Advanced Fisheries (Bio 273): Course Information

Spring 2009


Dr. Ron Coleman
Office: 119 Humboldt
916-278-3474 (w)
916-705-2606 (cell) until 10 pm

Course Location & Times

Lec: #35328 Mon, Wed 6:30 to 7:45 pm Room 109 HMB

Office hours

Ron Coleman Wed 2:00 - 5:00pm Room 119 HMB

What this course is about 

The purpose of this course is to develop a deep understanding of modern issues in fisheries biology.

The world's fisheries constitute a vital resource, providing food, employment and recreation for millions of people. Despite this importance, our ability to effectively manage fish populations is hampered by several key problems: we know remarkably little about most fishes, even fishes which have been fished for centuries, and worse yet, we have limited means of estimating and/or predicting the number of fishes available for us to take largely because fish are underwater and we are not.

The central problem of fisheries biology and management becomes: how do we understand populations about which we lack such key information? Because people will continue to fish whether we have the necessary information or not, we are forced to make the best possible decisions based on the information we do have.

At one time, fisheries science was simply the study of how to catch fish and how to stock farm ponds with bass or catfish. Not so anymore. Modern fisheries science is a dynamic, complex science that incorporates sophisticated mathematics and computer modeling to try to understand natural populations and the impact of fishing on those populations. It is firmly grounded in population ecology and increasingly focusing on conservation as a goal.

While fisheries science is quite old, the widespread availability of microcomputers has dramatically affected fisheries management, allowing much more sophisticated analysis than was possible in the past.

This course will focus on understanding why fisheries management is difficult, what techniques have been proposed to approach the problem and the practical tools fisheries biologists need to know to apply these techniques.

**Because of our proximity to San Francisco Bay/Delta system, this course will use that system as a framework for understanding modern fisheries as well as the implications and ramifications of fisheries on the surrounding ecology. To that end, a large part of this course will consist of constructing a WIKI about the Bay/Delta fisheries system. Students will be responsible for producing and editing the content of this Wiki.

Although there will be some lectures, many classes will involve active discussion of the ongoing formulation, editing and maintenance of this Wiki.

The end goal will be to produce a living collaborative document that represents the state of the art in knowledge about the Bay/Delta fisheries.

Students MUST actively participate.

Learning Objectives


  • Understand the important issues facing world fisheries and why there are no simple solutions
  • Appreciate the diversity of fisheries around the world
  • Recognize that modern fisheries is a mixture of applied ecology and conservation biology
  • Recognize that fisheries science has a history of conceptual thought and is continually evolving


  • Engage in a real-time, real-world collaborative research effort on a dynamic and critical fisheries, namely the SF Bay/Delta system

Attendance and Deadlines

I expect you to attend and participate in every discussion. This is a course about collaborative problem solving. If you do not participate, you aren’t fulfilling the goal of this course.


Walters, C.J. and S.J.D. Martell. 2004. Fisheries Ecology and Management. Princeton University Press, Princeton. REQUIRED.

Jennings, S., Kaiser, M.J., Reynolds, J.D. 2001. Marine Fisheries Ecology. Blackwell Science, Malden, Mass. OPTIONAL.


Web site:


There will be a midterm and a final for this course. Exams will be comprehensive, i.e., anything in the whole course up to that point in time is fair game. My previous students comment on two aspects of my exams: I am a hard grader but I am a fair grader. You can expect long exams that test your knowledge, but they will be exams without tricks. My goal is to have you tell me what you know and understand. You will write a lot and you will have to work very quickly.


This course is worth 3 units.

The number of points/questions on a particular exam is irrelevant to the exam's worth -- it is merely a tool for grading. What matters are the following percentages.

Your grade will be calculated according to the following scheme:

Midterm 20
Final Exam 20
Other Small Assignments 10
Wiki contribution 50

Your letter grade will be calculated according to the following table:

A = 93 to 100% C+ = 77 to 79%
A- = 90 to 92% C = 73 to 76%
B+ = 87 to 89% C- = 70 to 72%
B = 84 to 86% D+ = 67 to 69%
B- = 80 to 83% D = 60 to 66%
F = 0 to 59%

I generally do not adjust or curve or scale grades; If you want an "A", work for it and make it happen!

I do not hesitate to correct any errors I make in grading (e.g., incorrect addition or if I missed grading an answer), but keep in mind that I am looking for clear, succinct answers, not answers that sort-of-show-you-possibly-might-know-what-you-mean. If you feel that your answer deserves a better grade, please return it to me promptly.

I do not use "extra credit" assignments.

Honor Code

Don't cheat. Besides the fact that I will be forced to take strong measures if I catch you -- including recommending your dismissal from the class and from the university -- I will be profoundly disappointed in you.

Don't even think about doing any of the following:

  1. Giving or receiving information from another student during an examination
  2. Using unauthorized sources for answers during an exam such as writing answers on hats, clothing or limbs
  3. Illegally obtaining the questions before an exam
  4. Altering the answers on an already-graded exam
  5. Any and all forms of plagiarism
  6. Destruction and/or confiscation of school and/or personal property


I appreciate your feedback on this course. It is most useful to tell me things while the course is in progress, rather than waiting until the end of the course. If there is something that needs changing, LET ME KNOW and I will see what I can do about it. This course is a collaboration between you and me. I enjoy teaching this class and I want you to have a good time as well and learn as much as you possibly can.