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David K. Skelly
Yale University
School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
370 Prospect Street
New Haven, CT 06511 USA

Yale FES



Dr. Skelly teaches two primary courses. Both courses are cross listed between the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology.


Aquatic Ecology is taught in the fall semester. This course is an intensive introduction to the ecology of lakes and streams. The course combines weekly lectures with field trips and lab exercises. During the first half of the semester we study the ecology of lakes using Linsley Pond in nearby Branford, CT as a case study. The famous limnologist G. E. Hutchinson began studying Linsley in the 1930's. The body of research produced by him and his students provides us with an enormous archive of historical information that we can use to interpret present day patterns within the lake. In recent years students have collated existing information on Linsley and updated our knowledge of the resident diatoms. Ongoing projects include a survey of the zooplankton of Linsley Pond along with the rest of the lakes studied by Dan Brooks and Stan Dodson in their famous 1965 paper outlining the size efficiency hypothesis.

The second half of aquatic ecology is focused on streams. Field labs are carried out in Branford's Pisgah Brook watershed. Emeritus Professor Herb Bormann has been living and collecting data in this watershed for about 30 years. We use his experience as a baseline for studying current conditions in two adjacent subwatersheds each drained by small order streams. Development in one subwatershed has led to radical changes in the streambed and in the biota. Comparisons between the two streams are used to illustrate the relationships between physical and biotic variables and in the impact of development on ecosystem function.


Landscape Ecology is a lecture based course also offered in the fall. Landscape ecologists span many backgrounds and subdisciplines. Most share in common an interest in large scale patterns and processes and the mechanisms that underly them. In this course we spend some time defining landscape attributes and patterns and then cover the major conceptual frameworks that ecologists have used to understand large scale patterns. These range from classic biogeographic approaches, to more modern attempts including metapopulation theory, cellular automata, macroecology, and spatially explicit individual based models. Students learn to identify and understand the differences among these approaches as well as their suitability for different tasks. The final part of the course is aimed at the applicability of landscape concepts to real life problems. Increasingly, the distinction between basic and applied ecology is disappearing; nowhere is this more apparent than in the field of landscape ecology.

Aquatic Ecology students Linsley Pond Herb Bormann speaking to students