Freshwater and Estuarine Ecology

General Course Information

Course Lecturer Name(s): Paula Spiniello

Course Director Name: Paula Spiniello  

Course Lecturer(s) Contact Information:

Course Director Contact Information: 

Course Lecturer(s) Office Hours: by appointment 

Course Director Office Hours: by appointment

Course Lecturer(s) Office Location: Caribbean House, 2nd floor/Online

Course Director Office Location: TBD

Course Support: Anna Neckles-Thomas,, x3435

Course Management tool: To learn to use Sakai, the Course management tool, access the link

Course Curriculum Information

Course Description: 

This course will give students an understanding of the ecology of freshwater and estuarine ecosystems, providing with knowledge of their origin and geomorphology, and broad principles of their ecology, hydrology, biogeochemistry, and biotic dynamics. It will also introduce students to the effects of anthropogenic impacts and the importance of maintaining the ecosystems integrity, with emphasis in Grenada’s surface water resources. Throughout this course, students will develop the ability to research issues related to freshwater and estuarine ecology at global, regional, and local level, and to discuss the implications of their results in the broader context of the ecology of aquatic ecosystems.

Course Objectives: 

  1. Identify the major freshwater and estuarine ecosystems worldwide, in the America/Caribbean region, and in Grenada.
  2. Identify the physical, chemical, biological, and ecological characteristics of the different freshwater and estuarine ecosystems.
  3. Understand the interactions between the dominant physical, chemical, and biological components of freshwater and estuarine ecosystems.
  4. Identify and critically analyze the major anthropogenic threats to freshwater and estuarine ecosystems and the effects on their integrity.
  5. Design and perform ecological investigation in and about freshwater and estuarine ecosystems, including both field and laboratory studies.
  6. Effectively communicate scientific information through oral presentations and written reports.

Student Learning Outcomes:

Please see Course and Session Learning Outcomes document in the Resources folder.

Technical Skills Outcomes: 

TSO-BIOL312-1. Use of refractometer to measure water salinity

TSO-BIOL312-2- Use of turbidity meter to measure turbidity in water

TSO-BIOL312-3- Use of pH meter to determine pH of a solution

TSO-BIOL312-4- Use of D.O. meter to measure dissolved oxygen in water

TSO-BIOL312-5- Use of colorimetric kits and spectrophotometry to measure chemical parameter of solutions and compounds (eg. Water nutrients and chemical analysis) TSO-BIOL312-6- Use of Secchi Disc to determine turbidity of a water column

TSO-BIOL312-7- Use of thief samplers such as Van Dorn or Kemmerer Bottles to collect water samples

TSO-BIOL312-8- Use of current meter to measure stream flow velocity

TSO-BIOL312-9- Use of titration method to estimate the concentration of Dissolved Oxygen TSO-BIOL312-10- Use of centrifuge and spectrophotometer for the estimation of concentration of chlorophyll-a in water samples

TSO-BIOL312-11- Use of BOD bottles for the estimation of phytoplankton primary productivity

TSO-BIOL312-12- Use of analytical and digital thermometers to measure temperature

TSO-BIOL312-13- Use of spreadsheets to enter, collate, analyze and display data graphically TSO-BIOL312-14- Use of SPSS statistical software to conduct data analyses and display data graphically

TSO-BIOL312-15- Use of surgical instruments and necropsy to observe cellular, tissue, organs and other anatomical features of specimen and to prepare illustrative diagrams

TSO-BIOL312-16- Use of towing nets to collect samples of phytoplankton and zooplankton

TSO-BIOL312-17- Use of Sedgwick-Rafter cameras for the enumeration of zooplankton

TSO-BIOL312-18- Use of barrier nets for the collection of bioseston

TSO- BIOL312-19- Use of a drag sampling device for the collection of benthic macroinvertebrates samples

TSO-BIOL312-20- Use of a core sampling device to collect soil samples

TSO-BIOL312-21- Use of taxonomic/dichotomous keys to identify species of organisms

TSO-BIOL312-22- Use of compound and stereo dissecting microscope to observe cells, anatomical features and microbial organisms

Program Outcomes Met By This Course:

MWC-PLO1. KNOWLEDGE: Apply knowledge of the biological and physical components of life, and use this knowledge to understand the interrelationships of organisms with each other and their physical environments. 

MWC-PLO2. APPLICABILITY: Analyze key global ecological and conservation issues to promote long-term species viability and health of marine and terrestrial environments, with an emphasis on the Caribbean. 

MWC-PLO3.    RESEARCH: Apply scientific method, ecological and quantitative concepts, and technical skills to design and conduct novel field and laboratory experiments, while considering ethical and regulatory implications.

MWC-PLO4. COMMUNICATION & CRITICAL THINKING: Use relevant scientific literature and demonstrate independent, critical thinking while communicating scientific knowledge effectively in different media.

SAS Grading Scale: Grades will be assigned as follows:

A  = 89.5% or better

B+ = 84.5 - 89.4%

B  = 79.5 - 84.4%

C+ = 74.5 - 79.4%

C = 69.5 - 74.4%

D = 64.5 - 69.4%

F = 64.4% or less 

Course Materials:

Class materials and selected readings will be taken from the following books and journals:

  1. Day, J.W, Kemp, W.M, Yanez-Arancibia, A. and B.C. Crump. 2012. Estuarine Ecology. Willey Blackwell.
  2. Dodds, W.K. and M.R. Whiles. 2019. Freshwater Ecology. Third Edition.  Elsevier.
  3. Giller, P.S. and B. Malmqvist. 2011. The Biology of Streams and Rivers. Oxford University Press.
  4. Wetzel, R.G. 2001. Limnology: Lake and River Ecosystems. Third Edition. Academic Press.            
  5. Wetzel, R.G., and G.E. Likens. 2000. Limnological Analyses.  Third Edition.  Springer. 
  6. O’Sullivan, P.E. and C.S. Reynolds. 2005. The Lakes Handbook. Vol. I. Limnology and Limnetic Ecology. Blackwell. Publishing. limnetic-ecologyd157204230.html

Supplementary Readings/Resources: 

Additional reading materials and resources will be posted on Sakai. 

Course Grading Requirement:

Student learning will be assessed by: 

  • Three (3) exams 
  • Two (2) topic oral presentations to be selected from given options
  • Three (3) reading assignments and discussions.
  • Two (2) Projects presentations (oral and written report)

Grading will be distributed as follow:

  • Three (3) Exams: 45% (15% each)
  • Two (2) Topic Oral Presentations 10% (5% each)
  • Three (3) reading assignments and discussions: 15% (5% each)
  • Two (2) Project Presentations (Written and Oral): 30 % (15 % each)
  •  TOTAL: 100 %

Course Requirements: n/a

Course Schedule



LECTURE Wednesday

LAB. Thursday

1 (01/17-20)

CLASS 1: Course information

CLASS 2 - Unit 1: Lakes global distribution. Lake origin and formation.

  • Laboratory information
  • Practice: Ecological

Characterization of Lake Grand Etang (1 pm to 2:30 pm)

2 (01/24-27)

CLASS 3 - Unit 1: Lakes and ponds abiotic frame.

CLASS 4: Unit 1: Lake biota



3 (01/21-02/03)

CLASS 5: Uni1 1: Lake biota 2 and sampling methods

CLASS 6: Unit 1: Food web interactions in lakes and


Field Trip Lake Grand Etang: 1 pm to 5 pm

4 (02/07-10)

CLASS 7: Unit 1: Environmental threats in lakes and ponds

CLASS 8: Unit 1: Topic Presentations

Sample analysis from Grand Etang field trip. (1 pm to 5


5 (02/14-17)

CLASS 9: Unit 1:

Reading Assignment 1 –

Discussion and

Submission deadline

CLASS 10: Unit 1: Exam Lentic Environment (Lakes and Ponds)

Sample analysis from Grand Etang field trip (1 pm to 5 pm)

6 (02/21-24)

CLASS 11: Unit 2:

Introduction to rivers and streams. Types of Lotic Ecosystems.

CLASS 12: UNIT 2: Rivers and streams abiotic frame

Submission and Discussion of

Grand Etang Report (1 pm to

2:30 pm)

7 (02/28-03/02)

CLASS 13: Unit 2: Water chemistry, flow and hydraulics. 

CLASS 14: Unit 2: Lotic biota


8 (03/07-10)


NO CLASS – Midterms Week

9 (03/14-17)

CLASS 15: Unit 2:

Physiological adaptations

CLASS 16: Unit 2: Interactions, community patters and biogeography

Introduction to Field Trip:

Lotic Environment (1 pm –

2:30 pm)

10 (03/21-24)

CLASS 17: Unit 2: Uses and environmental threats on lotic ecosystems.

CLASS 18: Unit 2: Topic Presentations

Field Trip Lotic Ecosystem (1 pm to 5 pm)

11 (03/28-31)

CLASS 19: Unit 2:

Reading Assignment

Submission and


EXAM 2: Lotic ecosystems

Sample Analysis for field trip Lotic Ecosystem (1 pm to 5 pm)

12 (04/04-07)

CLASS 21: Unit 3:

Estuaries introduction and geomorphology

CLASS 22: Unit 3: Estuarine chemistry

Submission and Discussion of Lotic Ecosystem report (1 pm to 2:30 pm)

13 (04/11-14)

CLASS 23: Unit 3:

Estuarine Primary Producers

CLASS 24: Unit 3: Estuarine microbial community and secondary producers


14 (04/18-21)

CLASS 25: Unit 3: Estuarine Fauna

CLASS 26: Unit 3: Estuarine Metabolism and Food Web


15 (04/25-28)

CLASS 27: Unit 3: Environmental threats on estuaries

CLASS 28: Unit 3: Reading assignment submission and discussion


16 (05/2-5)

EXAM 3: Estuarine Ecosystems

NO CLASS – Finals Week


School of Arts and Sciences Master Syllabi — Info for All Sections

Plagiarism Policy

Academic Integrity

The St. George’s University Student Manual (2019/2020) states as follows:

Plagiarism is regarded as a cardinal offense in academia because it constitutes theft of the work of someone else, which is then purported as the original work of the plagiarist. Plagiarism draws into disrepute the credibility of the Institution, its faculty, and students; therefore, it is not tolerated” (p. 48).

Plagiarism also includes the unintentional copying or false accreditation of work, so double check your assignments BEFORE you hand them in.

Be sure to do good, honest work, credit your sources and reference accordingly and adhere to the University’s Honor Code. Plagiarism and cheating will be dealt with very seriously following the university’s policies on Plagiarism as outlined in the Student Manual.

Your work may be subject to submission to plagiarism detection software, submission to this system means that your work automatically becomes part of that database and can be compared with the work of your classmates.

Attendance Requirement

The St. George’s University Student Manual (2019/2020) states as follows:

Students are expected to attend all classes and or clinical rotations for which they have registered. Although attendance may not be recorded at every academic activity, attendance may be taken randomly. Students’ absence may adversely affect their academic status as specified in the grading policy. If absence from individual classes, examinations, and activities, or from the University itself is anticipated, or occurs spontaneously due to illness or other extenuating circumstances, proper notification procedures must be followed. A particular course may define additional policies regarding specific attendance or participation” (p. 9).

Examination Attendance

The St. George’s University Student Manual (2019/2020) states as follows:

All matriculated students are expected to attend all assigned academic activities for each course currently registered. Medical excuses will be based on self-reporting by students. Students who feel they are too sick to take an examination or other required activity on a specific day must submit the online SAS medical excuse, which is available on Carenage. Students are only allowed two such excuses a year. Upon consultation with the Director of University Health Service, the third excuse will result in a mandatory medical leave of absence. The policies regarding make-up examinations are at the option of the Course Director” (p.46).

For additional specific examination policies and procedures, refer to the St. George’s University Student Manual (2019/2020), pages 31 through 37.

Student Accessibility and Accommodation Services Policy

The St. George’s University Student Manual (2019/2020) states as follows:

A student with a disability or disabling condition that affects one or more major life activities, who would like to request an accommodation, must submit a completed application form and supporting documentation to the Student Accessibility and Accommodation Services (SAAS) located in the Dean of Students Office. It is highly recommended that students applying for accommodations do so at least one month before classes begin to allow for a more efficient and timely consideration of the request. If a fully completed application is not submitted in a timely fashion, an eligibility determination may not be made, and accommodations, where applicable, may not be granted prior to the commencement of classes and/or examinations” (p. 8).


It is the responsibility of the student to read and understand the policies, laws, rules and procedures that while they could affect your grade for a course, have not been specifically outlined in the course syllabus. These are contained in the St. George’s University Student Manual.