This course is designed to introduce you to the ways in which principles of population genetics, population ecology, community ecology, behavioral ecology, ecosystem ecology, and systematics can be used to conserve and protect biological diversity. The focus will be on the biological issues, not on social, legal, or political considerations, though attention to the social context in which conservation programs are implemented is unavoidable. Attention to the social context will be the focus of the last few lectures, but the focus will be on how the standard tools that evolutionary biologists, ecologists, and systematists use can be applied to the solution of some practical problems in conservation biology.
Some of you may already be more familiar than you want to be with genetic drift and inbreeding. Others of you may already be able to do a sensitivity analysis of the leading eigenvalue from a Leslie matrix. Some of you don't even know what those sentences mean. No matter. I'll reintroduce you to everything you need to know about such technical details. I'll also introduce you to some things that few, if any, of you have even heard of, e.g., statistical decision theory.
Throughout the course I'll emphasize how different the approach of a conservation biologist may be from that of a research scientist. Those of you with a natural resources background will have an advantage here. The approach of conservation biologists and resource managers are very similar. In both cases, decisions must often be made before all the facts are available, and there are many things it would be interesting to know that it may not make any difference to know. Deciding not to intervene is just as much a decision as deciding to intervene. As research scientists we often withhold judgment and suggest that further work is necessary. Conservation biologists and resource managers rarely have that luxury. They can rarely choose not to make a decision, rather they must make the best decision they can.Grading
- 3 short projects: 15% each
- 1 final project: 45%
- Peer evaluation: 10%
There will be three short projects assigned during the course. Each short project will involve analysis and discussion of a topic that I select. Everyone in the course will write their paper on the same topic. I will evaluate each paper on its own merits, and I expect it to represent your own thinking and analysis, but I encourage you to talk about your ideas with other students, maybe even run a rough draft by one or more of them for a critique. I'll be asking you to stretch beyond what we cover explicitly in lecture, and I think you'll find that discussion, feedback, maybe even an argument or two will help you develop and refine your ideas.
I expect the short project papers to be 4-5 pages in length. Please include a short literature cited section. I'm not picky about the citation style you use, so long as there's enough information in it that I can easily locate a reference if I want to look at it. I don't anticipate that you'll want/need to refer to more than 2-3 sources other than the sources that are assigned (and you may not want/need to refer to that many), but feel free to include more if you want to. I'll be judging your paper on the quality of its analysis (see below), not on the number of references you cite.
Short projects are due at 3:00pm on the date specified below. Your projects should be submitted electronically in one of three formats: Microsoft Word, Open Office, or plain ASCII text. I must receive electronic copies in a format I can edit so that I can remove identifying information from copies that I provide to your peer evaluators. And I must receive them by 3:00pm on the due date to give me time to distribute copies for peer evaluation.
|Project #1||26 September|
|Project #2||26 October|
|Project #3||14 November|
The final course project is your chance to explore a topic that is of particular interest to you. Any topic we've covered in this course is fair game. You can tackle a conceptual area and provide an in-depth analysis and critique of key concepts in that area. Possibilities might include
Management of small populations - the usefulness (or lack thereof) of demographic modeling, the role of genetic diversity in population persistence, strategies for management of populations of threatened plants and animals in botanical gardens and zoos, appropriate use of molecular markers in defining population segments for conservation purposes
Ecosystem management - defining objectives for ecosystem management, principles of adaptive management, managing invasive exotic species, umbrella species as indicators of ecosystem functioning, diversity and ecosystem functioning or stability, impacts of habitat fragmentation
- Reserve design - implications of global change for design of reserve systems, the SLOSS debate (see the notes if you don't know what this means), the problem of identifying indicator species, approaches to determine global conservation objects (hotspots versus coldspots)
Alternatively, you could take a case study approach and explore a particular example in which principles we've discussed are applied to solve a conservation problem.
In selecting a topic, I'd be delighted if you picked a topic that would help you prepare for something else you're doing. If you're in a Ph.D. program, for example, and you can explore a conservation-related topic that will also help you to prepare for some part of your dissertation, I encourage you to consider taking on that topic for this course. Not only will you be able to use your work in this course to advance your other work as well, you are likely to write a better paper, because you will be more intimately familiar with the details.
As for technical requirements:
Literature cited . I won't be checking references against a style guide, but be sure that all of the information I'd need to look up your sources is there in case I need it. You are welcome to use web resources, if they seem appropriate, but a strong paper is likely to draw the vast majority of its references from peer-reviewed literature. I will not grade based on the size of your bibliography, but my experience has been that at least 15-20 references are necessary to document all the pieces of evidence needed in a well-argued paper.
Length. I am expecting papers 15-20 pages in length. I won't count pages. I'll be evaluating the content of the paper. But experience has shown me that papers shorter than about fifteen pages rarely develop the material in enough detail to show the depth of understanding that I hope to see. If you run a page or two more than 20 pages, don't worry about it, but if you start pushing 25 or 30, you should think about narrowing your focus. I'd rather see a narrow topic discussed in detail than a broader one in which crucial details are missing.
Timing. Papers are due at 5:00pm on Wednesday, 14 December. Please submit them to me electronically. If you find that you cannot turn the paper in on time, I will accept late papers, but I may not be able to grade your paper in time to report a letter grade to the Registrar. You may find an incomplete on your transcript if it arrives after 5:00pm on 14 December.
Depth of analysis - I'll be looking to see the extent to which you use principles we've discussed to evaluate ideas or actions. Although a strong argument will depend on using external sources effectiely, it will also be your arguments that are convincing. Use your sources to document your factual assertions, but make the arguments yourself.
Coherence of the logic - Don't simply assert conclusions. Build an argument for them. That means starting from general principles that are likely to be shared by most or all readers and deriving your conclusions from them. You can assume that the audience for your paper is someone with a background similar to yours, so you don't need to explain basic concepts of evolution, ecology, or systematics. You will need to explain how your conclusions follow from those principles.
- Originality of the argument - I'll be looking for new insights and observations. This doesn't mean that I'll be looking for earth-shattering new insights, but the best papers will have some new twist demonstrating that you have mastered the material.
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Your short project will consist of a 4-5 page paper analyzing a topic that I assign. In addition to comments I make on those papers, three of your peers will also provide their written evaluation of the paper, and we... Read More