This course explores the life history and ecology of freshwater invertebrates in lakes, rivers and wetlands. It will focus on their habitat requirements, functional ecology and food web interactions. We will also examine how invertebrates affect the functioning of aquatic ecosystems, and how their diversity is threatened by human activities.
Lectures – The course will begin by exploring the special features of freshwater habitats, the major distinctions between freshwater and marine invertebrates, the constraints of living in a freshwater environment, and general patterns of freshwater biodiversity and zoogeography. The next series of lectures will examine invertebrate life cycles, food web interactions, and the faunal groups that characterize various types of freshwater habitats. Emphasis will be placed on the adaptations and functional ecology of invertebrates in different habitats, while introducing concepts such as functional feeding guilds and the river continuum. The final series of lectures will examine the role of anthropogenic stressors as threats to freshwater invertebrate diversity, and the value of invertebrates as sentinels of environmental change.
Labs – The labs will demonstrate techniques of identification of major invertebrate groups, using both preserved and living specimens. The final lab will familiarize students with the use of invertebrate data in biomonitoring and environmental assessment. A field sampling trip may be scheduled for the second or third week.