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Biology 431 - Conservation Biology

Fall, 2014


CATALOG DESCRIPTION -Topics include history of biological conservation, population viability analysis, minimum viable populations, island biogeography, and the concepts of rarity and diversity. The course will also evaluate the role that a biologist can play in the conservation movement.

The Roles of Biologists in Conserving Biodiversity

In 1978 the First International Conference on Conservation Biology was convened at UC San Diego. The Society of Conservation Biology and its associated Journal came into being in 1987. Twenty years later NATURE IS STILL LOSING BADLY with habitat loss, direct reduction of animal and plant populations by a variety of mechanisms, introduction of alien animals and plants, with the ensuing cascade of extinctions that affect ecosystem, community, and population levels of biological organization. The field of Conservation Biology is a theoretical and empirical response by ecologists and evolutionary biologists to address these issues.

In 2004 The Ecological Society of America's Governing Board articulated its position, "Environmental issues will define the 21st Century, as will a world with a large human population and ecosystems that are increasingly shaped by human intervention. The science of ecology can and should play a greatly expanded role in ensuring a future in which natural systems and the humans they include coexist on a more sustainable planet."

This class will discuss Foundational ecological concepts and their conservation Extensions.

Each class will be led by one or more students. They will present 45 minutes of material from a a) book, b) early paper, and c) late paper on one of the following topics in Conservation Biology. These materials will be suggested.

For the first class, we will generally discuss Lubchenco, J. 1998. Entering the century of the environment: A new social contract for science. Science 279: 491-497.

During the second class we will all read: Meine, C., M. Soule, and R. F. Noss. 2006. "A mission-driven discipline": the growth of Conservation Biology. Conservation biology 20:631-651.

Foundational ecological concepts & their conservation extensions:
1. Population genetics -> rare spp conservation, PVA, Threatened and endangered status & laws
2. Single species demography / pop growth -> PVA, sustainable yields, invasive spp
3. Predator-prey dynamics , trophic interx -> species reintroductions, wildlife mgmt.
4. Community ecology: succession -> keystone spp, restoration
5. Ecosystem, landscape, metapopulation ecology -> land mgmt, conservation planning,
6. Island biogeography, population biology -> species decline and extinction reserve design, invasions
7. Metapopulations -> extinction, recolonization, corridors
8. Diversity-stability -> biodiversity conservation, ecosystem health, ecosystem services
9. Social sciences & development -> env. ethics, ecological economics, sustainability sci.
10. New paradigms in ecology -> non-equilibrium dynamics, restoration


Pre-requisites - Prerequisite: Basic knowledge of upper division level population ecology. At least one of the following three courses: Population Biology, Vascular Plant Diversity, or Animal Behavior and; one other upper division Biology Course including a laboratory; and Junior or Senior standing and/or the consent of the instructor.

Interesting Links -

Ecological Visions Report of the Ecological society of America

Millenium Ecosystem Assessment


Meeting Time - The class will meet on Tuesday's between 6:10 and 8:00 PM in B215.


The course is taught by Robert H. Kaplan.

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