Our results showed that in the concept survey, the “correct answers” to 20 ecology questions increased on average 5.6 percentage points, but just 1.7 points for 10 evolution questions, which served as a type of control. But we found no difference in learning improvement between concepts that were targeted in the teaching-units and those addressed by regular lectures. However, qualitative feedback from students suggests that the first teaching unit served to engage them in the concepts of ecosystems, and the end teaching unit helped them to apply the concepts. In particular, in the Everglades unit, student self-assessment showed significant improvement on the understandings of a major restoration research article. Overall, essays and concept maps before and after both teaching units showed improvement of sophisticated learning on the two ecosystems. We also conclude that to conduct research like this, in a setting where we have no parallel control course section, we need to expand the question sets for a more fine-grained approach.