the mid-term exam. You are also required to turn in an outline of your paper and a reference list no later than week seven. The papers are due the Friday before dead week.  Please include the references from your review in your annotated bibliography (described above).


Discussion format/ Readings: The discussion will focus on one or two papers that are related to the lecture. Everyone should come to every class with something to say about the readings. I would strongly recommend that you come to class with two or three discussion points actually written down. Among the points that you should consider while reading are:

    1. If it is a research article, what are the central questions or hypotheses that have been addressed? If it is a review paper, what does the author feel are the central questions that have, or have not, been studied?
    2. Reading the primary literature is difficult. In most of the papers we read, there will be some sections that seem incomprehensible. One purpose of our discussions is to work together to decipher these difficult sections. If there is a section of a paper you didn't understand, then you should not hesitate to bring this up in class. You will quickly find out that you are not alone. Many others probably had difficulty with this same section. Someone in the class may be able to clarify this section, and there may be other sections of the paper that only you were able to decipher.
    3. Do the data or arguments that are presented support the conclusions that are made? Are there errors in the use of methods, or incorrect interpretations, or are the data weak? Do you have another interpretation for the data? If you can see problems with the study, what would you have done differently? These are important points to consider. An important part of your development as a scientist is the capacity to critically evaluate a piece of research, but other things are MUCH more important!
    4. Several other issues are much more important. The perfect scientific paper has not yet been written (but I am sure that each of you will someday write several perfect papers). Despite any shortcomings in the paper, ask yourself what you have learned from it! If you can’t think of anything at all, then you screwed up. Even the really awful papers have some shred of value to them! Go back and try again! Among the issues you should consider are: (a.) What are the significance of the results for our understanding of landscape ecology? (b.) Are the results contrary to traditional concepts or established knowledge or do they support and expand established knowledge? (c.) What do the results mean in terms of how we manage landscapes or how we manage ourselves? What land-use practice would you change based on these results? (d.) Perhaps most important of all, What would your do next to follow up on this work?


Discussion leaders: Graduate students will be expected to act as leaders for about three or four class periods. Discussion leaders should prepare a 10-minute introduction to the discussion of the reading(s) in which you provide the context for the topic and background information. You will need to look at some of the articles cited by the author or other articles in the same are to understand the topic fully. You might provide us with a short bibliography of related articles (if not already cited by the author of the readings). Do not summarize the reading during your introduction. Each of us have already read the paper! After your introduction, we will simply begin our discussion. Your role is to keep our discussion flowing. When there is a silence, bring up a new question. If someone makes a point and no one else responds, then you should either respond or bring up a new question. Near the end of the time, you could bring up any new points that have not already been discussed.

All discussion leaders should come in to see me at least one week prior to their assigned class. This will give us an opportunity to briefly discuss the material we will be covering and decide if we want to make any changes in the assigned readings. If we do want to use different readings, we need to make them available the week before (this will not be possible early in the term).


Tentative Class Schedule:  We will definitely make changes to the lecture schedule as the term progresses. Check this schedule for changes!  As the quarter progresses, I will also be making changes in the readings when I come across newer or more interesting papers.  Note that newer doesn’t always mean better.  We will be reading some very current papers and also some old classics.  For each class, I will assign one or two papers from the primary literature.  These papers will be available online.  You will need to make your own copies of these papers or you can use an e-reader or laptop.  .

Last Updated: 9/15/2014

(Click here for lecture notes and handouts)




Papers Click here for the full citation for each reading and links to papers available online.


Sept. 24

Organizational Meeting



Sept. 26-29

What is Landscape Ecology?

Urban, D.L., et al.. 1987
Turner, M.G. 2005a and 2005b.



Landscape Metrics and Scaling Issues in LE

Gustafson 1998, McGarigal et al. 2009


Oct. 6-8

The Physical template I

Stephanson 1990, Urban et al. 2000


Oct. 10

The Physical template II

Reiners and Lang 1979


Oct. 13-14

Biotic Processes I

Watt, A.S.. 1947, Smith and Urban 1988


Oct. 15-17

Biotic Processes II

Urban et al. 1999


Oct. 20-22

Disturbance I

Knight and Wallace 1989, Note for 2015, replace Knight&Wallace with Boyce etal 2011 Miller and Urban 1999


Oct. 24, 27

Disturbance II; The Natural Variability Concept

Swanson et al. 1988, Landres et al. 1999


Oct. 28-29

Disturbance Regimes: HRV

Keane et al. 2009, Waples et al. 2009


Oct. 31

Review Session


Oct. 31-Nov. 3

Mid-term Exam; Online essay exam to be completed during any 2- hour time block between Friday, 10/31 @ 4PM and Monday, 11/3 @ 9AM



Nov. 3-4

Remote Sensing and GIS

Cohen et al. 1996, Lefsky et al. 2002


Nov. 5-7

Remote Sensing (continued)


Nov. 10-11

Connectivity I: Introduction to Models

Gustafson, E.J. and R.H. Gardner. 1996; Belisle 2005


Nov. 12-14

Connectivity II

Tischendorf et al. 2001, Langlois et al. 2001,


Nov. 17-18

Landscape Genetics I

Manel et al. 2003, Holdregger et al. 2006.


Nov. 19-24

Landscape Genetics II

Cushman et al. 2006


Nov. 26-28

Thanksgiving Break: No class



Dec. 1-2

Implications of landscape patterns: Metapopulations and Communities

Pulliam 1988, Schumaker et al. 2004


Dec. 3-5

Ecosystem Processes in the Landscape: Hydrology

Jones et al. 2000, Moscrip and Montgomery 1997

Dec. 8-12

Final Exam Schedule











Click here for the list of readings and links to papers available online.

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