Your evaluations of me

By now you should have received an invitation to evaluate this course. In fact, I know that at least two of you received the invitation, because there are already two responses. Don't worry. I won't see any of the responses until after grades are turned in. So you can be as honest as you need to be. Please do be as honest as you can and let me know of anything I can do in the future to improve the course. It won't help you any, but students in 2017 will thank you for your honesty.

Ecosytem services

I've posted notes on ecosystem services for Tuesday's class meeting. Before we start discussing them, though, I want to spend the first 10-15 minutes (maybe longer) discussing the class exercise that Holly led on the Thursday before Thanksgiving. I know it happened more than a week ago, but please try to remember the significant issues that came up and let's spend some time discussing them at the beginnng of class on Tuesday.

Habitat loss and biodiversity loss

I mentioned the use of species-area relationships to estimate rates of species loss several times since the start of the semester. I mentioned at least once, but probably only once, endemic area relationships. There's a new paper in Nature Communications that compares the two approaches using global data sets. I've only read the abstract, but I'm pretty sure this paper will play a prominent role in lectures the next time I give this course.

On the decline of biodiversity due to area loss
Petr Keil, David Storch, and Walter Jetz
Predictions of how different facets of biodiversity decline with habitat loss are broadly needed, yet challenging. Here we provide theory and a global empirical evaluation to address this challenge. We show that extinction estimates based on endemics-area and backward species-area relationships are complementary, and the crucial difference comprises the geometry of area loss. Across three taxa on four continents, the relative loss of species, and of phylogenetic and functional diversity, is highest when habitable area disappears inward from the edge of a region, lower when it disappears from the centre outwards, and lowest when area is lost at random. In inward destruction, species loss is almost proportional to area loss, although the decline in phylogenetic and functional diversity is less severe. These trends are explained by the geometry of species ranges and the shape of phylogenetic and functional trees, which may allow baseline predictions of biodiversity decline for underexplored taxa.
Nature Communications 6, Article number 8837. doi: 10.1038/ncomms9837

Links from today's class

I have tried, unsuccessfully, to upload a PDF of today's lesson plan. As soon as I figure it out, it will be posted. In the meantime, here are some links from today's class:

Handedness Activity

Environmental Privilege Walk Activity (download from the link at the end of the article):

A related link from Dr. Holsinger:

On conservation and wealth gaps:;jsessionid=C5401498F7EA1E81D5E703768D00692C.f02t03?v=1&t=ih6dukbi&s=ea8981366877f975ef6c680f20cb37d6cc59da3c



Revised notes

I revised the notes on economic approaches to valuing biodiversity by adding a brief discussion of "utility." The notes probably won't make the concept very clear by themselves, but we'll do an in-class exercise on Tuesday that I hope will help. Please come prepared to answer a brief anonymous survey.

Valuing biodiversity - economics

I just posted notes for tomorrow's lecture. If you've been paying close attention, you'll see that I rearranged the lecture schedule a little bit. I've moved our discussion of ecosystem services to the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. It will make more sense there.

Interesting papers

This morning I mentioned a paper in PNAS that describes the use of expert opinion in public policy. Here's the citation and a link:

Morgan, M. G. 2014. Use (and abuse) of expert elicitation in support of decision making for public policy. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111:7176-7184.  doi: 10.1073/pnas.1319946111

I was also catching up on journals over lunch and noticed this interesting paper in the most recent Nature. We won't have time to discuss it in class, but you may find it worth reading.

Hatfield-Dodds, S., et al. 2015. "Australia is 'free to choose' economic growth and falling environmental pressures." Nature 527:49-53.  doi:10.1038/nature16065

Decision making under uncertainty -- final version

I just posted the final version of the notes on decision making under uncertainty. They haven't changed much from what I posted Monday night, but I did some thoughts on thinking about risk (including risk aversion) drawing on an example from New Zealand. There's a good chance that we won't get to the risk analysis discussion until next Tuesday, but it's important, so please take a look at the Tulloch et al. paper that I'll add to the reading list tomorrow morning.1

Decision making under uncertainty

I'm adding a bit to the notes that I posted Monday night. The fully revised and complete (for this year) version will be posted by 9:00pm tonight, possibly a bit before. In the meantime, I've posted links to a couple of references you might find useful on the lecture detail page ( The Maguire paper was my first introduction to risk analysis. You'll recognize a lot of what we cover in lecture from there. The Wilson et al. paper is a bit less explicit in the decision theory framework (although it's all there, it's couched in terms more like what we covered with reserve design), but it provides an excellent overview. In addition to the content related specifically to decision making under uncertainty, I think you'll find the whole paper useful as you think about your responses to the questions posed in Project #3.

Decision making under uncertainty

I've posted notes on decision making under uncertainty. They're available on the detail page for Thursday's lecture even though we'll get started on the topc on Tuesday. I will also add a few sugested references for Thursday, and the notes may be revised a bit more before then to accommodate the discussion we have on Tuesday and what I want to cover on management next Tuesday. Stay tuned.