Ecology: from cells to Gaia

Roberto Cazzolla Gatti

National research Tomsk State University

This course presents the principles of evolution and ecology for citizens and students interested in studying biology and environmental sciences. It discusses major ideas and results. Recent advances have energised these fields with evidence that has implications beyond their boundaries: ideas, mechanisms, and processes that should form part of the toolkit of all biologists and educated citizens.

Major topics covered by the course include fundamental principles of ecology, how organisms interact with each other and their environment, evolutionary processes, population dynamics, communities, energy flow and ecosystems, human influences on ecosystems, and the integration and scaling of ecological processes through systems ecology.

This course will also review major ecological concepts, identify the techniques used by ecologists, provide an overview of local and global environmental issues, and examine individual, group and governmental activities important for protecting natural ecosystems. The course has been designed to provide information, to direct the student toward pertinent literature, to identify problems and issues, to utilise research methodology for the study of ecology and evolution, and to consider appropriate solutions and analytical techniques.

Setting the goals connected to the ecological habbits at the beginning of the course and being sticked to them during these 5 weeks, learners are suggested to join an eco-marathon and share their success in social media with the friends. Moreover, during the course learners are going to reflect on their knowledge of ecology, discuss recent issues, share project ideas concerning the environmental protection and do these projects together.


Module 1
1.1 What is “ecology”?
1.2 Plant and animal adaptations and interactions with the environment
1.3 Environmental conditions and Earth’s biomes
1.4 Life histories and populations
1.5 Interspecific competition and the avoidance of competition
Quiz – Module 1
Module 2
2.1 Foraging interactions between species: predation, herbivory and parasitism
2.2 Mutualistic interactions
2.3 Evolutionary ecology
2.4 The ecology of biological diversity
2.5 Energy flux and biogeochemical cycles
Quiz – Module 2
Module 3
3.1 Fundamental ecological processes
3.2 Parasites, predators and Gaian effects
3.3 Biodiversity, hypercycles and Gaia
3.4 Regulating ecological processes
3.5 Biomass, photosynthesis and carbon sequestration
Quiz – Module 3
Module 4
4.1 A new ecology
4.2 Sustainability
4.3 Human impacts on ecosystems
4.4 Conservation biology
4.5 You as an ecologist!
Quiz – Module 4
Final module
Final task: organise a Bio-Blitz

key words, tags

ecology, conservation, biodiversity, environment

Course properties

Competition track
Science and engineering
Form of education
Recommended age for informal learning
19-25, 25-45, 45-65, 65+
Learning language
Course authors
Roberto Cazzolla Gatti
Learning designers
Zakharova Ulyana
Roberto Cazzolla Gatti, Ph.D., Associate Professor in Ecology and Biodiversity, Biological Diversity and Ecology Laboratory, Bio-Clim-Land Centre of Excellence, Biological Institute, Tomsk State University
National research Tomsk State University
Knowledge level entrance requirements
general biology and a good understanding of English
Output knowledge, abilities, skills
1) covering the theoretical and practical issues involved in ecology and evolution, 2) conducting surveys and inventories in ecology, 3) analyzing the information gathered, 4) and applying this analysis to ecological and conservation problems.
Entrance test
Groups formation by readiness level
Teachers presence
Tutors presence
Facilitators presence
Training materials forms
texts, video lecture, sample exam, case
Interactivity in training materials
Collaborative learning presence
Practical activities
Discussions, forums presence
Webinars, video conferences presence
meetup presence
LMS integration
Learning Analytics
Certification presence
Certification types
Certificate with the identity authentication
Certificate name
Coursera platform certificate
Course time limits
4 (weeks)
Learning types (sync/async)
Assessment types
Module unit
Course modules number
Tests (exams) number
Personal learning path possibility, course individualization
earphones, dinamics, keyboard, mouse
Special needs support