ZOOLOGY 483: Environmental Physiology
Spring Semester 2001
Environmental physiology is the study of how the biological functions
of organisms relate to their environments. This course will not be
a comprehensive survey of all areas of study within environmental physiology,
but instead will cover a few major topics in detail. Some subjects
that will be covered are energy metabolism, exercise physiology, thermal
relations, water and ionic regulation, renal physiology, and other topics
if time permits. The field of environmental physiology draws concepts
from ecology, evolutionary biology, behavioral biology, chemistry, physics,
and other fields.
This course includes three fifty-minute lectures per week, as well a one fifty minute discussion period each week. The discussions will be based on readings that are not necessarily related to the lecture material, and will allow you to actively explore topics of relevance to environmental physiology and natural science beyond what is covered in lecture.
The lead instructor will be Michael Sanregret. Dina Grayson, Megan Mahoney, and James Thomas will be the teaching assistants and discussion facilitators.
We are here to help you learn and urge you to seek our help when you need it. My office is 302 Natural Science Building. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and my phone number is 432-5528. The most effective way to contact me is by email. I will announce my office hours early in the semester, and I will also be happy to schedule appointments. Your discussion leader will provide you with similar information during your weekly discussion meeting.
Because we each have other responsibilities both within and outside of this course, we cannot guarantee that we will have time to help you outside of office hours and times arranged by appointment. When you need to meet with one of us, please plan ahead so that we can make time for you.
Two readings are required for this course:
1) Animal Physiology, 2nd ed., by Richard Hill and Gordon Wyse (Harper & Row, 1989).
2) A coursepack available at Student Book Store. This includes the required readings for the discussions.
This course has a new website containing the course handouts and other helpful but optional information relating to this course and the subject of environmental physiology. The website is very new and information is still being added and edited. We expect to have all of the course handouts on line very soon. Logging on to the ZOL 483: Environmental Physiology website is not required for this course. The website address is www.msu.edu/course/zol/483/483.html.
Your final grade in this course will be determined by five different components of equal weight (i.e., each is equal to 20% of your final grade). These five components consist of each of the three lecture exams, the total grade for quizzes and homework in the discussion section, and the term paper.
First exam 20%
Second exam 20%
Final exam 20%
Discussion grade 20%
Term Paper 20%
At the end of the semester, each of the five components will have a final grade on a 0-100 point scale. The sum of the five scores will be divided by 5 to get a final percentage grade. This percentage grade will be applied to a curve. No matter what the final curve is, a score of 92% will never earn less than a 4.0. Likewise, a score of 86% will never earn less than a 3.5; 80%, less than a 3.0; 74%, less than a 2.5; 68%, less than a 2.0; 62%, less than a 1.5; or 56%, less than a 1.0. Curves may be applied to the exam scores during the semester. These curves will be retained and included in the final grade determination.
Dates currently planned for the three examinations are:
First exam Monday, February 12
Second exam Friday, March 23
Final exam Wednesday, May 2, 10:00 A.M.
The final exam will be of the same length as the other exams.
Barring matters of life and death, it will absolutely not be given early
to any student.
Each exam period will be divided into two segments, an initial closed-book segment and a final open-book segment. The closed-book portion will last 40 minutes and the open-book portion, 10 minutes. You will be able to work on all questions during the open-book time.
During the open-book time on exams, you will be permitted to use any written materials (e.g., notes, textbook) you bring with you to the exam. You may not exchange any materials or information with other students taking the exam. The penalty for doing so is a zero on the exam.
Examinations will be primarily in the form of essay and fill-in-the-blank question, and possibly some multiple-choice questions. The exam format will require you to remember and reproduce concepts and information from the lecture material, rather than just recognize them.
The examinations will not ask questions based on the material covered in the coursepack readings or during the discussion period, unless that material is directly addressed in lecture or in the textbook reading assignments as well.
For students aspiring to careers in science or science related fields, it is important that you practice the skill of actively discussing ideas with your peers, and also to practice thinking critically about ideas in science. The discussions will cover topics not just in environmental physiology, but also evolutionary biology and the philosophy of science.
Each week’s discussion will be based on a reading from your coursepack (available from Student Book Store). You must read the selections for that week before coming to discussion. There is no reading for the first meeting of your discussion section.
The purposes and practices of the discussion section, including grading, will be discussed in detail during your first discussion meeting.
Each student will write a term paper on a topic of his or her choice within the scope of environmental physiology. Your term paper is intended to give you a chance to pursue your curiosity in this field of knowledge, as well as enhance your skills in scientific writing.
The course staff will help with the development of your paper by providing advice and consultation as requested. In fact, interaction between you and the teaching staff is intended to be an integral part of preparing your paper.
Your paper must be relevant to environmental physiology. We will interpret this requirement as broadly as possible, and we are glad to discuss prospective topics with you before submission, but papers irrelevant to environmental physiology will not receive credit.
Your paper must be based on the primary scientific literature (see “Information Sources” below). You should plan to cite at least 10 different primary literature sources, and at least some should be recent (i.e. no more than ten years old).
Needless to say, your term paper must be your own work. Plagiarism will result in a failing grade for this course.
Any significant statements of fact not known to the average college student should be documented by references to the primary scientific literature. Your citations and list of references must conform to a format that will be outlined in a handout we will give to you.
Your paper must be based on the primary scientific literature. The primary literature is the literature written by professionals for other professionals. Examples include research reports in scientific journals, review articles in scientific journals, books written by professionals, and book chapters written in books that are collections of research reports or review essays. Review articles and essays include little or no original results from the authors, but discuss and draw conclusions from the original research reports of other authors, and possibly from other review articles.
Sources that are not suitable sources of definitive information include textbooks, magazines written for general audiences (such as Discover, Natural History, and Time), and the Internet. These sorts of sources are not suitable because they typically do not provide rigorous documentation for the information the present. If a source of information does not itself cite primary scientific literature, it is not primary literature. However, non-primary literature (textbooks, for example) will often cite primary literature, so this is not proof that a source is primary. You will be given a handout of primary literature journals that you can use as a guide in recognizing the primary scientific literature. Feel free to ask one of us about a source of information if you have difficulty determining whether it is a primary source or not.
We encourage talking to professionals who have scholarly knowledge of your topic. If there is a professor on campus who does research on your term paper topic, it would be very useful for you to make an appointment with the professor to discuss and ask questions about your topic. Such a personal communication with a genuinely knowledgeable professional can be used as a reference in your paper. Give credit by specifying the person and the date of your conversation.
The MSU library provides several tools useful (and probably essential) for locating published articles and books in the primary scientific literature. These tools and how to use them are detailed in the Library FAQ handout that we will give you. Learning to find primary literature in the library is part of the term paper assignment, and you will want to get an early start on this because it is one of the first steps in assembling your paper. Your teaching assistant and or the librarians can help you learn to use these search tools.
You must make significant use of at least ten primary sources in your term paper. More than ten is actually recommended because this will give you more information to work with when you write your paper.
It is also important that you get the most up to date information on your topic available. Some topics will have few references after a certain point in time, while other topics are new and will only be directly discussed by papers published in the last few years. If your topic has few recent references, ask your teaching assistant if the topic is suitable for your term paper.
Writing Objectives and Staged Preparation
ZOL 483 is a Tier II writing course. The term papers will be judged based on both scientific content and the effectiveness of the writing as a means of communication. You will be given a handout describing a number of grammar and style rules that you will need to follow in your term paper. Another method we have adopted to help achieve these goals is a process of “staged preparation.” You will submit three assignments on three successive due dates before the term paper itself is due.
January 26 (Friday): Submit the topic for your term paper.
February 9 (Friday): Submit a 200-word prospectus for your term paper and a starting list of 10 references on which you will base your paper.
1) You must submit two copies of your prospectus and list of references.
One will be graded and returned and the teaching assistant will keep the
2) February 9 is when your term paper topic is set and cannot be changed without a grade penalty. Make sure you have a good topic before that date.
March 2 (Friday): Submit a two-page critique of a designated paper from your reference list.
SPECIAL NOTES: You must submit a copy of the designated article along with your critique.
March 30 (Friday): Submit your term paper.
Each submission must be received by 5:00 P.M. on the due date to avoid lateness penalties. You should hand your work directly to the instructor or to one of the teaching assistants. If you must leave the work with the department office staff or other third parties, you should write the date and time of the submission on the work and ask the person receiving it to initial the submission.
First Submission: Term Paper Topic
You should pick a topic that is interesting to you or is relevant to your long-term academic objectives. Within certain constraints, you may pick any topic relevant to environmental physiology. What topics fall within environmental physiology can be confusing at first. Generally speaking, the topic must address how some biological function of an organism effects survival or reproductive success in some environmental condition. You should check with your teaching assistant or the instructor if you are not sure whether a particular topic is environmental physiology or not.
We will give you a list of possible topics. You are not required to choose from the list. One way to identify potential topics is to look through the textbook. You might also try looking through recent issues of scientific journals to see what scientists are currently discussing.
Submit your topic in writing by the due date.
Your teaching assistant will decide whether your topic is appropriate or not. As already stated, the topic must be relevant to environmental physiology. Another possible problem is that there is little or no information on a particular topic. There are some interesting animals, wolves for instance, for which there is little or no environmental physiological data available. Another concern is that we not have too many students working on the same topic, as this might result in students competing over the same resources. If too many students propose the same topic, those who submit their topics earliest will get priority.
Second Submission: Prospectus and References
Your prospectus should state, in a maximum of 200 words, what you intend to cover in your paper, and why. One goal for this piece of writing is to gain experience with condensing your ideas into a limited space (similar to the abstract in a published paper). Thus, the length limit must not be exceeded. Each sentence in your prospectus should have a definite and specific meaning unique form the others. Avoid vague platitudes, such as:
My reason for doing my paper on nitrogen excretion of aquatic
animals is that the topic fascinates me.
In writing my paper on adaptation to high altitude, I intend
cover the topic in all its complexity.
A better way to write these sentences would be:
I am fascinated by nitrogen excretion of aquatic animals because,
in natural waters, excreted nitrogen provides an essential nutrient to algae
and, in aquaculture, it can be toxic.
My discussion of adaptation to high altitude will focus on circulatory
and pulmonary physiology and the differences known to exist among the
major groups of terrestrial vertebrates.
Attach to your prospectus the list of references upon which you
plan to base your term paper. The list should be in the reference
format specified in the handout you will be given. There should be
at least ten references in this list. You can and probably should
add more references later, but these ten references must ultimately be
used in your term paper. This is one reason why you should be careful
to review the papers in your list before you include them in the submitted
Once you turn in your prospectus, you cannot change your topic from the one you present in your prospectus without a grade penalty. Make sure you turn in two copies of the prospectus and references.
Third Submission: Critique
Your teaching assistant will select a paper from your reference list for you to study in detail (another reason to review the references you submit with the prospectus). You must submit a two-page critique of the designated paper.
In your critique, you must go beyond mere summarization. It is fine to summarize parts of the paper before you comment on them, but there is no point in reiterating parts of the paper that you are not going to discuss yourself. Your critique might involve an evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the methods or data analysis. You could also discuss other approaches to the problem of interest not discussed in the paper. A very good approach is to discuss how the findings of the authors advance knowledge in the broader topic that you are addressing in your term paper. Ideally, the critique should help you get started on grappling with some of the important issues in your term paper.
Type or print your critique according to the format conventions specified for the term paper (e.g. approximately 1 inch margins, etc.; see next section). When you turn in your critique, be sure to include a copy of the subject article of your critique.
Fourth Submission: Term Paper
The length of your term paper is not critical but will ordinarily be 7-8 pages, plus reference list. Your paper must be
typed or printed,
at 10 or 12 characters per inch,
with standard (.8-.9 cm) spacing between lines,
and with approximately 2.5 cm (1 inch) margins.
Be certain to adhere to these formatting instructions, as deviations
may result in downgrading of your work.
The term paper should include a substantial introduction and a substantial conclusion. The introduction should define the scope and the purpose of the paper. The conclusion should summarize major points, and as much as possible should make connections between different ideas within the body of the paper. The body of the paper, between the introduction and the conclusion, may be structured in whatever way you think best develops the ideas you want to express. One word of advice: I find it works best if I write the body of the paper, then the conclusion, then the introduction.
As was said earlier, all significant statements of fact in the term paper should be supported with a reference citation, using the citation method described in the referencing handout. Include a reference list at the end of your paper that includes all the papers you cited in your term paper. You should not put references in the list if they were not cited in your paper.
The following will be the primary considerations in grading your term paper. Be sure to appraise your paper in these respects as you work on it.
1) Does your paper reflect in-depth reading in the primary scientific literature, including at least some recent articles?
2) Is your paper thoughtfully organized, and does it present a clear review of the topic studied?
3) Does your paper go beyond mere summarization of facts and reflect critical understanding?
4) Have you included a substantial introduction and conclusion, and have you followed the rules of grammar and style (see “Grading” below) given?
5) Does your paper give credit to information sources, using the system of citation given?
First three submissions. The first three submissions will each be graded on a scale of 0-10. Exceptionally meritorious work on a submission will enable you to earn extra credit, up to a possible 12 points. Your scores on the three submissions will be added, and the sum will adversely affect your term paper grade if it is less than 26. Lateness in turning in a submission will be penalized at 2 points per day, counting Saturdays and Sundays (computer problems will be handled as specified later). If you fail to make a submission, you will get a 0 for it. Changing your term paper topic after submitting the prospectus and reference list will be equivalent to failing to submit the prospectus and reference list.
Term papers. Term papers will be graded on a 4.0 scale (4
= A; 3 = B; etc.). A base quality grade will be determined using
the criteria specified earlier. The base quality grade for the paper
may be reduced by problems with the following areas:
First three submissions: If your total score for the first three submissions is less than 26, your term paper grade will be reduced. The formula for calculating this grade penalty is 0.07 X (26 - your score). For example if your total score for the first three submissions is 20, your term paper grade will be reduced by 0.4 grade-point. The maximum reduction is 1.8.
Grammar and style: You will be given a handout describing rules of grammar that should be followed in the term paper. In your term paper (but not in your first three submissions), repeated errors in these rules will result in a grade penalty. The maximum possible penalty for grammar errors is 1.0. NOTE: If grammar problems are bad enough to make the paper difficult to comprehend, this may be reflected in the base quality grade as well.
Lateness: Papers will be penalized by 0.5 grade-point per day (including Saturdays and Sundays). Since the papers are due at 5 P.M., this will also be the cutoff time for determining whether a submission is one day late, two days late, etc. If you have last minute computer problems, the policy below applies.
Special rule on lateness caused by last-minute computer problems:
There are times when submissions are turned in late because of last-minute computer problems. The question arises of the size of lateness penalties in such cases.
If an item is submitted late because of a last-minute computer problem, full lateness penalties will be applied UNLESS you can demonstrate the emergency nature of the problem and you submit a near-final typed or printed (not electronic) version on time. If you do this, no penalty will be assessed for 24 hours.
To avoid computer caused late penalties, you should not try to prepare your submission on a computer with which you are unfamiliar. You should also backup regularly to assure that you retain a copy of the file regardless of what computer problems may occur. A day or two before the due-date, you should make a printout of what you have so that you have evidence of your work (assuming, of course, that you have already typed out a substantial portion of the submission).