Conservation Biology

Overview: The conservation of biodiversity requires a solid scientific foundation rooted in ecology and evolutionary biology. Science in support of effective conservation must often integrate biological processes and mechanisms operating at multiple spatial and temporal scales. This course will investigate processes that drive patterns in the composition, structure, and function of biodiversity in the full range of coastal ecosystems surrounding the Bamfield Marine Science Centre (marine, terrestrial, freshwater). We will integrate theory and methods from wide range of sub-disciplines (landscape ecology, theoretical ecology, conservation biology, experimental ecology, population dynamics, conservation policy) to give students an appreciation for the breadth of approaches that characterize modern conservation science. A primary objective of this course is to build a foundation of scientific knowledge through reading, critiquing, and synthesizing the primary literature, and participating and appreciating the importance of field-based natural history and question-driven data collection, analysis and interpretation. Lectures and debates will compare regional patterns of richness and endemism (especially in amphibians, birds, fishes, invertebrates, and plants), the impact of invasive species, population viability analyses, habitat restoration, and the consequences of global climate change. Daily field trips and field-based inquiry will capitalize on our proximity to areas of high biodiversity.

Mission Statement: This is a field-based course on the biodiversity and conservation of coastal ecosystems. It is our goal to actively engage students in learning the theoretical and empirical bases of conservation ecology while gaining an appreciation for British Columbia’s coastal biodiversity.

Research Skills: Students will develop a skill-set of techniques common to modern conservation science in marine, freshwater, and terrestrial systems that may include: GPS mapping, rudimentary GIS, sampling or survey techniques for plants, birds, amphibians, fish, invertebrates, quantitative techniques, basic experimental design, and population dynamics modeling.

Boat use: There will be many opportunities for students to drive boats (and having some students prepared to drive boats will be essential for some of the planned activities). Students who wish to drive boats at BMSC must hold a PCOC and valid first aid certificate and will participate in an introductory boat check-out on the first day of orientation.

Prerequisites: Introductory Biology, Introductory Ecology (or equivalent). While not required, knowledge of basic statistical and quantitative approaches will be very helpful.

Physical Requirements: Physically demanding course, and moderate physical fitness required. Field activities will include daily off-trail walking and navigation, and students should have the ability to walk long distances (~5-10km) in adverse weather, and be capable of entry and exit in small boats on rocky shores (slippery, uneven surfaces) and in unpredictable seas.

Required Text: We will synthesize material from multiple textbooks and source materials, and ask the students to purchase 3-4 supplementary books (field guides, popular science – list available upon course acceptance).


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