Cluster 3

Bugs and Bones: The Biodiversity and Ecology of Vertebrates and Invertebrates in the Monterey Bay Region*

Andy Kulikowski, PhD
UCSC Lecturer of Environmental Studies
Gizelle Hurtado, PhD
UCSC Assistant Director, Kenneth S. Norris Center for Natural History

Prerequisite: Biology

Summary: UC Santa Cruz overlooks the Monterey Bay, an area known for its rich biodiversity. The UC Santa Cruz campus itself includes redwood forests, oak woodlands, coastal prairie grasslands, chaparral shrublands, riparian habitats, and even unique limestone caves! In this cluster, students will explore the biodiversity of vertebrates (birds and mammals) and invertebrates (insects) found on the UCSC campus and other UC Natural Reserves around the Monterey Bay region. Using a variety of experiences including field excursions, biodiversity surveys, and the examination of museum specimens, students will explore the life histories, behavior, and ecology of these two important groups. Students will learn how keen observational skills can generate and begin to answer scientific questions about biodiversity, ecology, and animal behavior. Students will also come away with the ability to identify many taxa including birds, mammals, and insects. These skills are transferable to numerous branches of the biological, ecological, and conservation sciences.

All students in this cluster will be enrolled in the following courses:

Insects and their interactions or why insects rule!

Insects are the most diverse animals on the planet and serve important roles in nearly all terrestrial ecosystems. For example, insects pollinate most native and agricultural plants, serve as food for other organisms, and help decompose organic material. In this section, students will observe and explore the insect world through a series of ecological field excursions and labs. Specifically, students will hone a variety of essential skills pertaining to field ecology including how to:

  1. Conduct biodiversity surveys.
  2. Use dichotomous keys for the identification of organisms.
  3. Answer questions about animal communities using data collected in the field. Students will also explore interactions between insects and other taxa (including our species) with an emphasis on the dire need to conserve insects and the essential services they provide. 

Who runs the world… squirrels or at least the vertebrates do!

Vertebrates are key components of many terrestrial ecosystems and play huge roles in driving and influencing many ecosystem functions. For example, the addition of predators like wolves has had a dramatic influence of the recovery of forests, the sound of humans can influence the use of landscapes by carnivores and mesocarnivores, benefiting smaller mammals, smaller burrowing mammals can add much needed nutrients to nutrient poor environments, and vertebrates play a key role in disease ecology. In this section, students will observe and explore the vertebrate world through a series of field excursions and laboratory studies.
Specifically, students will hone a variety of essential skills pertaining to field ecology including how to:

  1. Conduct biodiversity surveys focused on birds and mammals.
  2. Field and lab identification of birds and mammals
  3. Answer questions about birds and mammals through data collected in
    the field and in the lab. Students will also explore the laws and policies that govern the management and conservation of vertebrate species with an emphasis on ways to conserve vertebrate species into the future.