Schaefer Lab

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Population and Community Ecology (BSC 441/541)

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Lab Procedures

Lab activities will all all be done in groups of four or five students. While we encourage groups to work together on various aspects of each project, each individual is responsible for writing their own paper. Groups may work together on data gathering and discussions of the overall project in general terms. Groups may NOT work together on statistical analyses, production of graphs or figures and the actual writing of papers. Please also the section academic misconduct in the course syllabus.

Your lab grade will be determined by:
1. Participation in lab activities (determined by the TA and group evaluations)
2. Quality of your peer reviews
3. Quality of your final papers

Field Work
There will be field trips during lab times and attendance on trips is mandatory (part of your lab participation grade). On these trips, active participation will involve you getting wet and muddy. Appropriate dress includes tennis shoes or boots, long pants (shorts are OK but do not offer much protection). Please do not attempt to handle snakes while on field trips, we may encouter venomous species. If you are not a particularly strong swimmer, life vests will be available when sampling aquatic ecosystems.

The Peer Review System
Science in general relies heavily on the peer review system to assess the quality of papers authors submit for publication. As such, it’s important for you become familiar with and understand the working of this system. When an author submits a manuscript to a journal for publication, the editor will request a number of experts in the field (typically 2-4) to anonymously review the work. Reviewers make comments about the clarity of writing, quality of analyses, validity of conclusions, figures, formatting etc. The editor collects the reviews, makes a decision about the fate of the paper (reject, request a revised version from the authors, or accept for publication) and returns it to the author. The author then acts on those reviews to revise the paper for resubmission or repeat part of the study or analyses if necessary. A paper that is resubmitted may be reviewed a second (or third) time before publishing.
We will use a similar system in this class to revise your papers. You will act as both authors and reviewers with the TA and I acting as editors. Your grade will reflect both the quality of your reviews and the quality of your final draft. Groups will combine their efforts on three experiments we conduct as a class. Towards the end of the semester, each group will design and conduct its own experiment. For each experiment there will be a paper turned in, only the three class experiments will be peer reviewed. The peer review process will be as follows:
– Week 1: Turn in your paper, receive another paper to review along with a review form.
– Week 2: Turn in your review.
– Week 3: Receive your paper with reviewer and editor (TA) comments.
– Week 4: Turn in your final draft, addressing reviewer and editor comments.
See the course schedule for exact dates for each paper.

Notes about Papers and Reviews:
– All papers submitted must be in ESA format (, any deviation from this format will be noted in your review and if they persist in the final draft of your paper will result in points taken off.
– All reviews will be anonymous.
– All papers must be done by word processor and you must turn in paper and electronic copies (via email).
– Papers must have a separate title page and your name can only appear on this page. The title page will be removed so the reviewer does not know who’s paper they have.
– Reviews should comment about format, writing structure, clarity as well as general content.
– All papers must cite relevant peer reviewed literature, using proper citation format in the text and literature cited sections.
– Papers can not cite ANY non peer reviewed literature for any reason.
– All papers must have the following sections: introduction, methods, results, discussion and literature cited.
– Figures and tables are numbered consecutively and follow the text sections listed above.
– Each figure and table has to be on it’s own page with a caption above.

Your grade on the final papers you turn in will be determined by how well you follow these guidelines as well as the quality of your writing, analyses, conclusions etc. The grade you receive on your reviews will be determined on how thoroughly you review the paper you are assigned to review. Note that if you fail to follow these guidelines the editor(s) may reject you manuscript resulting in no grade (0). You will receive a grade for your final paper (80%) and the quality of your review (20%). While there is no grade assigned based on the quality of the first version of the paper, the better this version is the more useful the peer review comments will be. If you turn in a poor first version, the reviewer will likely spend most of his/her time fixing grammatical or writing errors and not on helping you with content or analyses.