Current Topics in Conservation Biology

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EEB 489: Conservation and the Endangered Species Act (Spring 2008)

The topic of this seminar course varies from year to year depending on what is "current" in conservation biology and what students in the program are interested in focusing on. Usually we pick a recent book or selected readings focused around a fairly specific theme in order to get a deeper understanding of the topic than would be normal in a survey course. If you have suggestions for future topics, please let me know.

The course is required for students in the EEB BS/MS program, but is open to all graduate students. A few senior (and occasionally junior) undergraduates also take the course every year, and I encourage you to do so if you are interested. To be eligible as an undergraduate, you should have at least a B average and should talk to me first. You will need a permission number to enroll, as the course is limited to ~12-14 students each year. Post-docs, adjuncts, and (even) faculty are welcome to join in the fun.

Credits: 1

Instructor: Chris Elphick Chris Elphick (email: chris.elphick[AT]

Meeting time: Wednesdays 4-5 (probably - this time has not yet been confirmed)

Location: Bamford Room (TLS 171B) (probably - this location has not yet been confirmed)

This semester we will examine the status of conservation in the United States, through a detailed examination of the role that the Endangered Species Act has played. We will read a pair of books that resulted from "The Endangered Species Act at Thirty project". Volume 1 (Goble et al. 2006) focuses on political issues relating to the Act. Volume 2 (Scott et al. 2006) focuses more on the biology. Together they provide a comprehensive overview of the state of conservation in the country, with chapters by many of the leading players involved with putting conservation into action.

For more details about the books, click on the links above. Note that students are responsible for ordering this book themselves; it will not be in the textbook section of the Co-op, but it can be ordered from the general books desk.

To learn more about the project that these books arose from you can check out this YouTube link.


Discussions will be led by students. The expectation is that you will present a 10-15 minute summary (no more) on the topic. Your summary should draw on the readings, but not simply be a re-stating of what we have all read. Try to synthesize the material and draw out the major points. Also, feel free to supplement the reading material with other information on the topic.

The class leader should then be prepared to keep a conversation on the topic going for the remainder of the class session. To do this, come with a list of talking points and questions. Often it makes for better discussion if you distribute these questions a day or two ahead of time (if you email them to me, I will forward them to the rest of the class). Where possible, try to relate your topic to those we have already discussed. Given the nature of the topic, making links to information in the news would also be ideal. If you want to use powerpoint for your summary, please let me know a day or two in advance. If you have not done led a discussion in a seminar course before, please talk to me beforehand.

A class schedule is posted here. Please email me to sign up for a week in which you want to present. Openings will be given out based on the order I receive them (give me your top 3 choices in case preferred topics have already been taken). A week before class starts I will assign topics to anyone who has not yet signed up.

Week of: Who Topic Notes
th Jan Chris What has been protected? Vol.1 Chapters 1-3
th Feb The listing record Vol.1 Chapters 4-6
th Feb Protected lands Vol.1 Chapters 7 and 8
th Feb Private lands Vol.1 Chapters 9-11
th Feb Who does conservation? Vol.1 Chapters 12-15
Mar Vol.1 Chapters
th Mar Chapters
th Mar Chapters
Mar Chapters
Apr Chapters
Apr Chapters
st Apr Chapters
th Apr Chapters

Course history

If you are interested in the topics that we have covered in this class in past years, I have preserved previous versions of the web page, linked below.

During 2007, the topic was the biological consequences of climate change. To see what we covered during that course, click here.

During 2006, the topic was the conservation implications of invasive species. To see what we covered during that course, click here.

During 2005, the topic was relating general conservation approaches to local problems in New England. To see what we covered during that course, click here.

During 2004, the topic was the role of science in the U.S. Endangered Species Act. To see what we covered during that course, click here; for a reading list, click here.

Other information

For information about EEB's Joint B.S./M.S. degree program in Biodiversity and Conservation Biology click here

For information about the Society for Conservation Biology click here

For information on jobs in conservation biology click here

For information on jobs in wildlife biology click here