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Andrew Leakey's Laboratory

IB440: Plants and Global Change

Course aims:


(1) To provide an overview and synthesis of global atmospheric and climate change and its impacts on plants, including crops and natural ecosystems.  The focus is on the processes and other biological mechanisms that provide the basis for a) understanding responses and b) development of predictions and solutions.  The impacts considered are rising CO2, rising temperatures, altered water availability, salinity and rising tropospheric ozone.


(2) To give an appreciation of how atmosphere, climate and ecosystems interact, and models developed both to synthesize current understanding and predict into the future.


(3) To provide a basis for considering how agriculture and other land use may be adapted to climate change, how plants and biological systems might be utilized to mitigate atmospheric change, and the environmental implications of these issues.


Course Topics

         Greenhouse Gases & Radiative Forcing

         Global Carbon Cycle & Climate Change: Past, Present & Future

         Elevated Carbon Dioxide Concentrations

         Rising Temperature

         Altered Water Availability & Salinity

         Rising Tropospheric Ozone 

Thresholds for Response

Biomass & Bioenergy

Course Website (Moodle)

All class materials, including lecture slides, readings, and homework assignments, are available through the Moodle webpage for this class: Moodle webpage

Please access this page from day one of the class.

Once you followed the link above, enter your NetID and password. Please contact your teaching assistant if you have problems accessing Moodle.


The lectures are the primary teaching activity in this class. This is when we cover material for the first time and it is one good opportunity for you to ask us questions about the material we are covering. The lectures present all the material that will be covered in the exams. We recommend you print out the notes and write on additional notes in lecture, but we also make the notes available as pdf forms if you want to save paper/ink by taking notes on your laptop. Reviewing the class notes and doing the assigned reading/listening after each lecture will also help you understand and remember the material.


Parliamentary-style debates are worth 25% of the total grade for the course. Students are polled to identify which of the 6 debates most closely match their interests. Dr. Leakey and Dr. Ainsworth coach the teams through research, preparation and presentation elements of addressing the motion under debate.


Exams constitute 50% of your course grade. This course has a midterm exam worth 25% and a final worth 25% of the total grade.. Exam material is drawn directly from the lecture slides and required reading. Key concepts that are to be covered are listed on the first page of each set of lecture notes. Make sure you can explain these concepts. The exams will also test the new knowledge you are gaining from the class. Absence from an exam must be authorized ahead of time by Dr. Leakey/Dr. Ainsworth or validated by a letter from the emergency dean.


Short quizzes are set every two weeks to check student progress, and are worth 12.5% of the final grade.


Students are expected to actively pose and answers questions in class and their performance in doing so is worth 12.5% of the final grade.

Code of Polices and Regulations for all Students

You should be familiar with the "Code of Policies and Regulations Applying to All Students," University of Illinois, and will be expected to act accordingly. The full Code is available online at:

Any form of cheating or plagiarism is unacceptable, and we will deal with cheating, suspected cheating, and those who assist cheaters in accordance with the Code of Policies and Regulations Applying to All Students, Article 1 Part 4 (

Occasionally, students do not realize that they engaged in plagiarism. A simple rule to follow: Only turn in work that you expressed in your own words. If you are copying someone else’s words without at least paraphrasing, it likely constitutes plagiarism.