• The Open University

Introduction to Ecosystems

Gain an understanding of the natural world, how the web of life works, with illustrations from around the world.

44,056 enrolled on this course

A living ecosystem
  • Duration

    6 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

If we don’t grasp why ecosystems function, it becomes harder to determine possible reasons for when they don’t, and makes it difficult to identify possible environmental threats to humans.

In this course you will discover how organisms are linked together by complex interrelationships, how such links are studied and how the physical properties of a particular habitat interact with the organisms that inhabit it. Using case studies, you will come to learn how knowledge of ecosystems leads to understanding of their individual importance, and how they can be preserved.

All Open University science courses presented on FutureLearn are produced with the kind support of Dangoor Education.

Find out more in David Robinson’s post for the FutureLearn blog: “Why learn about ecosystems?

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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds This course examines the intricate and critically important relationships between living organisms and the environment under the expert guidance of Open University senior lecturer Dr. David Robinson. The familiar woodland is an ideal place to begin to understand ecosystems in more depth. The journey begins by examining some key definitions of what we mean by an ecosystem as well as introducing some essential skills needed in field research and applying this science to case studies by the likes of world renowned broadcaster David Attenborough. And in forests like this one, where food sources are often very widely disbursed, the ability to travel fast and far but with very little effort is a very valuable ability indeed.

Skip to 0 minutes and 58 seconds Rich in video, high quality audio, and text, tailored to the needs of people new to the subject, this six week course steers towards the fundamental issue of the impact of human beings on our natural world. The vital question we have to ask is, can this destructive process be reversed? Finishing the course will leave you with insights into the rich diversity of organisms across the world and a fresh perspective on the vital role that humans play in these fundamental networks of life. Understanding ecosystems transforms our view of the natural world.

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

Who is the course for?

This course is intended for those with an interest in natural history, conservation or the environment and does not require any previous experience of studying these subjects.

Who will you learn with?

I am a zoologist specialising in acoustic behaviour and evolutionary biology, now researching insect ecology and ultrasonic communication.

Who developed the course?

The Open University

As the UK’s largest university, The Open University (OU) supports thousands of students to achieve their goals and ambitions via supported distance learning, helping to fit learning around professional and personal life commitments.

  • Established

  • Location

    Milton Keynes, UK
  • World ranking

    Top 510Source: Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020

Learning on FutureLearn

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  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
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  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
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  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control

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