Biology 109-G
Field Biology-Spring 2009

Winter Ecology

"Without having experienced the cold of winter, one cannot appreciate the warmth of spring."  Chinese proverb

Instructor:   Dr. Jerry Skinner; Capwell Hall 208; phone: 945-8404;

Preview this book Text:   Marchand, Peter J.  Life in the Cold:  An Introduction to Winter Ecology, 3rd edition.  University Press of New England.  London.  ISBN 0-87451-785-0.  304 pp.  Note:  By the end of the semester, you will have read this entire text.

Class Meetings:  first half of the semester; Wednesday 9-10:50 am in Capwell 116; come prepared to be outside for the entire class, snow, cold, or shine.  Inclement weather (are you KIDDING?) meeting time:  10:40-11:45 am.    Course Objectives:  When this course is complete, you will
  1. understand winter conditions and learn why there are seasons.
  2. explain how animals adapt to the winter season.
  3. discuss heat loss and how it affects the body.
  4. explain the changes that occur in a snowpack throughout the winter.
  5. identify the basic track patterns found in our area.
  6. learns how animals, plants and humans adapt to winter conditions
  7. examine the effects of the snow pack on the subnivean world.


Tentative Course Schedule



Assignment for next week



Introduction; course business. 

Plant Overwintering Strategies


Ch. 3:  Plants & the Winter Environment


Winter Birds in NE Pennslvania

Pp. 125-141: The Cold-blooded Gamble



Snowed out!



Snowflake Formation & Changing Snowpack-John

Animal tracks-Ray

Humans-surviving the cold-Jaime & Tasha

Ch. 2-The Changing Snowpack

Ch. 8-Humans in Cold Places


Life Under the Ice-Bill & Frank

Field trip to Lake Manataka

Ch. 5-Life Under Ice

Lake Manataka Trip Data


Black-capped Chickadee in Winter-Tim

Survival of Insects-Albert

White-tailed Deer-Lindsey & Kimberly

Locate appropriate pages for these subjects in your textbook (use the index)



Maple sugaring-Jared

Hibernation-Laura & Amy



Turkeys and Grouse-Jacob Nehme

The Subnivean Environment-Marcello

P. 231--238-Gallinaceous Birds


Possible topics for student presentations:  (Topics that are in light color have already been selected.)

  1. Winter weather:  why does it get cold; what controls our winter weather?

  2. Snow and its properties

  3. Hibernation:  why and how

  4. How Plants Survive

  5. Animal Tracks

  6. Migration

  7. Under the Ice

  8. Herps in winter

  9. Winter birds:  visitors and survivors

  10. Mammals in winter

  11. Case studies:  discuss a single species and how it survives the winter:

    1. Black-capped Chickadee

    2. Golden-crowned Kinglet

    3. White-tailed Deer

    4. Turkeys and Ruffed Grouse

    5. Rabbit

    6. Small mammal such as a vole

    7. another one of your choosing

  12. Winter energetics of warm-blooded creatures

  13. Humans in snow-surviving the cold

  14. The maple sugaring season

  15. How insects survive the winter.

  16. The subnivean environment-living under the snowpack.



Quizzes (2 @ 10 pts)


Final examination




Instructor's subjective evaluation






 Grading Scale

93 % +


90 - 92.9


87 - 89.9


83 - 86.9


80 - 82.9


77 - 79.9


73 - 76.9


70 - 72.9


67 - 69.9


60 - 66.9


less than 60



Other Recommended Resources:

·     Halfpenny, J. C. and R. Ozanne.  1989.  Winter:  An Ecological Handbook.  Johnson Books.  Boulder, CO.  ISBN 1-55566-036-3.  273 pp.

·     Heinrich, B.  2003.  Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival.  Harper-Collins, NY. ISBN 0060957379.  368 pp.

·     Stokes, D.  1976.  A Guide to Nature in Winter.  Stokes Nature Guide Series.  Little, Brown and Co.  Boston.  ISBN 0-316-81723-6.  374 pp.

Study Guide:

  1. Explain why it gets cold in the winter.
  1. Distinguish between calendar and ecological winter.
  1. What are the three basic strategies of surviving winter?  Give an example of an organism that does each one. 
  2. Can you describe the metamorphic processes affecting newly fallen snow of 20 inches?
  3. You are a small mammal such as a shrew.  Describe how you are influenced as your environment becomes subnivean: a) getting food  b) defense against predation  c) thermoregulation
  4. Rank new snow, old snow and ice in terms of increasing insulation value.
  5. Why do deciduous trees loose their leaves in winter?  Why don't evergreens?
  6. How are Wood Frogs able to freeze solid in winter?
  7. What is life like for a bluegill sunfish under the ice in a lake?  A clam in the bottom muds?


The Fine Print:

Keystone College does not discriminate in any of its programs on the basis of disability. While there is not a deadline for the disclosure of a disability by a student, in order to facilitate the documentation and accommodation processes, students are encouraged to voluntarily and confidentially disclose any disability requiring an accommodation prior to the beginning of class.  This disclosure should be made to Robert Iannuzzo, Vice President of Enrollment, Keystone’s Section 504/ADA Coordinator.  Students who disclose a disability, and who are seeking an accommodation, ultimately will be expected to provide documentation verifying the disability.

Academic Honesty – Division of Natural Science and Mathematics
All students are subject to the College's policy and procedure on academic dishonesty: see page 79 of the Keystone College 2006-2007 catalog. 

The Natural Science and Mathematics Division recognizes that any form or degree of academic dishonesty challenges the principles of truth and honesty which are among the most important founding principles of science and mathematics discovery.  Keystone College treats academic dishonesty as a serious violation of academic trust.  It penalizes all students found to have engaged in such behavior.
Academic honesty within the College and the Natural Science and Mathematics Division must be a cooperative enterprise of faculty, students and administrators. Acts of academic dishonesty include but are not limited to the following:

  1. The illegitimate use of study materials or electronic devices in any form during a quiz or examination.

  2. Copying answers from the quiz or examination paper of another student.

  3. Plagiarizing or falsifying materials or information used in the completion of any assignment which is graded or evaluated as the student's individual effort. Plagiarism includes submitting as one's own the ideas or work of another, including the laboratory data, written materials or the computer files of another, regardless of whether that information is used verbatim or in paraphrased form.  The same applies to anything derived from the Internet, including research papers purchased online. 

  4. Obtaining, through theft, bribery, or collusion, or otherwise improperly securing an examination paper prior to the time and date for the administration of the examination. Also, use of an examination paper previously administered (e.g., during an earlier term) without the consent of the instructor who authored the examination.

  5. Impersonating a candidate at an examination or availing oneself of such an impersonation in any traditional or online class. 

  6. Intentionally interfering with any person's scholastic work, for example, by damaging or stealing laboratory experiments, computer data files or library materials.

  7. It is presumed that material submitted by a student for an assignment is original to that assignment and, therefore, submitting the same work for more than one course without the consent of the instructors of each course in which the work is submitted is considered dishonest.  Submission of previously graded work from prior assignments is considered dishonest. 

  8. Aiding or abetting any act of academic dishonesty including but not limited to such offenses as described above.