BIOSCI 725 : Ecological Physiology


2023 Semester One (1233) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Physiological and biochemical processes enable animals to occupy diverse habitats. Highly variable and extreme environments provide an opportunity to study the functional attributes of animals, particularly ectotherms, with respect to their metabolic, respiratory, and nutritional adaptations. A sound understanding of BIOSCI 335 or equivalent is assumed.

Course Overview

While this post graduate course in Ecophysiology extends on from the undergraduate course Biosci 335, the undergraduate course is not essential. This course explores the physiological diversity of adaptions and issues that animals face in stressful situations such as metabolic arrest (hibernation), low oxygen, a warming world, the energetic requirements of seabird migration, and breath holding (diving endotherms). We also use comparative methods to explore the evolution of herbivory in fish, and comparative methods to question if dinosaurs were endothermic and why birds (modern dinosaurs) live so long.
Overall, the course aims to meet the needs of students with ecological interests in using research-based teaching with discussion and presentation based seminar forums. Where possible you will be placed into groups that will cover specific areas of those topics arranged around several papers. Each group will cover a specific component of a research question and these questions add to a broader theme. Your groups will present a quick PowerPoint (or the like) peer evaluated presentation, and each student will compose a one page synopsis of the seminars and these will be marked and are useful for the final exam. Therefore you must read your allotted literature, critique this, and then develop an understanding and develop and explore potential questions.

Course Requirements

No pre-requisites or restrictions

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 5: Independence and Integrity
Capability 6: Social and Environmental Responsibilities

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Critically evaluate current literature, theories and hypotheses in comparative and ecological physiology (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  2. Describe and discuss how animals acclimatize, acclimate or adapt to different stressors, such as limited oxygen (Capability 1, 2 and 4)
  3. Describe and explain how comparative methods can be applied to explore differences in physiology such as rates of scaling, ageing, endothermy and digestion. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  4. Identify and describe issues and debate in the primary literature (Capability 1, 2, 3 and 4)
  5. Compose original work (presentations, synopses and essays) independently and in groups (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5)
  6. Interpret and communicate issues in ecological physiology (Capability 1, 2, 4 and 6)
  7. Work collaboratively within a group to critique and explain concepts.


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Presentation 10% Group Coursework
Synopsis 25% Individual Coursework
Essay 40% Individual Coursework
Final Exam 25% Individual Examination
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Final Exam


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Key Topics

Topics can be changed, but generally this course covers:
Metabolic scaling, is there a magic number?
Hypoxia tolerance: life with low O2
Temperature in a hot world
Life in the intertidal zone
Sea bird physiology
Metabolic suppression
Comparative biology and ageing
Were dinosaurs endotherms?
Herbivory in ectotherms

Special Requirements

There are no special requirements for this course

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in. 

For this course, you can expect 1 x 2 hour seminar per week, which require preparation for presentations and writing of synopses. There will also be a 2 hour tutorial. Therefore the time outside of  seminars ~75 hours will be spent on reading and thinking about the content, preparation and group discussions for presentations, essay assignments, and exam preparation.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is required for seminars and are scheduled as  standard weekly events.

Learning Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.

While the primary literature (journal articles etc.) is used, a useful fundamental text is Animal Physiology, third edition , Richard W. Hill, Gordon A. Wyse, and Margaret Anderson, 2012, Sinauer Associates

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

There were no suggestions to change the course. However, following on from exploring the physiology of dragons I have new topic for my essay topic, which shall remain a secret till 2023.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.

Class Representatives

Class representatives are students tasked with representing student issues to departments, faculties, and the wider university. If you have a complaint about this course, please contact your class rep who will know how to raise it in the right channels. See your departmental noticeboard for contact details for your class reps.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption, we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and course assessment continues to meet the principles of the University’s assessment policy. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator/director, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the university website for information about how to proceed.

The delivery mode may change depending on COVID restrictions. Any changes will be communicated through Canvas.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course students may be asked to submit coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. In exceptional circumstances changes to elements of this course may be necessary at short notice. Students enrolled in this course will be informed of any such changes and the reasons for them, as soon as possible, through Canvas.

Published on 01/11/2022 09:36 a.m.