FISH 312: Fisheries Ecology

Syllabus from a past offering of the course (Spring 2022)

Next offering: Chelsea is no longer teaching this course, but it is still being offered!

Curious? Check out the adventures of the 2019 Fisheries Ecology students here:

Ecologists study the abundance and distribution of species. In FISH 312, we will learn the basic principles of ecology, with a focus on the ecological processes that produce observable patterns in diversity and abundance. We will proceed from lower levels of biological organization to higher levels: from physiology and behavior to populations, communities, and ecosystems. Although the objective of the course is to teach students fundamental ecological principles that apply across all ecosystems, we will focus on the themes most relevant to marine and aquatic ecosystems, especially fisheries. Field trips and labs will illustrate principles learned in lecture using local ecosystems; we will examine a variety of local aquatic habitats and explore the physical factors (e.g., temperature, substrate, salinity), biotic factors (e.g., predation, competition, parasitism), and human-related factors (e.g., dams, pollution, water diversion, fishing, logging) that affect the diversity and abundance of species. In this way, we will explore how themes of basic and applied ecology play out in local aquatic habitats. The lab portion of FISH 312 focuses on local habitats because: (1) we have access to and expertise about these ecosystems, (2) students often have personal experience with these habitats, (3) learning about local habitats opens up professional opportunities in government, non-profit, and academic sectors.

By the end of the semester, I expect you will be able to:

  1. describe the major ecosystem types that occur in terrestrial, marine, and freshwater environments and explain how organisms are physiologically and behaviorally adapted to these environments;
  2. describe the biotic and abiotic factors that place limits on a species’ distribution and abundance;
  3. describe the structure of populations using techniques from population biology, and identify the major factors that constrain population growth;
  4. outline the various categories of species interactions and explain how these interactions influence species’ distribution and abundance;
  5. explain the differences in biodiversity among world regions;
  6. trace the flow of energy through an ecosystem and describe some of the major biogeochemical cycles of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems;
  7. knowledgably discuss applied issues in ecology, including harvesting, pest control, dams, and conservation efforts;
  8. analyze and critically evaluate graphical representations of data from the scientific literature;
  9. interpret, evaluate, and synthesize primary literature (accomplished via writing assignments and group presentation);
  10. communicate ideas about ecology, in writing and speech.

Student feedback from Spring 2022 official evaluations:

“THIS IS THE BEST CLASS I HAVE TAKEN AT UW!!! Chelsea is far and away one of the best professors I have ever had and a fantastic person to boot! I often say about fish 312 that I dont mind if I dont do as well in it as some of my other classes, because I really learned material in a useful way, not just to study for a test.”

“This class made me challenge my knowledge every day during class with interactive questions and fun concepts. If I ever came to class confused I never felt at a disadvantage, I knew that I would be able to fully understand what I needed to know by the time I left lecture. The use of white boards and collaboration with my peers helped me learn so much more.”

“This was one of the few classes I have taken that has really pushed me to be a scientist and think about experimental design. Never before has a class been so rigorous in teaching the scientific process, and being so encouraging throughout the entire quarter.”

“The use of peer collaboration and constant encouragement by Chelsea helped me not only to learn, but to want to learn. I showed up every day to class ready to work and challenge myself while having fun.”

Student feedback from Spring 2020 & 2021 official evaluations (note that These quarters were taught online due to COVID-19):

“Chelsea herself was probably the greatest strength of this course. I hate online classes and have been very frustrated in the massive drop off in course quality for this quarter. However, I looked forward to every session of this class because of how enjoyable Chelsea made it and how much content we effectively covered. The energy and knowledge she brings are unparalleled when compared to all of the other courses I have taken. I feel like this class did not lose anything from being taught online because of the effort that was put in to convert it and make sure we could get involved in class and engage with the information as much as possible.”

“This class was great! I really liked the style of it. The practical sessions were so much more engaging than any other lectures I have had in college.”

“I had never learned about ecology before, but the way Chelsea taught the course made me totally fall in love with the subject. After this class, I find myself interacting with the natural world differently and having a lot more questions, which is so cool!”

“The content of this class was excellent. It felt like every practical session focused on the important concepts rather than bland memorization. As a result, I finished each class feeling like I had a better grasp about how to view certain problems or what tools I could use to answer ecological questions.”

“Honestly your lectures were so good I didn’t even have to even touch the textbook, it just became supplementary material if I wanted to learn more about the topic.”

“Practical sessions were useful for posing problems and ensuring that we understood the concepts of the course. We tackled more complex subjects (especially Lotka-Volterra and Tilman curves) and broke down how they worked with numerous examples both in video and in lecture.”

“This class was intellectually stimulating because it allowed us to engage with the material in an example-oriented way with real-life marine science situations. It also pushed us to think deeply about experimental design and come up with unique solutions.”

“I think the best part of the class was organization. Lectures were separated by topic, the syllabus was clear in the expectations, and TA’s and the instructor were extremely helpful in giving feedback and answering questions.”

“Chelsea’s passion for what she’s teaching and the excellent structure of the class made this the only class I enjoyed enough to actually get out of bed and attend.”

“Lectures were easy to understand and straight to the point. Very efficient use of time! The practical sessions were great. As someone who does not like ‘random call’, allowing you to answer by yourself, with a small group, and then with the entire class was great way to participate without the random call stress. I did not feel like any lecture of practical session time was wasted.”

“Chelsea was amazing!!! She was so passionate about the subject material which was incredibly motivating, and she was very consistent about opening space for student questions. She encouraged all forms of participation throughout the course. I really appreciated the organization of the course as well, which made it much easier to stay on top of the material. Chelsea’s mid-quarter evaluation also made it exceedingly clear how deeply she cares about the student experience, and it’s one of the few times I’ve seen a teacher actively discuss with students assigning *less* work to do. Thank you so much, Chelsea, this class was a delight to take with you.”

“Whenever I look at the world around me now, I can’t stop thinking about ecology and how the organisms are interacting with each other. I didn’t know that I loved ecology!”

“This was by far the best class I have ever taken. Chelsea is also the best professor I have ever had.”

“This class was near perfect. I wish Chelsea (and [TAs] Mark and Katie) could teach every course I take from here on out. They are by far the best teaching team I have every gotten to work with.”

Student feedback from Spring 2019 official evaluations:

“Chelsea is such a fantastic lecturer because she can teach you the course material through interesting perspectives that hold your attention for the entire duration of the class. Her use of stories and case studies is extremely helpful by making students think critically about what is in front of them.”

“This class showed you multiple aspects of tackling questions in fisheries ecology; how field work is conducted, how surveys and studies are designed, how lab work is conducted, and how all of this information is tied together, analyzed and presented as completed research.”

“Easily the best instructor I’ve had at UW.”

“I cannot praise Chelsea enough. Her very presence drives me to push myself academically, to ask more questions, to really devote myself to the material. She drives her students to seek success instead of avoid failure because she creates an atmosphere that is nurturing and treats gaps in a student’s knowledge as nobody’s failure, but as opportunities for growth and learning. I want to succeed in Chelsea’s classes because she makes me want to be a good scientist, not out of fear of bad grades or anything like that. Chelsea is the inspiring, kind, knowledgeable, approachable, and respectable scientist that I can only hope to be like someday.”

“Chelsea’s enthusiasm and passion for her work is absolutely unmatched. You could not be bored listening to her even if you tried. The way she talks just demands the attention of the room.”

“Highly recommend this class, I wasn’t originally planning on taking it but I am so glad I did.”

Field trips:

early April: electrofishing at Rock Creek in the Cedar River watershed

late April: mid-water trawls at Sand Point in Lake Washington, aboard UW Oceanography’s R/V Rachel Carson

early May: bottom trawls at Port Madison  in Puget Sound, aboard UW Oceanography’s R/V Rachel Carson

Exemplary research papers from Spring 2020:

Helen Casendino, “Consequences of sea star wasting on subtidal community structure in Puget Sound, Washington”

Charlotte Gerzanics, “Using growth models to explain Coho salmon numbers in the newly accessible habitat of Rock Creek”

Ben Gregory, “The effect of turbidity on the diet of longfin smelt (Spirinchus thaleichthys) in Lake Washington”

Delaney Lawson, “Species diversity and evenness in pool and riffle habitats of Rock Creek, Washington State, USA”

Josef Mayor, “Cutthroat trout as a despotic competitor in pool habitat”

Ryan Pittsinger, “Predicting juvenile sockeye salmon movement in Lake Washington using a diet analysis”

Exemplary scientific seminars from Spring 2020:

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