Wildlife and Fisheries Biology--Biology 3145
Spring 2015

Instructor: Dr. Jerry Skinner; Capwell Hall 211; 945-8404. email:  jerry.skinner@keystone.edu
Office hours: M-T-Th-F 11-11:50 am; F 10-12.

Class Meetings: Lecture: M-F 12:30-1:45 pm in Capwell 208; Lab: Thursday 2:00-4:50 pm in Capwell 202.   Inclement weather meeting time:  Lecture:  1:30-2:20 pm; Lab:  2:15-4:50 pm.

Front Cover

Willis, D., C. Scalet, and L. Flake.  2009.  Introduction to Wildlife and Fisheries:  An Integrated Approach, 2nd ed.  W. H. Freeman Co., NY.  461 pp.  ISBN 1-4292-0446-X.


Lab materials will be handed out to you.


Course Description:  The primary goal of this course is to have students learn the functions and processes of ecosystems.  Ecosystems represent the interacting systems of living organisms (fish and wildlife) and their abiotic (non-living) environment.  Through class and field work, students will learn about the structure, dynamics, and behaviors of northeastern fish and wildlife populations.  Students will also learn methods for assessment and management of local fish and wildlife resources, their habitat, and human users.  Ecosystem management will be emphasized.  Students will directly interface with regional and state fish and wildlife biologists, managers, and enforcement officials.

Course Objectives: Upon completion of this course, you will:
1) possess a basic understanding of general relationships between organisms and their environment;
2) posses the skills to perform standard field techniques;
3) improve your ability to read and write in acceptable scientific style; 
4) become intimately familiar with the current ecological literature, computer searches, indices, and electronic sources.
5) be able to apply all these skills in assessing and interpreting man's past and future impact on ecosystems.

Introduction:  What do fishery and wildlife biologists do?  Defining Wildlife and Fisheries; Environmental organization PPT assignment made.

1; Excerpt  from A Sand County Almanac

Dietary Analysis of Barn Owls
Environmental organization student presentations

Wildlife disease PPT assignment made; read Keystone Wild Notes


Dietary Analysis of Barn Owls; pellet analysis data; assignment-write it up!
Ecological Concepts
Population Dynamics
Genetics in Wildlife and Fisheries
Nutrition and Environmental Physiology
Sampling the Biota
Determination and Use of Age, Growth, and Sex Information
Population and Community Assessment
Managing the Biota
Endangered and Threatened Species
Habitat Sampling & Assessment
Habitat Degradation
Habitat Management
Assessment of Human Users
Management of Human Users
Wildlife & Fishery Legislation
Wildlife & Fishery Law Enforcement

Note:  By the end of the semester, you will have read the entire textbook.  Occasionally you will be assigned readings outside of your textbook. These will be left on reserve in the library, or in some other readily available place.


Environmental Education Optimal foraging by birds at a feeder
Optimal foraging by mice Effect of grazers on plant community structure
Pollination ecology Diet and space overlap of stream fishes
How does a robin look for worms? Mark and recapture techniques
Growth of duckweed populations Salamander habitat analysis
Vegetation analysis techniques Telemetry
Sampling for lake and stream fish Aging and growth of fish populations
Aging techniques for mammals and birds Vegetation sampling & measurement
Dietary Analysis of Barn Owls Middle Creek Wildlife area trip
Course Woody Debris survey-WFWP Hemlock Wooly Adelgid treatment-WFWP
Game farm or fish hatchery visit Annual meeting of PA-TWS Mar 20-21
Participation in PARS Vertebrate museum visit

ABOUT LABS: I have not made up a schedule of labs. There are more topics listed above than we can possibly do in one semester. Some are indoor activities and some are outdoors. Unfortunately, most of the outside ones deal with the more complex concepts that should come at the end of the semester when it will be too cold to be outdoors (or the organisms have been killed by frost or are hibernating). Therefore, the labs will probably not be current with lecture topics. Also, due to the vagaries of the weather, I will probably not decide about the week's lab until the day or two before. What this means to you is that we will not work in streams after a rain, or with insects when the temperature is in the 40's. Also, you should come to labs in field clothes--this means you should expect to get wet, dirty, sweaty, etc. Bring along a change of clothes, rain gear, etc. if necessary. Expect to go outside every lab. This doesn't mean that we will, but I don't want to see someone in a skirt, shorts or Foster-Grants on lab day. Labs will be handed out to you no later than the day before the lab. It is expected that you will have read it BEFORE you come to lab.

Grading Policy

3 Exams @100 pts 300
Lab Reports and Assignments   300
2 Abstracts @10 pts 20
Participation 50 pts per half semester 100
Research Paper/Debate 125
Total   845
A 93-100%
A- 90-92.99
B+ 87-89.99
B 83-86.99
B- 80-82.99
C+ 77-79.99
C 73-76.99
C- 70-72.99
D+ 67-69.99
D 60-66.99
F <60.00

ATTENDANCE AND DUE DATES: Your presence is expected at EVERY lecture and lab. You will notice that attendance is not included in the grading scale. You do not gain points by carrying out your responsibility in showing up. There will be no makeup tests without a verifiable excuse of a very serious nature. Makeups will be at my convenience and will be an oral test. Late assignments will not be accepted for any reason. Assignments are due AT THE BEGINNING OF CLASS on the due date.

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 Sarah Keating, 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.


Environmental Organization:  25 points

Investigate and report on the environmental organization of your choice (NGOs only).  It may be local, national, or international.  Tell what the organization's mission is and how they try to accomplish it.  Are they successful?  This will be in the form of a PowerPoint presentation to last no more than 3 minutes.  I expect this to be a polished, rehearsed  presentation.  You must stay within your time guideline.  I strongly suggest you view Death by PowerPoint for a discussion of what to NOT do with your presentation.

Wildlife Disease:  25 points

select a wildlife disease (your choice) and prepare a 5 minute PPT presentation.  Here are the presentations from previous classes.  These are unaltered and are in the form as presented by the students.  Some are good, some not so.  You may choose one of these topics or any other interesting and relevant disease.  Or, you can select an individual species and discuss the common diseases they get.

You may NOT select White nose syndrome or rabies (which I will present in class to give you an idea of what's expected.)

This time your colleagues will be evaluating your presentation based on the criteria in the grading rubric and whether you prepared them well for a quiz on these topics.

North American Bird Phenology Program

Your assignment is to transcribe 25 cards (@1 pt) for the North American Bird Phenology Program.   (The leading transcriber has done more than 38,000 cards!)

  1. Visit the North American Bird Phenology Program at


You may wish to read about the program from the links provided in the menu, such as ABOUT BPP and RESEARCH RESULTS

       2.    Click on BECOME A PARTICIPANT to register for the program.

Click on NEW! Data Entry Login V3 Beta.  This allows you to begin transcribing cards.  The benefit of the Beta version is that is allows you to request (filter) certain kinds of cards.  For example, you can select a particular species or a state.  For example, you might choose only PA birds, or only Swainson’s Warblers in PA.

         3.   Submit a list and count of the species (names or numbers) that you transcribed.

Paper:  125 points

Project/Paper Requirements: 

     Select a topic which interests you.  The list below may give you ideas, but you are welcome to modify one of these or come up with an original idea.  Topics must be cleared with me.  All topics are first-come-first-served; i.e., only one person in the class may have any topic.  Prepare a 'paper' which thoroughly investigates the topic.  The paper will be written in normal 'English-class' style.  This means that you must cite all relevant materials and have a Literature Cited section.  (Nota bene:  I am as picky of a grader on grammar and spelling as any English professor!)  This paper is worth 100 pts. 
     You will also present your project to the class in PowerPoint format during the last week of the course.  This presentation will be judged by your classmates as well as by me, and is worth 25 points.  
     You may submit a draft for my inspection and comments before the due date.


What's Expected

Due Date



Appropriate topic turned in on time?  DUE  



On time?  Well thought out?  DUE  



What did you say?  How well was it said and supported?  Was it well researched?  Ample references and sources?  



Perfect grammar, spelling, typing, citations and references?  



How well did you share your findings with the class?  TO BE PRESENTED IN CLASS  





Possible Project Topics for Wildlife Biology

This is a list of potential topics. You may do one of these, modify one, or choose something altogether different.

  1. Several past presidents vowed to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.  Is this a good idea?  What are the wildlife implications?
  2. What is the status of acid precipitation in PA?  What levels do we receive? Compare your results with state and national trends. What are the impacts on wildlife?
  3. What is the role and impact of wildlife rehabilitators in saving injured animals.  Is it worth it?  Do they survive when released?  What does it take to become a rehabilitator?
  4. Pennsylvania's tax check-off for non-game wildlife -- how it works, how well it's working, and what it's doing for Pennsylvania wildlife; how much have the license plates made?
  5. The problem of exotic and introduced plants and animals in Florida--America's great outdoor zoo.
  6. Giardiasis, West Nile virus, tick-borne diseases, etc. Discuss the problem of animals as vectors of human diseases.
  7. The dangers of plastics dumped overboard at sea -- their impact on turtles, birds and whales.
  8. A conflict of interest -- fishermen vs. oil drilling on America's most fertile fishing grounds.
  9. The Bible says, "...be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over... every living thing." Does this mean that God has said that we may do as we wish with the world, its resources and organisms? For instance, is it OK to cause one of God's creatures become extinct?
  10. What happens when an endangered species meets a multi-million dollar dam? The story of the snail darter vs. the Tellico Dam.
  11. Mercury (or lead or cadmium) in the environment. Where does it come from -- and what is the effect of these toxins on wildlife.
  12. Carcinogens in the environment -- how we test for them, and is it worth the time to worry about them?
  13. Ecotourism--nature tours, African 'safaris', whalewatching, swimming with dolphins, etc. Are these things beneficial to host countries and to the animals?
  14. Endangered species in Pennsylvania -- what is the commonwealth doing to save them? (or, in your own state or country)
  15. Zoos -- are they becoming the last refuge for our endangered species? Discuss conservation measures and captive breeding programs.
  16. Should we try to save endangered species--is it really worth it? Should we save endangered snails, crickets, rattlesnakes, and mosquitoes?
  17. Extinction is nothing new. Did primitive humans cause the extinctions of large animals like mammoths, mastodons, saber-toothed tigers, etc.?
  18. Smokey the Bear should be snuffed out -- or, why forest fires aren't such bad things.
  19. We currently have more forested land than probably existed when whites came to America. However, it is of much lower quality than before. Additionally, it is becoming very fragmented, a condition which poses perhaps more of a threat to bird species than does the burning of the tropical rain forests. Discuss these notions.
  20. Compare the wildlife artwork of such prominent wildlife artists as John James Audubon, Robert Bateman, Roger Tory Peterson, Louis A. Fuertes, and others.
  21. Compare some of the more prominent nature writers like Emerson, Thoreau, John Borroughs, Aldo Leopold, Edwin Way Teale, Edward Abbey, etc. Or read several writings by the same author and discuss his/her philosophy of the natural world.
  22. There is quite a controversy between animal rights advocates, hunters, the fur industry, etc. Present a discussion about this problem giving both sides of the question, finishing up with your own opinion. (Conduct interviews with trappers, women who own furs, and animal lovers.)
  23. There are many fine nature-oriented shows on TV (PBS and cable). Discuss Nature , Nova , Wild America, National Geographic, World of Survival, Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau , Animal Plant, Shark Week, etc. What are their goals? How do they effect the viewing public's perception of the natural world?
  24. Must business and environment always be at odds? Can environmentalism be good business?
  25. Zebra mussels, a clam-like invader from Europe, have infiltrated the Great Lakes and the Susquehanna River. They are expected to cause a monumental ecological problem. Discuss these and other invaders of our aquatic ecosystem.
  26. Discuss George W. Bush's or Barack Obama's environmental record as president.  What impact can and does a president have on wildlife policies?
  27. Lampreys in the Great Lakes:  their origin, current control measures, etc.
  28. Discuss the contributions to wildlife made by Aldo Leopold.  Of course, this includes reading one or more of his books.
  29. View the film "March of the Penguins".  Discuss how this species' seemingly odd reproductive strategy may have arisen.  Construct a realistic energy budget (using real numbers) for a breeding individual of this species.
  30. You've decided to go into business for yourself in the field of wildlife or fisheries management.  A prospective client approaches you with a specific problem.  Define the problem, devise a management scheme, and present the bill to the client.  You may choose either a terrestrial or aquatic system to manage.
  31. Discuss the logistical, financial, ethical, and biological aspects of PA's trout stocking program.  Should we also raise and release bears for hunters?
  32. We should allow managed whaling to resume.
  33. Most salmon purchased at grocery stores are farm raised. Discuss this relatively new and exploding area of aquaculture.  What are the pros and cons?  (E.g., disease, genetic swamping of native stocks, pollution, etc.)
  34. Discuss the ethics of the menu at your favorite seafood restaurant.
  35. Discuss several real-world applications of GPS-GIS technology to wildlife biology.
  36. Author a piece of legislation to provide an equitable, sustainable, stable, and adequate source of funding for the PA Game Commission and the PA Fish & Boat Commission.
  37. After reading Aldo Leopold's Good Oak (an excerpt from A Sand County Almanac), compose a parallel piece using historical info for Pennsylvania.