Introduction to Conservation Biology
EEB 2208: Spring 2015
This course will provide an introduction to the discipline of conservation biology. The first two-thirds of the course will focus on the biological aspects of the discipline. Topics covered will include patterns of biodiversity and extinction, causes of extinction and population declines, techniques used to restore populations, landscape level conservation planning, and the role of conservation in protecting ecosystem services. The final third will cover the practical aspects of implementing conservation actions and will include lectures on conservation economics and conservation law.
Basic course information
Instructor: Chris Elphick (office: TLS 372/4, down the hall from the EEB office; office hours - at lecture hall before or after class, or by appointment) Email: chris.elphick [AT] uconn.edu
Teaching assistant: Manette Sandor (office hours: Mon 3:30-4:30 in TLS 368, or by appointment) Email: manette.sandor [AT] uconn.edu
Your emails to us must contain the phrase "EEB 2208” in the subject line; emails received without that phrase, and especially those with a blank subject line, may get treated as SPAM and be deleted without being read.
Lecture: M, W 2-3:15 PM
Location: BPB 131
Pre-requisites: There are currently no prerequisites for the course, but it is aimed at students who are at least sophomores.
Text book: Essentials of Conservation Biology (R.B. Primack, 6th Edition, Sinauer) is recommended reading. On exams I will assume that you are familiar with the material that this book covers and may ask questions (though not many) about topics that are not covered in lectures. Reading beyond the lecture material is especially important as I will expect you to know a range of examples for each phenomenon I describe. This New York Times article has suggestions for finding cheap text books that might be useful. Another book that might be helpful is available as a free download here. The free textbook covers many of the topics I'll cover in class, but is not as comprehensive as Primack's book. The 5th edition of Primack is also probably OK, but will not be as up-to-date as it could be (the authors of this book take revisions pretty seriously).
Web site: This site will serve as the primary web site for information about the class. We will, however, also have a huskyct site where grades will be posted and where you can post questions for me, the TA, or your classmates.
Research paper readings: In some lectures, I will provide supplemental readings from the primary research literature to augment the text book readings. These readings will be the subject of class discussions and graded in-class questions; material from them may also appear on exams. See the syllabus below for more information on when these discussions will occur and what is expected of you.
Optional reading that might be helpful: If you are really interested in this topic, then you will be well served if you check out recent issues of the journal Conservation Biology (note that to read articles you will need to be connected to the UConn system).
Questions: Please ask lots of them! Class is much more interesting (for me and you) when people ask questions. If you send me questions over email, I will post them (anonymously) along with the answers on this web site (see below), so that everyone can read the responses. If you post questions to twitter using #eeb2208Q I will use those to determine whether I need to go over things in class.
Office hours: I do not have fixed office hours because they inevitably do not work for many students. But, I will generally be present in the lecture hall for at least 15 minutes before and after each lecture to answer questions. Please come up and introduce yourself - the class is big and it's hard for me to get to know people unless they come and talk to me. I am also happy to meet at other times by appointment. If you would like to meet, then email me, telling me (a) what you want to discuss, and (b) when would be good times to meet (Mon, Tues, or Wed will usually be best). The TA is also available to answer questions by email, during their office hours and/or by appointment (see above for details).
Course objectives and expectations: My goal is to provide you with a basic understanding of the scientific field of conservation biology and the application of science to solving conservation problems. My primary goal is for you to learn and understand basic concepts and general ideas, although to get an A or a high B, you will need to know plenty of details too. I will expect you to know examples relating to each major concept, so that you can relate the theory to practical, real-world situations. I won’t expect you to memorize all of the minutia in my notes; for example, I wouldn't ask you exactly how many species have gone extinct in the last 500 years. But, I will expect you to have a solid understanding of the core information that would be required of you in a job in this field; for example, I would expect you to know whether the number of extinctions is closer to 6 or 20,000. The text book readings are intended to complement the lectures. My lectures will not repeat verbatim what is in those readings, and I will often use different examples or cover somewhat different topics. Both the lecture material and the readings, however, are important and could appear on exams.
Specific things that I hope you will learn are:
- to understand the basic issues that define the field of conservation biology;
- to use general principles to think about ways to solve specific conservation problems;
- specific factual information about major issues in conservation biology;
- specific examples of all important concepts, problems, and solutions;
- to extrapolate from examples I provide in class to other cases with similar characteristics (e.g., that I ask about in exams!);
- to read scientific papers and understand the main points that they make;
- to interpret graphs, tables, and simple statistics presented in the scientific literature;
- to acknowledge scientific uncertainty when it exists, and to recognize when it hampers understanding and when it does not;
- to present scientific information to your peers in a format commonly used by scientists.
If you are just taking this course out of general interest, then hopefully it will provide you with a sense of how the biological sciences can be applied to protection of the natural world, and will give you a better understanding of the main issues in conservation biology. For those of you wishing to pursue a career in conservation biology, I hope that this course will give you a solid foundation on which to build with future courses (e.g., EEB 5310, EEB 5370). If this is your goal, I’d also encourage you to check out EEB’s joint BS/MS program in Biodiversity and Conservation Biology. There are also links to good sites for finding internships and jobs (short-term and permanent) in conservation biology below.
General student help
Important course documents
Schedule of lectures and examinations (subject to change)
The schedule below describes the order in which we will cover material. Not every topic fits nicely into the time set aside for a lecture, so be prepared for us to start some topics a lecture early, and for others to take longer than the syllabus suggests. Snow days may also disrupt things.
For each lecture I will aim to post an outline ahead of time (linked to the topic titles in the syllabus below). Reading these notes before each lecture should help you to follow the material, and some people like to print them out so that they can spend more time listening and less time writing. These outlines, however, ARE NOT a substitute for coming to class, making your own notes, or doing the assigned readings, and you should not expect them to include everything covered in class (e.g., none of the graphics will be in the web notes).
My advice is to look the notes over before class, make supplemental notes during the lecture, and then look over all the information again before the next class. Then, if there is anything that you do not understand, ask me about it at the start of the next lecture (I always try to be in class 10-15 mins early). In exams, you will be expected to know about all the things I talked about, not just the information in the web notes. Based on past experience, you can expect to drop at least a grade if you choose to rely only on the web notes.
The symbol ** in the "Reading" column means that there is important supplemental reading from the primary literature that we will discuss in class. Reading these papers is important as there will be graded writing assignments, conducted in class, for each one. I will randomly pick people in class to answer questions about them. Links to the relevant papers can be accessed by clicking on the ** (note that links will not go live until a week or so into the semester). These links might not work if you are not using a computer that connects to the UConn network. It is possible to connect your home computers to the network by going to this site and signing in using your netID. We will also post the papers on the huskyct site.
Weekly homework will be assigned on Wednesdays. Most should be completed and submitted on huskyct. A few (numbers 4, 7, 10 and 13) should be submitted via email (see linked instructions in the homework column below - click on the homework number). All assignments are due by midnight on the Monday after they are assigned (5 days later, see homework column).
In the syllabus I have also noted special lectures (in green) that will take place on campus this semester and that are at least loosely connected to this course. Attendance at these lectures is not required, but the presentations should be of interest to anyone seriously interested in conservation biology.
Because conservation biology is a fast-moving field, with the latest research constantly changing, all of my course notes are updated annually. Links to the documents in the syllabus below will work as soon as each set of notes is updated - usually this will be a day or so before the relevant lecture.
|1||21 Jan||What is conservation biology?||Chapters 1 & 6||A summary of what the course is about|
|2||26 Jan||Interpreting statistics (when there’s an agenda)||Sutherland et al. 2013||Theory of the Stork|
|3||28 Jan||Forms of biological diversity||Chapter 2||Hwk #1 assigned||International Year of Biodiversity video|
|2 Feb||SNOW DAY - CLASS CANCELLED||Chapter 3||1 answers|
|4||4 Feb||Patterns of biodiversity||Chapter 3||Hwk #2 assigned||New species discoveries|
|5||9 Feb||Extinction rates||Chapter 7||2 answers||Thylacine video - all that's left|
|6||11 Feb||Patterns of extinction||Chapter 8; Hahs et al. 2009**||Hwk #3 assigned||A short extinction overview 1ST DISCUSSION TODAY!!!|
|7||16 Feb||Causes of population decline||Chapter 8||3 answers||The last passenger pigeon Check out the IUCN Red List|
|8||18 Feb||Habitat loss & degradation||Chapter 9; Stuart-Smith et al. 2013**||Hwk #4 assigned||Another victim of habitat loss|
|9||23 Feb||Over-exploitation||Chapter 10||Hwk #4 due||Bushmeat|
|10||25 Feb||Invasive species and Disease||"Cane Toads" (5 parts); Gibson et al. 2013**||Hwk #5 assigned||IPANE|
|26 Feb||TEALE LECTURE: Dispatches from a hotter planet and a cooler cosmos (Seth Borenstein)||4:00PM, Konover Auditorium, Dodd Center|
|27 Feb||Poster info due via email before 4 pm today|
|11||2 Mar||Global change||pp. 205-214; Thomas et al.||5 answers||National Academies video, part 1 USFS climate change atlases for trees and birds Climate Change Time Machine|
|12||4 Mar||Ecosystem services||MEA Trends Synthesis; Wolkovitch et al. 2012**||Hwk #6 assigned||Millennium Ecosystem Assessment|
|9 Mar||Mid-term Exam||Study lectures 1-13||6 answers||Key|
|13||11 Mar||Small population conservation||Chapter 11; Webb & Mindel 2015**||Hwk #7 assigned|
|16 Mar||No Class: SPRING BREAK||Reading for ...||Hwk #7 due|
|18 Mar||No Class: SPRING BREAK||... poster projects|
|14||23 Mar||Population viability analysis||Chapter 13||Demos of PVA simulations in class today and/or Wednesday|
|15||25 Mar||Conservation genetics||Chapter 12; Finkelstein et al. 2012**||Hwk #8 assigned||Frozen Ark Project POSTER PROSPECTUS DUE TODAY!!!|
|26 Mar||TEALE LECTURE: Ecological imperialism revisited: Entanglements of disease, commerce and knowledge in a global world" (Gregg Mitman)||4:00PM, Konover Auditorium, Dodd Center|
|16||30 Mar||Ex situ conservation, release programs||Chapter 14||8 answers||Info on UConn's captive bred plants.|
|17||1 Apr||Conservation reserves||Chapter 15; Seddon et al. 2014**||Hwk #9 assigned||US Protected Areas|
|18||6 Apr||Reserve networks||Chapter 16||9 answers|
|19||8 Apr||Conservation in the matrix||Chapter 18; Fuller et al. 2010**||Hwk #10 assigned||Flooding rice|
|20||13 Apr||Management||Chapter 17||Hwk #10 due||Read about re-wilding|
|21||15 Apr||Habitat restoration||Chapters 19; McCarthy et al. 2012**||Hwk #11 assigned|
|16 Apr||TEALE LECTURE: From Silent Spring to Silent Night: A tale of toads & men (Tyrone Hayes)||4:00PM, Konover Auditorium, Dodd Center|
|20 Apr||Poster presentations: session A||Start studying||Hwk #11 due||Grading forms: Yours // mine|
|22 Apr||Poster presentations: session B||Chapter 20||Hwk #12 assigned||Science and policy|
|22||27 Apr||Conservation law and International legislation||Chapters 21 and 22||Hwk #12 due||Instructor evaluations today|
|23||29 Apr||Economics of conservation||Chapters 4 and 5; Economist 2008/2010**]-->|