Selected topics in animal ecology


Environmental and Regional Studies (3rd level)

Biodiversity and ecology (3rd Cycle)

Course code: DIB03
Year of study: without

Course principal:
Prof. Simona Kralj-Fišer, Ph. D.


Workload: lectures 20 hours, seminar 25 hours, other learning forms 15 hours, individual work 120 hours
Course type: modul elective
Languages: Slovene, English
Learning and teaching methods: lectures, seminar, e-learning


Course syllabus (download)


Finished bachelor’s or master’s degree in Biology or equivalent program of study


Content (Syllabus outline):

  • History and introduction
  • Levels of ecological organisation from individuals to ecosystems
  • The diversity of animal life, and the fundamentals of adaptations to the environment
  • Physiological ecology principles; homeostasis processes for thermoregulation, allometry, body size and temperature
  • Population ecology principles; causes and consequences of dispersal
  • Community ecology principles; keystone species; resource partitioning; plant-pollinator interactions, ecological consequences of parasitism
  • Evolutionary ecology principles; evolution of biological interactions: game theory, evolutionary stable strategies; ecological opportunity and adaptive radiation
  • Behavioural ecology introduction; sexual selection and mating strategies; animal personalities
  • Effects of global warming, urbanization, pollution (endocrine disruptors) on species diversity and ecosystem functioning; bioindicators as measures of environmental impacts



  • Krebs, C. J. (2008). The ecological world view. Univ of California Press. Izbrana poglavja.
  • Smith, T. M., Smith, R. L., & Waters, I. (2012). Elements of ecology. San Francisco: Benjamin Cummings. Izbrana poglavja.


Objectives and competences:

The purpose of the course is to familiarize the students with the animal ecology concepts at different levels of organization, from individuals to ecosystems. The course will introduce principles and methods in the key areas of animal ecology: ecophysiology, population ecology, community ecology, ecosystem ecology, behavioural ecology and evolutionary ecology. The course will then dwell into more specific topics where these wider areas integrate, e.g. physiological and behavioural adaptations to climate, interspecies interactions (parasitism, plant-animal interactions), intraspecies interactions (social behaviours, sexual selection, personalities), population dynamics (dispersal) and evolutionary ecology (game theory, evolutionary stable strategies, adaptive radiation). The course will familiarize the students with how global climate change and other human-induced environmental changes affect biodiversity, population viability and ecosystem functioning. The ultimate aim of this course is that students understand biological phenomena by integrating knowledge from various fields, such as physiology, ecology and evolution.


Intended learning outcomes:

  • Advanced level of understanding in the following key areas of animal ecology: evolution-, ecosystem-, population-, community and behavioural ecology.
  • Ability to understand the major physiological and behavioural adaptations of animals to survive and reproduce in a changing
  • Understanding the mechanisms that shape how organisms interact with their environment and, in turn, how the environment shapes organisms over many generations.
  • Identifying factors that affect population and understanding how and why a population changes over time.
  • Identifying inter-species interactions, including competition, predation, herbivory, parasitism and mutualisms; understanding the role of keystone species in communities; explaining the importance of resource partitioning for species diversity.
  • Understanding evolution of intraspecies interactions, e.g. altruism, cooperation, competition, evolutionary stable strategies.
  • Understanding global climate change and other human-induced changes of environment and their consequences for biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.
  • Knowledge of modern research topics in the field of animal ecology.



Exam (60 %), seminar (40 %).