Coral Ecology, BIO 5140

Graduate course in Spring, 2013

R. van Woesik

Tuesday & Thursday 12:30 - 1:45 pm; Location: Conference room - Olin Life Sciences Building



1) Students will be required to prepare a short (1 page) synopsis of a paper from each week’s list of required and suggested readings.

2) Each week we will read and dissect at least 3 papers. Classes will involve discussions, debates, and critiques of central papers from the literature. All students will summarize a key paper that will be discussed in class.

3) There will be a term paper (~ 15 pages) on a topic of choice (subject to my approval).

4) One final oral presentation of the assigned term paper (at the end of the course).

5) All students are required to attend classes.



39% Weekly written papers;

30% Class discussions and presentations;

31% Written (25%) & oral presentation of term paper (6%)

We will adopt the University grading system.


The Term Paper

Criteria: At least 15 pages long on a coral reef topic of your choice. It must involve corals and it must cite at least 12 references from the primary literature that have been published within the past 5 years, and 12 before 2000. Term papers are due at the end of the course. 

Format: Cover page including the title (brief and descriptive), your name and date.

Abstract: A paragraph that summarizes the essence of your paper.

Body of paper: Introduction, body of the paper, figures (are encouraged), literature cited (format as I have in lecture notes).


Course outline

The course will focus on both theoretical and practical aspects of regulatory processes driving the dynamics of reef corals. It begins with symbiosis and recent advances in (field and laboratory) methods examining the coral-algae holobiont, leading into life-histories, reproduction, populations, communities, connectivity, biogeography, management of reefs and, of course, climate change and adapation.

The schedule is as follows:


1. What are the main questions in coral-reef science?

2. Symbiosis, photosystems, thermal stress and coral bleaching;

3. Calcification and ocean acidification;

4. Life histories and climate change;

5. Reproduction and recruitment;

6. Connectivity;

7. Population dynamics, models, and predictions;

8. Marine diseases;

9. Assemblages, diversity, tolerance, resistance and resilience;

10. Range shifts and refugia;

11. Climate change and extintions;

12. Marine Protected Areas and Reef Fisheries;

13. Adaptation, acclimatization and climate change.