Introduction to Ecology

Introduction to Ecology - Introduction to Ecology Reading...

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Introduction to Ecology Reading: Freeman, Chapter 50 .
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Ecology is the scientific study of the distribution and abundance of organisms, and their interactions with the environment. The word “ecology” comes from the Greek words “ oikos ”, meaning house, and “ logos ”, to study.
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What do we mean by “scientific study”? There are hundreds of different sciences; each employs different techniques and has its own methods and standards of evidence. In one form or another, the “scientific study” of every subject uses the hypothetico- deductive approach. This approach is rather new historically, tracing its roots back to the European enlightenment of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
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Essentially, it goes something like this A scientist, or group of scientists, becomes interested in explaining one aspect of how the natural world works. (This comes easily for scientists, as well as most people, people are curious. ..) Both intentionally and unintentionally, scientists conduct observations . (Some observations may be commonsense or centuries old (i.e., the tides), others may require specialized experience (variation in scutellar hair number on different strains of Drosophila ) A hypothesis is constructed based on all the pertinent observations.
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A hypothesis is a suggested explanation for a phenomena, based upon a conceptual “working model” of how a system works. Good hypotheses generate predictions that can be tested. In experimental sciences, experiments are set up to test the hypothesis. In the historical sciences, additional evidence is gathered in the place of experiments (although not nearly as incisive, some areas do not easily lend themselves to experiments (i.e., stellar astronomy)). If the predictions of the hypothesis are not borne out, the hypothesis is falsified .
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Interestingly, a hypothesis cannot be proven true by an experiment, even when it correctly predicts the outcome. This is because an infinite number of hypotheses can usually be generated that predict the same outcome. The strongest hypotheses are usually accepted as true if multiple experiments fail to falsify them. These hypotheses, and their underlying models, form scientific paradigms which may last for centuries or longer. Scientific paradigms are explanations for how the world works, they inspire future research, but also limit its direction to certain avenues.
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Example- Zonosemata wing markings. Observation- Zonosemata flies have dark bands on their wings. They wave them up and down when disturbed. Based on the prevailing scientific paradigm in biology (Darwinism)-Erick Greene asked “How could the behavior evolve by natural selection?”
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Hypothesis 1-Wing patterns and displays evolved by sexual selection. (courtship displays such as this are common in flies) Hypothesis 2-Wing patterns and displays evolved to scare predators by “mimicking” a jumping spider. (mimicry is a common
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This note was uploaded on 09/17/2009 for the course BIOS 101 taught by Professor Molumby during the Fall '08 term at Ill. Chicago.

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Introduction to Ecology - Introduction to Ecology Reading...

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