TROPICAL BIRDS in the YUCATAN
Why do flamingos hold their head upside down when feeding? Why can the Mexican Sheartail only be found in the northern part of the Yucatán Peninsula? What species of birds lays pink eggs? Why do motmots wag their tails? Why does a Blue Bunting need such a strong beak? Why are some flycatchers great seed dispersers? What do Singing Quail sing? Students learn the answers to these questions and more as they study avian diversity, behavior, ecology, biogeography, and conservation on-site in the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico.
The Galápagos Islands have been called a living laboratory of evolution, and the description is well-deserved: the archipelago displays a remarkable constellation of animals and plants that upon colonizing the islands evolved - and continues to evolve - in response to the challenges of their unique environment. In this course we learn fundamental principles of ecology, evolution, and conservation biology, using the Galápagos as a case study. We consider the Galápagos' special place in the history of science as we study the work of Charles Darwin, Peter and Rosemary Grant, and others whose research on the islands and surrounding marine reserve have enhanced our understanding of the evolution of biodiversity. We also consider the history of the Galápagos, its cultural heritage, and the interaction between people and the natural environment of the archipelago.
The course begins at Millsaps with weekly meetings during the spring semester, followed by an 11-day trip to Ecuador, including the Galápagos, early in the summer. After a one-day side trip from Quito to the Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve, we fly to the Galápagos where we spend one week aboard a 16-passenger vessel visiting various islands of the archipelago. There we have the opportunity to see the unique wildlife for which the Galápagos are known, including giant tortoises, marine iguanas, land iguanas, blue-footed boobies, Galápagos sea lions, and, of course, Darwin's finches. We also snorkel to see the diverse marine life surrounding the islands.
This course deals with the application of ecological,behavioral, and genetic principles to conservation problems, particularly the prevention of species extinctions. Specific topics to be explored include global diversity patterns and processes, demographic processes, genetic constraints on population viability, the importance of keystone species and disturbance regimes, invasive species biology, the design of conservation reserves, and ecological restoration.
An introduction to the ecological and historical processes that help to explain distribution patterns in organisms. Students integrate ideas from many fields including evolution, ecology, paleontology, geology, and climatology. "Students gain practical research experience by utilizing research tools employed by practicing biogeographers, including phylogenetic analysis and ecological niche modeling. Recently, students travelled to Delta National Forest to observe the unique diversity found in the only bottomland hardwood forest in the nation. Future summer-based courses will focus on the dynamic biogeography of the American Southwest."
Ecology is the study of the relationship of organisms with their environment. In this course, we investigate ecological questions at several levels, from the behavior and population dynamics of single species, to interactions at the community and ecosystem levels. The theme of the course might be described as "think globally; explore locally." While many of the questions we consider are global in nature, we frequently take field trips to explore ecological interactions in the diverse habitats found right here in Mississippi. Some recent favorites include visits to vernal pools where spotted salamanders, marbled salamanders, mole salamanders, and smallmouth salamanders breed; a visit to a Great Egret rookery in a water tupelo-cypress swamp; and a foray into a local creek to sample macro-invertebrates for the evaluation of water quality.
In this course students investigate the evolution, anatomy and physiology, ecology, conservation, and medical importance of terrestrial arthropods (arachnids, myriapods, and insects). Students make collections and learn how to identify local fauna. A favorite part of the course for many students is the weekend-long field trip that allows students to further explore the remarkable biodiversity of terrestrial arthropods
Evolution, form and function, behavior, lifehistory, ecology, and conservation of the classAves, the birds. Techniques for the study of birds will be taught in laboratory and fields settings.