Module 14 – Ecology


Ecology can be defined as the study of the interrelationship of organisms to each other and to their physical surroundings. This module and the next are a fun way to end your work on the study of life. It is important to consider the diversity of life, the organisms that make up our environment, and then to consider the ways in which organisms interact with each other and with the environment.

As an introduction to this module, here is one way in which organisms interact with each other that benefits both organisms involved. Lichens, for example, represent two organisms involved in a symbiotic relationship (example of mutualism). The pair may be a fungi and a photosynthetic bacteria or a fungi and an algae that can undergo photosynthesis. In either case, the fungi is thought to provide shelter to the bacteria or algae while the bacteria or algae provide photosynthate (food).

You learned in Module 7 that some organisms can convert solar (light) energy to chemical energy (sugar) through the process of photosynthesis. While plants are likely the organisms that come to mind first when you consider organisms that undergo photosynthesis, some bacteria and also algae (protists) undergo this process as well. A lichen is an example of two organisms interacting to benefit one another, but in this module you will look at many other types of relationships. Challenge yourself to try to identify the following community interactions in addition to the mutualism example given here:

  • competition
  • commensalism
  • predation and parasitism .

Learning Outcomes

This module addresses the following Course Learning Outcomes listed in the Syllabus for this course:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of biological principles.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of scientific method.
  • Communicate scientific ideas through oral or written assignments.
  • Interpret scientific models such as formulas, graphs and tables.
  • Demonstrate problem solving methods in situations that are encountered outside of the classroom .

Module Objectives

Upon completion of this module, the student will be able to:

  • Define ecology .
  • Define community biodiversity , and species diversity .
  • Define the types of interactions among community members.
  • Describe interaction through competition and give an example.
  • Describe interaction through predation and parasitism and give examples.
  • Describe interactions through mutualism and commensalism and give examples.
  • Describe what is meant by “succession in communities.” 1