RENR 205

Renewable Natural Resources 205



The primary objective of this course is to survey the principles and concepts of ecology for undergraduate students taking their first course in ecology. The course emphasizes the relevance of ecology to contemporary society by relating ecological principles to high profile environmental issues including, biodiversity, sustainable resource use, human population growth, climate change and food security.  As a result of taking this course, students should appreciate and understand:

  • The scientific process of ecology and its importance to contemporary society,
  • Vital ecological services provided by various ecosystems,
  • The effects of organism-environment interactions and how they shape organism adaptation and distribution,
  • Population growth patterns in contrasting environments, and
  • Patterns and characteristics of major ecosystems of North America and the Earth.


Dr. David D. Briske                                                   Dr. Jacquelyn K. Grace
Ecosystem Science & Management Dept.            Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences Dept.
Room 326                                                                    Room 276
WFES Building (west campus)                               WFES Building (west campus)
Email:                                       Email:

Dr. Briske will teach the first and last units of the course and Dr. Grace will teach the other two units during mid-semester.  Each instructor will teach their respective units in both sections (501 and 502) of the course. This enables students to attend lectures in either section, but exams must be taken in the section for which you have registered.

Office hours are set by appointment.


Section 501: MWF 9:10-10:00 am; ILSB 1105
Section 502: MWF 1:50-2:40 pm; KLCT 115


Unless you need to contact a specific instructor/TA for confidential matters, please always email your questions/requests to These emails will reach both the instructors and the TA and one of us will respond within 24 hours.


RENR 205 on eCampus ( will contain the syllabus, SimUText and other assignments, SimUText support materials and case analyses, and grade information for the course.  An eCampus page will be set up automatically for each student and this page will contain a link to the RENR 205 page.


Please contribute to a positive and constructive learning environment throughout the semester by:

  • Attending class on time and staying through the entire session
  • Sitting near the front of the room
  • Turning off all electronic devices (except if you take notes on a laptop or tablet)
  • Minimize talking and other distracting activities


I>clickers will be used regularly to promote student interaction and critical learning by providing immediate feedback and identifying topics that require further review. I>clickers will be used for weekly in-class quizzes and frequent participation activities to assess student understanding of content and survey class opinions on various environmental issues. Each student is required to have a functional i>clicker each class period and ensuring that your i>clicker is working is your responsibility. Instructional Technology Services recommends that personal devices (REEF System) NOT be used for formal evaluations in large classes.


The SimUText System® will be used as an interactive e-textbook throughout the course. Follow this access link ( to subscribe to the SimUText for Fundamentals of Ecology (RENR 205) at Texas A&M University and purchase access for the semester ($89 fee paid online to SimBio).  A hard copy textbook is not available, but you can print a PDF copy of each section.  Please go through the Video tutorials and contact their support team if necessary at SimUText Support and (  SimUText will be supported in class by providing a synopsis in advance of weekly assignments, conducting a weekly help session prior to assignment due dates, and reviewing assignment questions immediately following the due date.

Each SimUText section contains simple simulations and associated self-assessment questions to help students understand the content. Student scores will be based on all questions within a section, not only the graded questions at the end. Point values for each weekly assignment will be determined as the percentage of correct answers multiple by the 12.5 point maximum (12.5 x 12 = 150). The link to SimUText assignments and course outlines are located under the Assignment tab in eCampus. All SimUText assignments are due Wednesday 9am, and the questions will be reviewed the following Friday. We strongly recommend that you complete your SimUText assignment early in the week so that you can benefit from in class review and discussion of the content. This content will also be evaluated in the weekly I>clicker quizzes. Note outlines of relevant class content will be made available on eCampus and they are to be brought to class to facilitate note taking and comprehension.


There will be three one-hour exams during the semester and a final exam at the end of the term. Each examination will consist of 40 multiple choice questions worth 2.5 points each, for a total of 100 points. The final exam will not be comprehensive, but will consist of a 100-point exam of Unit IV. Eleven 10 point quizzes, consisting of 10 multiple choice questions each, will be taken in class during the semester, and the lowest score will be dropped. Four concept analyses valued at 10 points each will investigate important ecological concepts in greater depth outside of class and will be assessed on-line. Fifteen participation activities (3-5 questions) for a total of 20 points maximum will be made available in-class as bonus points to encourage attendance and participation. Grades will be assigned as a percentage of 650 total points acquired in the four exams, SimUText assignments, 10 highest quizzes, in addition to the bonus points received for participation.


Evaluation Instruments and Point Values

4 100-point class examinations                  400 points
12 12.5-point SimUText Assignments        150 points
10 10-point in-class Quizzes                         100 points
4 10-point Concept Analyses                          40 points
15 2-point ‘Participation Activities’               20 points maximum (bonus points)

Total Course Points                              690


Grade Assignments

A=90-100%      (585-650 points)
B=80-89%       (520-584 points)
C=70-79%       (455-519 points)
D=60-69%       (390-454 points)
F=0-59%          (< 390 points)

Exams will be scantron graded; students must provide their own full page scantrons (NCS mp90051 or 0-101607-TAMU).  A valid student identification card, a scantron, and a No. 2 lead pencil with an eraser are required for all exams. Students are responsible for correctly providing all required information on their scantrons. No personal electronic devices may be used during the exams.


Make-up examinations will be given provided that students present a documented University-excused absence within 1 week of the scheduled exam.  An excused absence means that illness or some other problem beyond your control prevented you from taking the scheduled exams ( Make-up exams must be taken within 4 weeks of the scheduled exam. Instructors are under no obligation to provide an opportunity for students to make up course work missed because of unexcused absences (see TAMU Regulations below). Make-up exams will include a combination of short answer, fill-in-the-blank, and graph interpretation questions in addition to multiple choice. Opportunities to make-up missed quizzes will require clear, valid documentation. Participation activities cannot be made-up, but multiple opportunities exist to achieve the maximum number (20) of participation points. These policies will be strictly enforced.


Many examination questions originate from in class activities and experience shows that those students who attend class consistently obtain the highest scores. Attendance is expected and will be recorded during most class periods with i>clickers.

The University views class attendance as an individual student responsibility. Students are expected to attend class and to complete all assignments. Instructors are expected to give adequate notice of the dates on which major tests will be given and assignments will be due.

7.1 The student is responsible for providing satisfactory evidence to the instructor to

substantiate the reason for absence.

7.3  If the student is seeking an excused absence, they must notify his or her instructor in writing (acknowledged e-mail message is acceptable) prior to the date of absence if such notification is feasible.  In cases where advance notification is not feasible (e.g. accident, or emergency) the student must provide notification by the end of the second working day after the absence.  This notification should include an explanation of why notice could not be sent prior to the class. If needed, the student must provide additional documentation substantiating the reason for the absence, which is satisfactory to the instructor, within one week of the last date of the absence. The make-up work must be completed in a timeframe not to exceed 30 calendar days from the last day of the initial absence.

7.4 The instructor is under no obligation to provide an opportunity for the student to make up work missed because of an unexcused absence. (Texas A&M University, Student Rules, 2013;


This one credit hour class is a separate course from RENR 205. Students wishing to take it must register for it separately. Please contact your undergraduate academic advisor for questions regarding this course. Students often take RENR 215 after completing this course.


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. If you believe you have a disability requiring an accommodation, please contact Disability Services, currently located in the Disability Services building at the Student Services at White Creek complex on west campus or call 979-845-1637. For additional information, visit:


An Aggie does not lie, cheat, or steal or tolerate those who do.”

Upon accepting admission to Texas A&M University, a student immediately assumes a commitment to uphold the Honor Code, to accept responsibility for learning, and to follow the philosophy and rules of the Honor System. Students will be required to state their commitment on examinations, research papers, and other academic work. Ignorance of the rules does not exclude any member of the TAMU community from the requirements or the processes of the Honor System. For additional information please visit:

Our policy is to assign a grade of zero for any exam on which a student is cheating, which will very likely result in course failure. These individuals will also be reported for honor code violations.



Week Topics SimUText & eCampus Assignments
Unit I    
Week 1

(Jan 17)

Organizational meeting

What is Ecology?

SimUText: Set up SimUText account

i>Clicker: Registration and Set Up

eCampus: What is Ecology?

Week 2

(Jan 22)

Community Dynamics


SimUText: S-1 Community Dynamics in Yellowstone

SimUText: S-2 Disturbance and Succession

SimUText: S-5 Community Stability

eCampus: Community Organization, Soils, & Resilience

Week 3

(Jan 29)

Ecosystem Ecology SimUText: S-2 Primary Production and Respiration

eCampus: Photosynthesis, Ecological Efficiencies, Global Human Diets & Scientific Method

Week 4

(Feb 5)


 Unit II

Biodiversity and Biogeography


Exam I (Fri, Feb 9)

SimUText: S-1 Species Richness and Extinction Crisis

SimUText: S-4 Global Patterns in Physical Conditions

eCampus: Biome Distribution and Species Extinctions

Week 5

(Feb 12)

Evolution and Adaptation SimUText: The Importance of Evolution in Ecology

SimUText: The Logic of Evolution by Natural Selection

eCampus: Caribbean lizards settle genetic drift controversy


Week 6

(Feb 19)


Population Growth and Regulation

SimUText: Geometric Growth

SimUText: Exponential Growth

SimUText: Logistic Growth

eCampus: No way to stop human population growth?

Week 7

(Feb 26)

Behavioral Ecology


SimUText: Family Matters

SimUText: Cooperation

Exam II (Mon. Mar 5)
Week 8

(Mar 5)

Competition SimUText: Limited Resources and Competition

SimUText: Intraspecific Competition

Week N/A

(Mar 12)

Spring Break Whooop!
Week 9

(Mar 19)

Consumer-resource interactions SimUText: Natural History of Exploitation

SimUText: Predator­-Prey Dynamics

Week 10

(Mar 26)

Evolutionary Arms Race and Mutualism

Reading Day March 30

SimUText: Evolutionary Arms Race

eCampus: Why sex? (First 18 minutes only)

Week 11

(Apr 2)


Ecological Integration Symposium on April 5-6


Exam III (Wed., Apr. 4)

eCampus: Concept Analysis on EIS (due by 9AM, Mon. Apr. 9)
Week 12

(Apr 9)

Nutrient Cycling SimUText: S-1 Nutrient Cycling Fundamentals

SimUText: S-2 Nitrogen Cycling in Ecosystems

eCampus: Hydrological Cycle, Implications & ENSO

Week 13

(Apr 16)

Nutrient Cycling

Ecosystem Ecology

SimUText: S-3 Impacts of Human Activities

SimUText: S-5 Ecosystem Services

eCampus: Tradeoffs, Externalities & Regulations

Week 14

(Apr 23)

Climate Change SimUText: S-1 Why does Climate Change Matter?

SimUText: S-4 Humans and Climate Change

eCampus: Ecological Consequences & Misconceptions

Week 15 & 16

(May 1)

Review & Exams

Class only on April 30, and May 1

Exam IV for Section 501 (Friday, May 4, 8:00-10:00am)

Exam IV for Section 502 (Monday, May 7, 3:30-5:30pm)



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