Biology-465 - Conservation Biology

Professor - Dr. Rich Niesenbaum


Course Description

The focus of this course is on the science of conservation biology in the context of environmental policy, socioeconomic demands, and environmental ethics. We will focus on domestic and international conservation research and cases. Topics will include population biology, extinction, wildlife management, the role of science in making environmental policy, wetlands conservation, geographical information systems (GIS), sustainable agriculture and forestry, integrated land-use management, and vegetation analysis. This course is structured as an interdisciplinary, upper level seminar course with extensive reading and discussion of the primary literature, student presentations, and hands-on activities and skills training. Each class period will be divided into a presentation and discussion of content, a discussion of the readings, and in-class activity. Later in the semester there will be opportunities for field research and application of the techniques learned in the classroom.


Course Organization (3 parts)


Part 1 The Science of Conservation is an introduction to the science of conservation biology and related issues. Through readings, discussion, research analysis, lecture, and in-class exercises, we will explore such themes as: factors that affect diversity, the value of diversity, threats to diversity, conservation at the population level, and sustainability following the readings in Conservation Science and Action. We will also discuss scientific articles from the Journal of Conservation Biology. Skills such as how to do a literature search, assessing the primary literature, GPS, GIS, and quantitative study will be introduced. We will also work with a computer based inquiry program designed for conservation biology. Critical reading, analysis of the primary literature, and oral communication will be emphasized in this portion of the course.


Part 2 Case Studies will focus on specific themes in conservation in the form of case studies. Students will research and present a specific case from our book Case Studies in Environmental Science. These cases take an integrative, policy science approach. Topics include: invasive organisms and biodiversity, timber management and the spotted owl, integrated land-use, and PA deer management. We will continue our work with GIS, GPS, library skills, and begin to think about the relationship between conservation science and activism. The primary objective here is to begin to integrate the science learned in Part 1 with the social, economic, and political aspects of conservation biology.


Part 3 Applications is dedicated to applying what you have learned in the first parts of this course to site specific exploration of conservation. Each student will choose a site that they can visit during the semester (spring break is included). The site can be local, near home, or an area where you plan to travel. Each student must identify a conservation problem associated with their site, identify all stakeholders and analyze their perspectives, and explore solutions to the identified problems. You will also be expected to explore plans of action such as working with local government, the EPA, or Environmental Organizations. You will also write an editorial or letter to a politician regarding your site problem. You will give a presentation with slides, and submit a written report. As things warm up we will spend more time in the field learning about vegetation analysis, wetland delineation, organic agriculture, and visiting some local conservation sites. Oral and written communication, making interdisciplinary linkages, and pragmatic problem-solving will be among the skills emphasized in this portion of the class.


Course Links

Course requirements
Course schedule
Conservation Biology Links
G.I.S Laboratory