Teaching and Advising
Dr. Scot Duncan
Birmingham-Southern College

Below is information about the courses I teach and various topics related to surviving college, including study skills. Click on the links below or scroll down to find the information

Courses Taught
BI 105 Population and Ecosystem Biology
BI 101 Explorations in Biology
BI 314 Conservation Biology
BI 411 General Ecology
BI 09 Interim: Cahaba River Ecology and Conservation

Advising Information:
When times are tough…
Study Skills

BI 105 Population and Ecosystem Biology (1)
Catalog description: An introduction to genetics, evolution, and ecology. Topics include classical genetics, mechanisms of evolution, and ecosystem structure, dynamics, and diversity. Designed for students who plan to major in biology or one of the natural sciences and/or who are pre-health. Also recommended for non science majors interested in ecology or conservation. Three lectures and one three-hour laboratory per week. Fall, Spring.

Additional Information:
This course is required for all Biology Majors, or Biology-Psychology majors, and Environmental Studies Minors. While designed for the Biology major, it also is a good course for non-majors who need a lab science credit.


BI 101 Explorations in Biology (1)
A course for non-science majors designed to give the student an understanding of selected fundamental biological principles and processes. This course will fulfill the lab science requirement as part of Disciplinary Foundations. This course may not be counted towards the biology or biology-psychology major. Three lectures and one three-hour laboratory per week.

Additional information: Did you know that the state of Alabama is 5th in the nation for total number of species found within state borders?! We have more species of mussels, snails and crayfish than any other state, and we are 2nd for having the most number of fish species. We have over 4000 species of plants, and over 400 species of birds. Unfortunately, also rank 4th in the nation for the number of species at risk, and 2nd for the number of extinct species. The main reason we harbor such immense biodiversity is that we have a great diversity of ecosystems. In this course we will explore Alabama's ecosystems and their intriguing inhabitants. You will learn about diverse ecosystems such as costal salt marshes, shady mountain cove forests, and fire-frequented longleaf pine savannas. In the process you will be introduced to basic principles of ecology, evolution, and conservation. This course is designed for non-science majors and will fulfill the lab science requirement as part of Disciplinary Foundations. This course may not be counted towards the biology or biology-psychology major. Three lectures and one three-hour laboratory per week. Currently, the plan is for this course to be offered in Spring of each year.


BI 314 Conservation Biology (1)
Catalog description: A study of the population and ecosystem level processes required to understand and conserve biodiversity. Emphasis is placed upon the genetics and demographics of populations, the implications of species interactions and community influences on conservation, and management and sustainable development case studies. Three lectures and one three-hour laboratory period per week. Prerequisites: BI 105 and 115, or ES 150. Fall of odd-numbered years.

Additional Information:
Conservation biology is arguably one of the most challenging fields of biology. It is dynamic, complex, and integrative. It is at the confluence of several related fields of biology (genetics, evolution, and ecology), and demands that attention be paid to fields of study beyond biology: politics, natural resource policy, economics, sociology and psychology. Through participation in this course, students will earn an in-depth understanding of the difficult conservation problems we face, and many of their solutions. Class discussions and student projects will necessitate that students actively apply concepts learned through readings and lectures. The geographical scope of our explorations will be global, but a significant proportion of our focus will be on Alabama. As currently planned, this course will be taught in fall 2005 and fall 2007. Either this course or BI 411 is required for the Environmental Studies minor.


BI 411 General Ecology (1)
Catalog description: A study of organisms at the population, community, and ecosystem levels of biological organization. Emphasis is placed on organism-environment and organism-organism interactions. Three lectures and one three-hour laboratory per week. Prerequisites: BI 105, another Biology lab course, and junior standing or consent. (Note: ES 150 can substitute for BI 105 or the second lab course.)

Additional Information: Through participation in this course, students should gain an understanding of the important concepts and recent findings in the field of ecology; the process by which scientists have developed these concepts and tested these findings; how ecological processes and human civilization influence one another; the complexity of the conservation challenges we face now and in the future; how to read, evaluate and compose technical writing; and how to think critically about complex natural systems. A large component of the lab grade is associated with the design and completion of an independent student project. Either this course or BI 314 is required for the Environmental Studies minor.


BI 09 Interim Course: Cahaba River Ecology and Conservation
The Cahaba River passes through the south side of Birmingham. This river provides ~ 25 % of the drinking water for Alabama, and is rich with plant and animal species, some of which are threatened or endangered. The Nature Conservancy has designated the Cahaba as one of eight river Biodiversity Hotspots in the U.S. It is the longest free-flowing river in Alabama, has more fish species than any other river of its size in the temperate zone, but also has 69 rare or imperiled species. Many threats to the river's biodiversity originate here in the Birmingham area. This course is an exploration of river ecology and how it is affected by human natural resource use. Because rivers are affected by their surrounding landscape, we will study ecosystems through which the Cahaba runs. Our readings will also take us to other nationally important river ecosystems. The course will include lectures, discussions, guest speakers, diverse readings, and field trips (including a canoe trip if weather permits!).

Grades are based on class attendance, discussion participation, homework assignments, and a final paper and presentation. We will meet 930-1200 MWF and 930-1200 either Tuesday or Thursday (whichever day we are not on a field trip). There will be one day-long field trip per week, either Tuesday or Thursday 830-330, depending on the weather. Field trips will involve canoeing and hiking, occasionally through some rough terrain. Prerequisites: BI 105 or ES 150. Required text: Streams: their ecology and life, by Cushing and Allen, 2002, book cost = $50. Estimated cost of other course materials = $50. You can learn more about the Cahaba River by visiting the website of the Cahaba River Society (http://www.cahabariversociety.org/).

    When times are tough….

College can be a very challenging time for many students. Sometimes students have trouble rising to meet their academic responsibilities, and/or have difficulties coping with aspects of their personal life. If you or someone you care about are having trouble (psychological, behavioral, academic, etc), I strongly encourage you to seek the professional help at BSC's Counseling and Health Services. This office provides personal, confidential counseling to students on a wide range of topics. The sooner you reach out for help, the sooner you can get back-on-track. These professionals can also advise you if you have a friend you are concerned about who you think needs attention. Visit their website to make an appointment (BSC's Counseling and Health Services).

Additional Resources:
Several colleges and universities provide extensive information on-line about how to 'survive' college and cope with the many challenges that one may face (e.g., drugs and alcohol abuse, concerns about sexual behavior, study skills). Through the years I have identified several websites where useful information is provided on these and many other issues often faced by college students. I encourage you to visit these sites and browse through their offerings. But keep in mind that no information on-line can substitute for advice from a real person. So, if you are having troubles, don't hesitate to visit BSC's counseling center.

The University of Florida Counseling Center:
Look in the "self help" section, under the "Academic Concerns" section. Check out the Time Management information. However, check the following other websites that have much more information.

The University of Chicago Student Counseling and Resource Center
When you get to this page, scroll down, and look for links to Study Skills, Test taking, and Time Management.

Virginia Tech Cook Counseling Center:
Even more helpful study ideas.

    Study Skills:

In the above section entitled "When times are tough…" I provide three websites the offer information to students about a wide array of issues and challenges that many college students face. Each of these websites offers specific tips on how to study effectively and efficiently. I urge you to spend just a few minutes browsing through the information these websites provide, paying particular attention to information about studying. I am certain that you will find advice that, if followed, can help improve your study skills and academic performance. Below I provide several tips that are geared towards students studying for my 100-level courses (BI 105 and BI 101)

Come to class prepared. Have a a print-out of the lecture, and take notes in the margins. Do not be lulled into a false sense of security just by having those notes printed for you from Blackboard. Lecture slides are intentionally sparse in wording. That means you need to in lecture taking notes to 'fill in the blanks' with your own words. In addition, just reading the slides, or just listening to me explain the concepts is not enough to learn the material. To learn anything, you must transform information into a creation of your own. The best way to start is by taking notes. Take notes and listen actively during lectures. Students that do poorly on exams often do not take notes.

Concept-Learning: As much as possible I emphasize concept-learning. This is the type of learning that will stick with you for much longer than the typical pattern-recognition-learning that you probably have been expected to do in many classes. These latter classes often emphasize recitation of details, facts, figures, and definitions. In concept-learning, you have to learn the name of the concept (so we can communicate about it) and what the concept really means. For example, I may ask you to apply the concept (e.g, biomagnification) to a situation (e.g., risks of mercury poisoning from eating seafood). How to study for my concept-oriented tests? Three methods I know have worked well for several students:

A) Condensed Outline: The first is to make a fresh, condensed version of the lecture notes where you write down important aspects about the concept (not the details of the examples provided). Only create a new set of notes for those concepts you do not fully understand (don't waste time writing about what you DO already understand). By the time you complete these notes, you may have already learned 60-85% of the material you have summarized. Then, go back and study these condensed notes, rather than the original lectures. Focus, again, on what you don't already know. Highlight those concepts you have solidly learned - next time you study, focus on un-highlighted sections. The drawback to this study method is that it takes time and commitment. Start long before the exam.

B) Flash Cards: Instead of creating an outline (see A, above), make flash cards. Write the name of a concept down on one side. On the other side, write down important points explaining the concept. Try to be as concise as possible to save yourself time. Then use the flash cards to quiz yourself about the concepts. Team up with someone whose work you can trust, and divide up the task of making flash cards for all the chapters and lectures. The drawback to this method is that it can be hard to get all information summarized in flash-card format.

C) Reciprocal Teaching: "Nine of 10 professors agree: the best way to learn … is to teach! " Find a study partner who is dedicated to studying efficiently and effectively. Each of you should study (a lot!) on your own, and then meet. Take turns explaining course material to one another. The one explaining the concept should not rely on notes, but work from memory. The one listening should be comparing what the speaker is saying with lecture or book material. Take turn explaining concepts in detail until you have them committed to memory.



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