Practical of aquatic ecology
Learning outcomes of the course unit
The course is offered to students of the 2nd year aiming to improve their skills in aquatic ecosystem analyses:
1) to identify the main characteristics of the ecosystem and the physical, chemical and biological variables that can be used for describing it;
2) to formulate a testable ecological hypothesis and to design an appropriate sampling plan;
3) to perform, with standard procedures, sampling and field monitoring, sample processing and laboratory analyses;
4) to process and handle the data with appropriate statistical tools;
5) to write and defend technical and scientific reports.
All objectives are designed to develop the skills and operational capabilities in a professional context within which one is requested to make appropriate assumptions and, consequently, collect and use the data to identify and analyze problems, and to propose possible solutions.
Basic background in ecology
Course contents summary
This is a full immersion course to be carried out in two weeks, from mid-May to Mid June
It comprises four main activities.
Introductory lectures on the main methods of sampling and analysis of physical, chemical and biological that are required for the evaluation of the quality of water bodies according to the Legislative Decree 152/2006 and Directive 2000/60/EC and for the evaluation of the functionality of inland water ecosystems.
Activities to be carried out on the field in one of the areas in which the teacher conducts research.
Laboratory activities for the treatment of the samples and the performance of the chemical and biological analyzes.
Processing of data with statistical methods and preparation of technical and scientific reports.
Sampling, laboratory and in situ methods for the analyses of key dissolved gas (O2, CO2, CH4, N20, N2), inorganic nutrients (NH4+, NO2-, NO3-, SiO2, PO43-), particulate matter, zooplankton and phytoplankton communities will be shown.
Sampling, laboratory and in situ methods for the estimate of respiratory microbial activities (aerobic, total anaerobic, denitrification, sulphate, manganese and iron reduction, and methanogenesis) and of nutrient recycling will be shown.
Sampling, laboratory and in situ methods for the analyses of primary production (leaf marking, biomass harvesting, dissolved oxygen and inorganic carbon exchange) and of the interactions between the rhyzosphere and the microbial community (radial oxygen loss, nitrification and
denitrification) will be presented.
Sampling, laboratory and in situ methods for the quantitative collection and the analysis of the community and for the evaluation of multiple relationships between bioturbation, microbial metabolism and primary producers will be presented.
At the beginning of the course, students receive a series of scientific papers, teacher notes and power point presentation of the lectures.
The reference texbook is the following: AAVV, Laboratory Manual of Aquatic Microbial and Molecular Ecology, 2010
Institute of Biology & Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Southern Denmark
The workshop is structured as a full immersion activity over a period of two weeks.
The lectures aim at presenting the environmental problems to be studied, suggesting possible ecological hypotheses and identifying the main methodologies that can be used in this type of study (20% of credits). Sampling activities and measures in the environment are equivalent to about 20% of the credits. The laboratory analysis take 40% of the credits. The data processing and the final report drafting requirs 20% of credits.
Assessment methods and criteria
The preparation is evaluated with two tests, with equal weight.
1) Written test that consists of twenty questions and exercises concerning the field and laboratory activities.
2) Preparation of a scientific report dealing with the experimental activity. The rating is based on the scientific and technical content (ability to set properly hypothesis, objectives, the sampling and analysis), and on the discussion (communication skills and judgment).
In the final evaluation points 1) and 2) have equal weight.