EEB 2208E: Introduction to Conservation Biology

Spring 2021

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.

During the spring 2021 semester this course will be taught online.  The course will meet synchronously, but I have designed it in a way that makes it possible for students to participate asynchronously. Lecture materials (PowerPoint videos, course notes, etc.) will be provided for student review before each class meeting. Each meeting will be used to ask questions, to go over any parts of the lecture videos that were confusing, to work through homework assignments, to discuss assigned readings, and to form study groups and work on the class project.  Although I taught half of this class in an online format last spring, this is a new approach to the class and I welcome feedback on what is working and what is not at any point during the semester.

Basic course information

Credits: 3

Instructor: Chris Elphick (he/him).

Office hours: I am happy to meet via video conference; please email to set up a meeting. If you are not in the eastern USA, please let me know and I will find times to meet that will work for you.

Email: chris.elphick@uconn.edu; Twitter: @ssts

Teaching assistant: Eliza Grames (she/her).

Office hours: F 2-3 PM (Connecticut time) or by appointment

Email: eliza.grames@uconn.edu; Twitter: @ElizaGrames

Lecture: M, W 2-3:15 (Connecticut time)

Location: online, via Blackboard Collaborate in HuskyCT

Contacting us outside class: We will work hard to respond to emails promptly, but you can help by being aware of ways to make it easier for us to find and follow up to your messages. In all emails to us, please include the phrase “EEB 2208E” in the subject line. I check email at the start and end of each work day (M-F) and will prioritize student messages with the goal of responding within 24 hours (except on weekends). I receive a high volume of email, though, and messages that are not readily identifiable or found via a simple search are easy to miss. Emails without a clear subject line, and especially those with a blank subject line, may get treated as SPAM and be deleted without being read. If you do not get a response within 48 hours, please do not hesitate to resend the message in case it was missed.

If you are struggling with the course, especially due to the online nature of teaching given the ongoing pandemic, PLEASE DO NOT HESITATE TO REACH OUT FOR HELP.

Pre-requisites: There are currently no prerequisites for the course, but it is aimed at students who are at least sophomores.

Text book: I lecture primarily from my own notes, and there is no required reading for the course. Reading beyond the lecture material, however, will be helpful as I will expect you to know a range of examples for each phenomenon I describe. A textbook  I’ve used in the past is Essentials of Conservation Biology (R.B. Primack, 6th Edition, Sinauer), which closely follows the sequence of my lectures. Another book (Sodhi and Ehrlich) 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, and not as similar in its organization to the way that I have set up my lectures. The 5th edition of Primack is also probably OK, but will not be as up-to-date (the author of this book treats revisions seriously) and chapter/page numbering will differ a little.

Web site: This site will serve as a syllabus and central resource for information about the course. We will also have a HuskyCT site where course materials will be collated by lecture, where homework can be turned in, where grades will be posted, and where you can post questions for me, the TA, or your classmates. The HuskyCT site will become available on the first day of class.

Research paper readings: In some lectures, I will provide supplemental readings from the primary research literature to augment the lectures. These readings will be the subject of class discussions and short graded responses. More information on when these discussions will occur and what is expected of you is given below.

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. The best way to ask questions is during class sessions or via the discussion board on HuskyCT, so that everyone can read the responses. If you prefer, you can send me questions over email, and I will post them anonymously, along with the answers.

Office hours: I do not have fixed office hours because they inevitably do not work for many students. But, I will usually be available in the virtual classroom 15 minutes before and after each lecture. Please feel free to introduce yourself during these periods – the class is big and it is hard for me to get to know people otherwise. 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 (so I can prepare) 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 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 theory to practical, real-world situations. I will not expect you to memorize all of the minutia that I talk about; for example, I would not 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 this decade is likely to be closer to 2 or 20,000. The 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;
  • specific factual information about major issues in conservation biology;
  • specific examples of all important concepts, problems, and solutions;
  • to use general principles to think about ways to solve specific conservation problems;
  • to extrapolate from examples I provide in class to other cases with similar characteristics (e.g., that I may ask about in exams!);
  • to acknowledge scientific uncertainty when it exists, and to recognize when it hampers understanding and when it does not;
  • 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 present scientific information to your peers in a format commonly used by scientists;
  • to think about the work of others and provide constructive feedback.

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

Student Health and Wellness – Mental Health: (860) 486-4705 (24 hours)

Dean of Students Office: (860) 486-3425

Academic Achievement Center

Center for Students with Disabilities

Title IX Office

Alcohol, Substance Use, and Support

UConn Police Department.

Academic rules and conduct

All students should be aware of the guidelines on academic integrity contained in the Student Code, which is available here.

Conservation biology in the news

Recent news articles that relate to the topics covered in this course will be posted on Twitter and can be viewed here. You do not need an account to view them, but if you use Twitter and want to contribute please do so using #eeb2208. If you want to get the class-related tweets that I post, follow me @ssts.

Important course documents

Grading information and class policies

Plagiarism statement

Homework overview

Discussion papers

Exam information

Poster project guidelines

Link to some poster design tips

Citation guidelines (for poster project)

Study guide

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, so don’t be surprised if the topic listing changes slightly.  Should changes to the schedule be necessary I will send everyone in the class an announcement via HuskyCT.

Lectures will be pre-recorded and posted in HuskyCT. For each lecture there will be multiple short videos, both to break the information down into sections, and to make things easier for students with limited bandwidth. Each lecture also has a set of notes summarizing the material (linked to the topic titles in the syllabus below). Reading these notes before watching 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 are not a substitute for watching the videos, making your own notes, or doing the assigned readings; you should not expect them to include everything covered in lectures (e.g., none of the graphics will be in the web notes – although I have left space on the page where you can add drawings).

My advice is to (a) look the notes over before watching the video, (b) make supplemental notes while watching, and then (c) come to class with questions about anything you do not understand (you can also post questions in the discussion board for the class). In exams, you will be expected to know about all the things covered in the videos, not just the summary information in the web notes. If you choose to rely only on the web notes it will likely affect your grade.

The symbol ** in the “Reading” column means that there is important supplemental reading from the primary literature that we will discuss in class (if there is no ** then the reading is still important, but will not be the subject of graded activities). Reading these papers is important as there will be short, graded, writing assignments for each one. I will also 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, with each assignment posted on HuskyCT.  Your responses should be submitted via HuskyCT and are due by 8 pm on the Sunday after the homework was assigned (see homework column in the table below). Answers will be posted on HuskyCT.

In the syllabus I have will note special lectures or other events (in green) that will take place 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 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 take you to the most recent version, but do not be surprised if they are updated a day or so before the relevant lecture.

Lecture Date Topic Background reading Homework (due 8 pm, Sundays) Supplemental information
1 20 Jan What is conservation biology? Primack Ch 1 & 6

S & E Ch 1

A summary of what the course is about: Part 1 and Part 2
2 25 Jan Interpreting statistics (when there’s an agenda) Sutherland et al. 2013 Theory of the Stork
3 27 Jan Forms of biological diversity Primack Ch 2

S & E Ch 2

Hwk #1 (due 31 Jan)
International Year of Biodiversity
Ecosystem services
 4 1 Feb Patterns of biodiversity Primack Ch 3

S & E Ch 2

New species discoveries
5 3 Feb Extinction rates Primack Ch 7

S & E Ch 10

Hwk #2 (due 7 Feb)
Thylacine video – all that’s left
6 8 Feb Patterns of extinction Primack Ch 8

S & E Ch 10

A short extinction overview

Extinction debt video

7 10 Feb Causes of population decline Primack Ch 8

S & E Ch 10

**Humphreys et al. 2019

Hwk #3 (due 14 Feb)
1ST DISCUSSION TODAY!!!
The fate of passenger pigeons
IUCN Red List
8 15 Feb Habitat loss & degradation Primack Ch 9: 175-196

S & E Ch 4 and 5

  Another victim of habitat loss
9 17 Feb Over-exploitation Primack Ch 10: 215-227

S & E Ch 6

**Pfeifer et al. 2017

Hwk #4 (due 21 Feb)
Bushmeat
10 22 Feb Invasive species Primack Ch 10: 227-238

S & E Ch 7

Watch Cane Toads

IPANE

Another invasive amphibian gets to Australia

11 24 Feb  Disease Primack Ch 10: 238-245

S & E Ch 7

**Scheele et al. 2019

Hwk #5 (due 28 Feb)
 Chytrid video
26 Feb Poster info due via email before 4 pm today
12 1 Mar Global change Primack Ch 9: 197-216

S & E Ch 8

  National Academies video, part 1
USFS climate change atlases for trees and birds
Climate Change Time Machine
13 3 Mar Ecosystem services pp. 1-24 MEA Summary for decision makers 

S & E Ch 3

**Cohen et al. 2018

Hwk #6 (due 7 Mar)
Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA)
8 Mar Mid-term Exam Study lectures 1-13  
14 10 Mar Small population conservation Primack Ch 11

**Free et al. 2019

Hwk #7 (due 14 Mar)
15 15 Mar Population viability analysis Primack Ch 12

S & E Ch 16: 328-330

Demos of PVA simulations in class today and/or Wednesday
16 17 Mar Conservation genetics Primack Ch 13

S & E Ch 16: 330-333

**Chaplin-Kramer et al. 2019

Hwk #8 (due 21 Mar)
Frozen Ark Project
POSTER PROSPECTUS DUE TODAY
17 22 Mar Ex situ conservation, release programs Primack Ch 14   Info on UConn’s endangered and extinct in the wild plants
18 24 Mar Conservation reserves Primack Ch 15

S & E Ch 11

**Gill et al. 2017

Hwk #9 (due 28 Mar)
US Protected Areas
19 29 Mar Reserve networks Primack Ch 16    Poster design tips
20 31 Mar Conservation in the matrix Primack Ch 18

S & E Ch 13

**Baldock et al. 2019

Hwk #10 (due 4 Apr)
Flooding rice
21 5 Apr Management Primack Ch 17

S & E Ch 16: 319-326

Read about re-wilding
22 7 Apr Habitat restoration Primack: Ch 19

**Rozendaal et al. 2019

Hwk #11 (due 11 Apr)
12 Apr  Spring recess – no class Work on posters
14 Apr Spring recess (no class) Work on posters
 19 Apr All posters due in HuskyCT by 2 pm (no class) Start studying  
 21 Apr Review posters (no class) Primack: Ch 20 Hwk #12 (due  25 Apr)
 

24 Apr

Peer review of posters due by 8 pm

23 26 Apr Economics of conservation Primack: Ch 4, 5

S & E: Ch 14

 

Instructor evaluations today
24 28Apr Conservation law and International legislation Primack: Ch 21, 22

S & E Ch 12
**Piaggio et al. 2017

Hwk #13 (due 2 May)
Short video on wildlife trade

Valuing ecosystems 

30 Apr Responses to peer questions about posters due by 8 pm  Study Guide
TBD Final exam: confirm time and date here Cumulative Exam will cover material from entire course

* Questions about final exam rescheduling MUST be directed to the Office of Student Services and Advocacy: (860) 486-3426. I am not allowed to consider rescheduling requests unless you already have approval from that office. Except in emergencies, rescheduling of other graded activities will be considered only if a written request is made at least one week in advance. Rescheduling is not guaranteed.

Please note that these lecture notes are intended for students in EEB 2208 at The University of Connecticut, and may not make sense in other contexts. If, however, you are not a UConn student and they are useful to you, please use them – but kindly let me know first if you intend to use them for anything more than your own on-line reading. If you find errors, please let me know that too.

Poster topics

The following topics have been taken: Please make note of your poster number as you will need it to submit your poster online.

  • A1 Elephant conservation (Savannah, Jamyra, Abbey)
  • A2 White-nose syndrome and bats (Larissa, Alexis, Kate)
  • A3 Galapagos tortoises (Alexia, Aaron, Angel)
  • A4 Chytrid disease and frogs (Jake, Raymond, Kayla)
  • A5 Mountain lions (Leilani, Alex, David)
  • A6 Effects of increasing ocean temperatures (Zhiyao, Xingya, Yihan)
  • A7 Effects of orcas in S African marine system (Kylie, Destiny, Jordana)
  • A8 Wildlife crossings and mammal conservation (Sophia, Jackson, Logan)
  • A9 Toxins and sea lions (Denali, Alyssa, Mallory)
  • A10 Conservation of whale diversity (Chelsea, Jorgjia, Mara)
  • A11 Noise pollution and cetaceans (Aldo, Pin, Abigail)
  • A12 Platypus conservation (Jordan, Lauren, Rachel)
  • A13 Illegal orchid harvest (Molly, Jenna, Olivia)
  • A14 Coral reefs and pollution (Nikki, Mackenzie, Maggie)
  • A15 Overfishing of sharks and rays (Aya, Rory, Kaitlyn)
  • A16 Orca conservation in the NW Pacific (Sena, Hanna, Caitlin)
  • A17 Gray whale conservation (Ellie, Charlie, Samantha)
  • A18 Mountain lion conservation (David, Alex, Leilani)
  • A19 Seabird effects on fish populations (Ben, Julian, Anthony)
  • A20 Bee declines (Abigail, Kyle, ZhongZe)
  • A21 Beluga conservation (Emily, Carter, Sabah)
  • A22 Salmon declines (Praveena, Arin, David)
  • A 23 Wolf conservation (Diana, Joshua, Christopher)
  • A24 Koala conservation (Han, Dylan, Henry)
  • A25 Wetland conservation (Andy, Raymond, Christian)
  • A26 Polar bear conservation (Gigi, Olivia, Morgan)
  • A27 White rhino conservation (Courtney, Tori, Ashton)
  • A28 Plastics in marine environment (Stephen, Aidan, Joelle)
  • A29 Conservation of the Amazon (Lais, Sarah, Sydney)
  • A30 Yangtze finless porpoise (Maya, Zack, Chris)
  • A31 Przewalski’s horse (Carolay, Kelsea, Christina)
  • A32 Tiger conservation (Grace, Kylee, Rachel)
  • A33 Sustainable agriculture and biodiversity (Taryn, Jordan, John)
  • A34 Conservation & the Keystone pipeline (Bella, Alivia, Jenesis)
  • A35 Willow tit declines (Robert, Leticia, Rimu)
  • A36 Giant panda conservation (Adler, Dominic, Adila)
  • A37 Wildlife trade and conservation (Arvand, Priscilla, Shannon)
  • A38 Pangolin conservation (Petar, Christian, Tianyao)
  • A39 Giraffe conservation (Maya, Sabrina, Litzy)
  • A40 Turtle conservation (Brandon, Samantha, Haley)
  • A41 Orang-utan conservation (Mana, Fatima, Sebastian)
  • A42 Monarch conservation (Gaston, Jared, Warren)
  • A43 Coral reef conservation (Isabella, Miriam, Caroline)
  • A44 Vaquita conservation (Connor, Matthew, Mark)
  • A45
  • A46
  • A47
  • A48
  • A49
  • A50

Honors conversion projects

Occasionally honors students conduct additional projects to get honors credit for this class.  Recently, those projects have involved developing web sites that provide information about conservation biology that relates to UConn or the state of Connecticut.  I will post examples of those projects here as the information may be of interest to other students:

Important policies

Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment and Related Interpersonal Violence
The University is committed to maintaining an environment free of discrimination or discriminatory harassment directed toward any person or group within its community – students, employees, or visitors. Academic and professional excellence can flourish only when each member of our community is assured an atmosphere of mutual respect. All members of the University community are responsible for the maintenance of an academic and work environment in which people are free to learn and work without fear of discrimination or discriminatory harassment. In addition, inappropriate amorous relationships can undermine the University’s mission when those in positions of authority abuse or appear to abuse their authority. To that end, and in accordance with federal and state law, the University prohibits discrimination and discriminatory harassment, as well as inappropriate amorous relationships, and such behavior will be met with appropriate disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal from the University. Additionally, to protect the campus community, all non-confidential University employees (including faculty) are required to report sexual assaults, intimate partner violence, and/or stalking involving a student that they witness or are told about to the Office of Institutional Equity. The University takes all reports with the utmost seriousness. Please be aware that while the information you provide will remain private, it will not be confidential and will be shared with University officials who can help. More information is available at equity.uconn.edu and titleix.uconn.edu.

Information for Students with Disabilities
The University of Connecticut is committed to protecting the rights of individuals with disabilities and assuring that the learning environment is accessible. If you anticipate or experience physical or academic barriers based on disability or pregnancy, please let me know immediately so that we can discuss options. Students who require accommodations should contact the Center for Students with Disabilities, Wilbur Cross Building Room 204, (860) 486-2020 or http://csd.uconn.edu/.

Links to other key policy information.

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