River and Stream Ecology (11:035:272)

Note: This syllabus is for general information about the course. The instructor will provide you with an updated syllabus specific for the semester of enrollment.

Course Description

1 Credit. Online. This broad introductory course addresses the chemical, physical, and biological processes of rivers and streams. Topics touch on channel morphology, water chemistry, fluvial geomorphology and the structure and function of the plants and animals that live in and around these water bodies. Students will gain an appreciation of streams as dynamic and constantly evolving ecosystems as well as acquiring skills to conduct and analyze scientific methods and data related to river and stream management issues. The course culminates with students completing an online stream biological assessment using actual stream data provided by the instructor.

Note: This course was previously designated 11:015:272.

Learning Goals

  • Understand the physical properties of streams and those environmental processes that influence the chemical and biological dynamics of streams
  • Understand the fundamental chemical characteristics of water quality, including temperature, dissolved oxygen and nutrients
  • Explore the origins of streams on the watershed scale by understanding how geological and climatological characteristics interact to produce regional stream morphology
  • Explore how moving water determines the structure of streams through the process of erosion, transport and deposition
  • Explore the interaction between streams and their immediate environment, including floodplains, riparian areas, hyporheic and ground water
  • Explore the functions of streams including nutrient and pollutant dynamics and metabolic processes including photosynthesis, respiration, and decomposition
  • Become familiar with microbes, plants and animals that inhabit streams and thier adaptions to the stream environment and influence with biodiversity
  • Examine the interplay between human activity and streams

Required Text

A textbook is not required for this course. All quizzes can be completed using the course information and websites provided. For those of you that would like a good basic stream ecology book, the following is recommended and can be purchased.

Cushing, Colbert E. and J. David Allen (2001). Streams: Their Ecology and Life, Academic Press. ISBN-13-978-0-12-050340-7

Basis for Grading

Students are assessed on quality and effort of their work, timeliness, and participation. Typical point values for assignments are as follows:

  • Surveys, 40 points
  • Homework, 100 points
  • Threaded discussion, 15 points
  • Class discussion, 15 points
  • Quizes, 285 points
  • Final Project, 100 points


Typical schedule of topics:

  • Pre-Course Survey
  • Introduction, Watersheds
  • Stream Hydrology / Geomorphology
  • Physcial and Chemical Characteristics
  • Trophic Relations and Energy Flow
  • Stream Habitats and Substrate
  • River Continuum Concept
  • Functional Roles
  • Stream Biota
  • Watershed Issues: Human Impacts
  • Biomonitoring
  • Final Project
  • Post Course Survey

Academic Integrity

As an academic community dedicated to the creation, dissemination, and application of knowledge, Rutgers University is committed to fostering an intellectual and ethical environment based on the principles of academic integrity. Academic integrity is essential to the success of the University's educational and research missions, and violations of academic integrity constitute serious offenses against the entire academic community. This academic integrity policy is designed to guide students as they prepare assignments, take examinations, and perform the work necessary to complete their degree requirements.

Students are required to adhere to the professional standards outlined in the Rutgers University policies on academic integrity, which are available Policy on Academic Integrity (PDF) and at: Office of Student Judicial Affairs. http://academicintegrity.rutgers.edu/integrity.shtml.

Attendance and Participation Policy

Students are expected to actively participate in all of the online activities for the course. Attendance in the online sessions is determined by thorough, thoughtful, relevant and on time contributions made in the weekly assignments including threaded discussions, reaction papers and quizzes. The course proceeds with the assumption that students have thoughtfully read and reviewed the assigned materials.

Students are responsible for completion of all assigned readings, materials discussed and assignments on or before the assigned due date.

Accessibility at Rutgers

Rutgers University welcomes students with disabilities into all of the University's educational programs. In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, a student with a disability must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled, participate in an intake interview and provide documentation. For a the full explanation of the process, go to Documentation Guidelines. If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus's disability services office will provide you with a Letter of Accommodation. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. To begin this process, please complete the registration form on the ODS website.