Exploration of the science underlying methods of species and ecosystem conservation. Emphasis is placed on understanding the limits and promise of scientific approaches to conservation, within the social, political and economic context of conservation problems.
One of the greatest societal challenges is the loss of biological diversity and the degradation of nature’s benefits due to human activities at local to global scales. This course will introduce some of the literature, controversies, and promising methodologies used in Conservation Biology, an interdisciplinary field that strives to counter the trends of biodiversity loss. This course explores ecological, evolutionary, and social concepts and approaches to understanding and solving conservation problems. As in all fields of science, objective standards and sound research design are essential for progress, thus a major emphasis will be on developing "standards of evidence" in evaluating each issue. Further, as an applied interdisciplinary science, the ability to work with both social and ecological approaches to problem solving is essential to success. Therefore we also emphasize developing an appreciation for and capacity to apply a diversity of techniques to problem-solving.
Student learning goals
To introduce you to the principal concepts & methodologies of Conservation Biology
To enrich your understanding of the scientific contributions necessary for solving conservation problems
To foster your understanding of the process of science in general, and as applied in conservation contexts
To further develop your powers of analysis and communication, thereby improving your abilities to contribute to creating solutions
General method of instruction
Class meetings will consist of discussion on particular issues and readings interspersed with short lectures. Readings are drawn from a variety of resources, and will be made available at the course website.
It is helpful to have had a course in Ecology prior to taking this class.
Class assignments and grading
Assignments will range from short exercises, participation in discussions in many class sessions, small group work on case studies in conservation practice, and completing an independent research project. There will also be the option to participate in community-based conservation projects.
Grades are based on quality of work, as well as the timely completion of the assignments and will be composed of the following parts: Class exercises (100 pts), In class and online Discussions (50 pts) and Conservation Case Study (150 pts). The quality of your work will be judged by many criteria, including the soundness of your arguments, the depth and aptness of your survey of the literature or exploration of the readings, your insightfulness, the clarity of your expression, and your organization.