Curriculum Overview

The SEE-U program consists of introductory ecology and biology lectures, labs, and fieldwork activities. Lectures coincide with labs, activities, and topical discussions for the course, allowing you to apply classroom knowledge to practical field techniques in your chosen location.

The SEE-U program is designed for non-science majors as well as undergraduate students beginning scientific degree programs.  There are no course prerequisites for the SEE-U program and no prior experience or knowledge of the topics, techniques, or computer programs used is required.  All course instruction is in English.

Each week you will receive a schedule that outlines course reading assignments, lectures, and fieldwork activities.  Typical daily activities revolve around a morning lecture and afternoon fieldwork, with full days of course instruction taking place Mondays through Saturdays.

Areas of Emphasis

Topics covered by the SEE-U program include: biomes, biotic processes, abiotic processes, and contemporary issues in conservation biology.  Questions addressed by the program include:

  • How do biomes differ from each other and what constitutes and distinguishes each major biome?
  • How has evolution produced the natural history of currently existing species and why do these traits influence all other levels of ecological hierarchy?
  • What are the natural constraints that control population size and what happens when they are disrupted?
  • What structures biological communities?  How do community members interact?  How can we use the concept of community diversity to answer ecological questions?
  • How does each level of an ecological hierarchy (individual, population, community, ecosystem, biome, and planet) influence one another?
  • How do the main abiotic environmental factors create biomes and how are they altered by both natural and human activities?
  • How do biomes interact?
  • How have humans affected the environment at each of several geographic scales and how can these effects be mitigated?

Program Objectives

Upon completion of the SEE-U program you will have acquired an understanding of the following key concepts:

  • Keen understanding of the scientific method and its theoretical underpinnings including the formulation of scientific hypotheses, field study design, data collection and analysis, and presentation of academic research findings.
  • Grasp of how all levels of ecological hierarchy interact, and how these interactions impact natural ecosystems.
  • Insight into how biomes interact on a global scale and how humans fit into and interact with them.
  • Appreciation of how natural selection and evolution influence and interact with ecology.
  • Knowledge of how population growth occurs, why, when exponential growth occurs in nature, and how intraspecific interactions determine higher-level ecological processes.
  • Understanding of the key factors that determine biological community structure, how important members of a community interact, the roles that each play, and why it is valuable to have a community with a great diversity of species.
  • Comprehension of how and why chemicals cycle on both a local and regional scale and how these cycles contribute to defining ecosystems.
  • Insight into how natural and anthropogenic environmental disturbances are both similar and different, in the geological past as well as in the present.
  • Familiarity with human efforts to reduce current environmental impacts and an understanding of the impacts of these efforts.
  • An understanding of the role of species diversity in the functioning of an ecosystem and the importance of conserving biological diversity.
  • A deeper understanding of the process and maintenance of sustainability and how this relates to human interactions with their environment.

Key Skills

The SEE-U program provides you with these important skills and abilities:

  • Keen understanding of the scientific method and how to use it to design ecological field experiments.
  • Ability to gather and integrate data from disparate sources and place them in the correct theoretical context.
  • Familiarity with simple statistical methods and their applications.
  • Familiarity with various ecological field and laboratory techniques and their use to conduct collaborative and independent scientific research.
  • Ability to present scientific research findings.