Instructor info:

Dr. Jim Baxter
Office: Sequoia Hall 412
Tel. (916) 278-4047

Class location and times:
SQU 328
Lecture: M 6:00 - 6:50 pm
Lab: MW 2:30 - 5:20 pm

Office hours:
Tue. 10:30 am - 12 pm; Wed. 1 - 2:30 pm or by appointment


Gurevitch, J., Scheiner, S. M. and Fox, G. A. 2002. The Ecology of Plants. Sinauer Associates, Inc., Sunderland, MA.

Course description

Advanced Plant Ecology is a course designed for graduate students and advanced standing undergraduates and focuses on contemporary concepts in plant ecology. I intend to structure the course generally around the following experiences: 1) Examination of the major concepts and principles of plant ecology; 2) Critical evaluation of primary literature; 3) Field experience with the vegetation of central California ; and 4) Hands-on quantitative methods in plant population ecology and community analysis. Because this is a graduate course - and we are a small group - I am flexible about the material we cover and intend as much as possible to match the course content to suit your specific interests.

Learning objectives

When you have successfully completed this course, you should be able to: 1) Explain and critically evaluate important facts, concepts and principles concerning the major ecological patterns and processes of plants and apply this knowledge to novel situations; 2) Conduct a primary literature search and critically evaluate and discuss primary plant ecology literature; 3) Design and conduct an experiment in plant ecology, analyze and interpret plant ecological data, and present the results to others through written and verbal means; and 4) Work effectively and cooperatively with others to promote learning and to achieve common goals.


To determine how well you achieve the learning objectives of this course, I will give two midterm exams (no final) and assign a variety of other assignments. These will include 2 lab write-ups, leading a class discussion of a primary literature research paper, giving a presentation on a special topic of interest, conducting a group research project, which includes a written report and oral presentation, and attending field trips (including at least one weekend field trip). I also include assessment of participation, which includes class discussion of readings and resourcefulness and cooperation in doing lab and field work. The following is a summary of these assessment modes and their relative numerical weightings.

Assessment mode

Points possible

Percentage (%)

Exams (2)



Lab write-ups (2)



Lead discussion



Topic presentation



Research project









Field trips









I do not grade on a curve. Your final grade is based on your cumulative point total. Grading percentages will be as follows:

Percentage (%)


Percentage (%)


= 93


73 - 76.9


90 - 92.9


70 - 72.9


87 - 89.9


67 - 69.9


83 - 86.9


63 - 66.9


80 - 82.9


60 - 62.9


77 - 79.9


= 59.9


Exams and lab write-ups

Exams make up one quarter of your grade. Exams will cover both lecture and lab material will emphasize essay answers and problem solving skills. Lab write-ups will be associated with particular lab exercises and will usually be due the following week.

Discussion and topic presentation

Each of you will lead a one hour class discussion of a primary literature research paper. A list of possible papers will be provided. For the discussion, you must provide everyone with a written summary of the paper and give a brief synopsis of the paper before leading the discussion. More on this later. Each of you will also give a 30-45 minute presentation on a topic in the field of plant ecology that is of particular interest to you and that you think the class would benefit from. These presentations will happen toward the end of class as a way for us to explore additional topics of interest. I will provide a rough initial list of topics, but I encourage you to add other topic areas of special interest to you. More information on this will be given later.

Learning teams and team projects

Much of our work in the lab will occur as a group or groups. Working collaboratively promotes learning and cooperation among group members to achieve common goals. We will conduct several lab and field projects during the course. For each of these projects, we will work in teams or as a class group. Everyone is expected to participate equally in the lab and field research projects. Part of your individual grade will be based upon how effectively you participate as a team member.

Missed exams and late assignments

I will deal with these circumstances individually. However, I expect that each of you will act responsibly and notify me in advance of missing an exam or turning in late assignments.

Policy on cheating and plagiarism

I expect each of you to adhere to the university's policy on academic honesty. Cheating and plagiarism will not be tolerated. Students caught cheating or engaging in plagiarism will be severely punished. University policy on academic honesty clearly defines what constitutes cheating and plagiarism. Because many students are not familiar with what exactly constitutes plagiarism, the university defines p lagiarism as: "the use of distinctive ideas or works belonging to another person without providing adequate acknowledgement of that person's contribution." The university further states that "Regardless of the means of appropriation, incorporating another's work into one's own requires adequate identification and acknowledgement." I strongly encourage you to read the university's complete policy on academic honesty, which is provided on the web at:

As an example of plagiarism, if you cut and paste material from someone else's work and do not acknowledge the source of that material, that's considered plagiarism. If, after reviewing the university's policy, you are still unsure about what is and what is not plagiarism, please ask!

Anyone caught cheating or plagiarizing will not receive the points for the particular assignment on which they cheated or plagiarized; in other words, you will receive an F on the assignment. In addition, I may forward their name to the dean of student affairs. If a student is caught plagiarizing a second time, they will receive an F grade in the course and their name will be forwarded to the dean of student affairs.

Persons with disabilities

I am sensitive to students with disabilities. Any student having a visible or invisible disability that adversely affects their ability to succeed in my class should speak with me prior to Fri., Sept. 17. This will allow me enough time to make reasonable accommodations in advance of exams and quizzes.

A note on cell phones

A cell phone that rings during class is disruptive to me and to other students. If, for personal reasons, you must leave your cell phone on and take a call during class please set the ringer to vibrate and take the call outside of class. Otherwise, I request that all cell phones be turned off during class.