This module and the subsequent companion module address how elementary concepts of thermodynamics can be applied to ecological processes. The First Law of Thermodynamics states that during any biological, physical, or chemical process, energy can neither be created nor destroyed. The relationship between an organism and its environment can be studied by examining the exchange of energy in the form of the flow of heat and the transfer of mass. The primary focus in the module is on the microclimate and the exchange of heat between organisms and their environment. The law is also used to study the energetic cost of locomotion, rate of food assimilation, and energy flow in ecosystems. A basic knowledge of algebra is required in order to understand the text and complete the problem set.
The First Law of Thermodynamics is discussed in this module both in its difference and differential forms. An undergraduate student in the life sciences with a background in algebra should be able to understand all of the material herein. The problem set should be worked as it extends as well as reviews concepts developed in the text.