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  3. Biogeography and Ecology of Fire

Biogeography and Ecology of Fire (GEOG30025)

Undergraduate level 3Points: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2018
Subject levelUndergraduate Level 3
Subject codeGEOG30025
Availability(Quotas apply)
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

Fire is one of the most important controls over the distribution of vegetation on Earth. This subject examines the role of fire in natural systems, with a particular emphasis on the importance of fire in determining global vegetation patterns and dynamics over long periods of time. The aim is to understand how terrestrial systems have evolved to cope with and exploit fire, and to place the extreme flammability Australia's vegetation within a global context. The subject will examine concepts such as resilience, positive feedback loops, hysteresis and alternative stable states. The use of fire by humans to manipulate environments will be examined, with a particular emphasis on the variety of approaches employed by people across a diversity of environments over long periods of time, allowing an exploration of the social and cultural dynamics of fire and environmental management. A mid-semester field excursion in Tasmania will visit a number of sites which will exemplify the subject themes. The practical exercises leading up to the field trip will focus on how to gather fire-related ecological data. The practical exercises following the field trip will be devoted to processing, analysing, interpreting and reporting on the field data. At the end of the subject, students will have gained an understanding of the way in which fire has shaped natural systems, as well as acquiring the skills necessary to formulate and test hypotheses.

More information about the subject and field trip can be seen at: http://michaelsresearch.wordpress.com/GEOG30025/

The estimated additional cost of the 7 day field trip to Cradle Mountain, Tasmania, is in the vicinity of $750.The 2018 field trip will be from 15 January to 21 January.

Note this subject may be taken as the Capstone subject in the Geography major of the BA and BSc. All students, whether they are capstone students or not, will be required to complete online introductory materials that are common across all field classes, and will be invited to a discussion session together at the end of their Capstone study and experience.

Intended learning outcomes

At the completion of this subject, students will have achieved the following objectives

  • An understanding of the causes and consequences of fire in terrestrial systems;
  • An understanding of the specific adaptations that plants and animals have evolved to cope with fire;
  • An ability to generate and test ecological hypotheses, design in-field ecological experiments and gather data to address specific hypotheses;
  • Familiarity with the key literature and current debates on fire-ecology;
  • An understanding of how the current global warming debate fits into the longer-term perspective

Generic skills

  • ability to conduct library searches to source the latest relevant literature on key topic areas;
  • ability to comprehend some of the current debates in the field;
  • software skills, such as Excel and more specialised software, such as ecological ordination software and R;
  • basic introduction to plant identification, ecological data acquisition and analysis;
  • field skills, especially an ability to design and execute controlled field experiments;
  • data interpretation skills, informed by the relevant literature;
  • group field and research activities.

Last updated: 16 June 2018