Ecology, Biodiversity and Biochemistry

Credits: 
11
Site: 
PARMA
Year of erogation: 
2021/2022
Unit Coordinator: 
Semester: 
First semester
Year of study: 
2
Language of instruction: 

Italian

Modules: 

Learning outcomes of the course unit

Applied Ecology module: The course is aimed at providing fundamental knowledge (basic and applied) relating to environmental issues arising from human-biosphere interaction, about air, water and soil matrices and agro-food production. At the end of the course, the student must be able to:

1) describe the main components of the biosphere and the fundamental ecosystem processes (KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING)
2) apply the knowledge of ecology to the understanding of ecosystem degradation processes, with special reference to the agro-food production (ABILITY TO APPLY KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING)
3) independently read in-depth essays and learn their scientific contents (ABILITY TO APPLY KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING)
4) expose in an exhaustively way, making use of an appropriate scientific language, the key concepts inherent to the biosphere and the processes that regulate ecosystems in its various biotic and abiotic components (COMMUNICATION SKILLS AND LEARNING SKILLS).

Biochemistry module: At the end of the training activity, the student is expected to have acquired the fundamental knowledge of basic biochemistry and demonstrate that he is able to apply it in minimally complex contexts such as the nutrition / fasting cycle. In particular, the student must be able to:
1) describe the function of the main biological macromolecules and the mechanism of action of enzymes (KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING)
2) describe how carbohydrates, lipids and proteins are degraded and synthesized (KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING)
3) apply the knowledge of biochemistry and metabolism to the understanding of the chemical processes involved in the extraction of energy from nutrients (ABILITY TO APPLY KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING)
4) apply the knowledge of biochemistry and metabolism to the understanding of the processes underlying the obtaining of food from animal and plant sources (ABILITY TO APPLY KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING)
5) expose in an organic way and with a language that makes use of the appropriate scientific terminology the main metabolic pathways and their integration (COMMUNICATION SKILLS AND LEARNING SKILLS)

Prerequisites

Applied Ecology module: To address the topics of the Applied Ecology module, students should possess a basic knowledge of Biology
Biochemistry module: To deal with the topics of the Biochemistry course, students should possess a basic knowledge of Chemistry and Organic Chemistry.

Course contents summary

Applied Ecology module: Introduction to the matrices of the biosphere: atmosphere, pedosphere, hydrosphere. Functioning and fundamental ecosystem processes. Biodiversity: concepts and indices. River systems, protection and use of water resources and ecosystems. Sustainability and case studies applied to agro-food production.
Biochemistry module: Biological macromolecules: structure and function. Amino acids and proteins. Examples of proteins with different functions. Glucides. Lipids. Nucleic acids. Metabolism.

Course contents

Applied Ecology module:
Module 1. Basic concepts of ecology and fundamental ecological processes across matrices of the biosphere (atmosphere, pedosphere, hydrosphere), levels of biological organization and ecological interactions.
Module 2. Biodiversity, introductory concepts; main threats to biological diversity, anthropogenic impacts and alien species, biodiversity indices (case studies relating to the Po valley and the role of agri-food activities in regulating the spatial patterns of biodiversity with particular reference to the wetland plants).
Module 3. Fundamentals of climate change; natural and anthropogenic components of the carbon cycle, carbon footprint of products and services, with particular reference to agro-food production.
Module 4. Sustainability and ecosystem services; basic concepts, local and global problems, sustainability metrics and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA, general concepts and main phases of life cycle assessment - and water footprint).
Module 5. Agricultural ecosystems and nature conservation; rural-urban-natural gradient, landscape fragmentation, effects of agro-food production on the physical and biological environment, the responses of organisms and biodiversity (introduction to assessment methods: NANI, NAPI, Soil System Budget of N and P) .
Module 6. Case studies: Oglio River, Mantua lakes and Mincio River, wetlands of the central Po valley and permanent meadows. Role of agro-food activities in regulating the quality of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, methods for assessing the quality of ecosystems, dynamic models and adaptative responses of plant species and habitats to changes.

Biochemistry module: Amino acids. Protein structure. Protein folding and unfolding. Antibodies: structure and function. Structural, contractile and transport proteins. Enzymes: overview of the mechanism of action of enzymes and enzyme kinetics. Lipids with energy storage function. Overview of bioenergetics. “High energy” compounds. Glycolysis. Alcoholic and lactic acid fermentation. Synthesis and lysis of glycogen. Krebs cycle. Gluconeogenesis. Overview of lipid metabolism. Fatty acid beta-oxidation. Overview of amino acid metabolism. Degradation of amino acids. Correlation of amino acid metabolism with carbohydrate and lipid metabolism. Respiratory chain and oxidative phosphorylation. DNA and gene information. DNA replication and transcription. Ribosomal, transport and messenger RNA. The genetic code. Protein synthesis: translation. Overview of GMO.

Recommended readings

Applied Ecology module: S. Galassi, I. Ferrari, P. Viaroli - Introduzione all'Ecologia Applicata. Dalla teoria alla pratica della sostenibilità, Città Studi Edizioni, 2014
A. Provini, S. Galassi, R. Marchetti - Ecologia applicata, Città Studi, Milano, 1999.
Copy of the slides will be available for download on Elly platform.
Biochemistry module: Nelson e Cox - Introduzione alla Biochimica di Lehninger. Zanichelli Editore
Denise Ferrier - Le Basi della Biochimica, 2a edizione. Zanichelli Editore
Copy of the slides will be available for download on Elly platform.

Teaching methods

Applied Ecology module: The oral lessons will deal with the main topics of Applied Ecology and will use slides as support that will be made available to students on the Elly platform on a weekly basis. Some of the lessons aimed at investigating the main ecosystem processes/functions and the case studies applied to the topics of agro-food production - will include the carrying out of seminars.
Biochemistry module: The oral lessons will focus on fundamentals of biochemistry with the support of slides (available weekly to the students on Elly website). The main metabolic processes will be discussed with the help of concept maps to help students focus on the relationships among metabolic pathways and their intermediates. A number of lessons will focus on the discussion of case studies and current topics, in order to stimulate the application of biochemistry to food, nutrition, gastronomy and the use of GMO in the agri-food sector.

Assessment methods and criteria

Applied Ecology module: The exam for the Applied Ecology module includes a written test consisting of two parts: a part with closed answers and a part with open answers. The part with closed answers will consist of 14 multiple choice quizzes, each with a maximum score of 1,5. The part with open answers will consist of two questions on the topics covered in the course. Each question will give a maximum score of 4,5. The rating scale is 0-30 cum laude. The laude is given to those who reach 30 as a final score and demonstrate in the open questions part deep knowledge and understanding of the subject and extreme clarity. During the exam, it will not be possible to use any kind of material (dictionaries, glossaries, manuals, element tables, calculators).
The mark of the written test is communicated within seven days following the test, through publication on the Esse3 platform. The mark of the written exam relating to the Applied Ecology module will then be mediated with the mark obtained in the exam of the Biochemistry module to give the final mark recorded during a verbalizing session. The average will be weighted based on the CFU of each module (6 for Applied Ecology and 5 for Biochemistry. The following formula will be applied: final grade = Applied Ecology grade * 6/11 + Biochemistry grade * 5/11).
Students with SLD / BSE must first contact Le Eli-che: support for students with disabilities, D.S.A., B.E.S. (https://sea.unipr.it/it/servizi/le-eli-che-supporto-studenti-con-disabil...).
If due to the persistence of the health emergency due to Covid-19 it is necessary to adopt the remote mode for the exams, the written test will be conducted remotely (via Teams and Elly).
The grade obtained by passing a module will be valid for 12 months. After 12 months from the passing of a module, if in the meantime the second module has not been passed, it will be necessary to take the exam again.

Biochemistry module: The exam for the Biochemistry module includes a written test consisting of two parts: a part with closed answers and a part with open answers. The part with closed answers will consist of 16 multiple choice quizzes, each with a maximum score of 1. The part with open answers will consist of two questions on the topics covered in the course. Each question will give a maximum score of 7. The rating scale is 0-30 cum laude. The laude is given to those who reach 30 as a final score and demonstrate in the open questions part deep knowlegde and understanding of the subject and extreme clarity. During the exam, it will not be possible to use any kind of material (dictionaries, glossaries, manuals, element tables, calculators).
The mark of the written test is communicated within seven days following the test. The mark of the written exam relating to the Biochemistry module will then be mediated with the mark obtained in the exam of the Applied Ecology module to give the final mark recorded during a verbalizing session. The average will be weighted on the basis of the CFU of each course (6 for Applied Ecology and 5 for Biochemistry. The following formula will be applied: final grade = Applied Ecology grade * 6/11 + Biochemistry grade * 5/11). The mark obtained for one module will be valid for 12 months.
Students with SLD / BSE must first contact Le Eli-che: support for students with disabilities, D.S.A., B.E.S. (https://sea.unipr.it/it/servizi/le-eli-che-supporto-studenti-con-disabil...).
If due to the persistence of the health emergency due to Covid-19 it is necessary to adopt the remote mode for the exams, the written test will be conducted remotely (via Teams and Elly).