MSc Environmental Governance

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Wildlife in the Anthropocene

Course unit fact file
Unit code GEOG60701
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


We live in an era of massive ecological change, on land and in the oceans. Wildlife and wild locations are threatened as never before, and - for this reason - valued more than ever before by many people. This unit examines human relationships with wildlife and the place of 'wildness' (both literally and metaphorically) in the contemporary world. Wildlife and wildness refers to those species, habitats, ecosystems and places that precede, or supersede, human control. The unit explores the varied meanings, locations, politics and ethics surrounding wildlife today. It ranges across philosophical, theoretical and policy debates to give students a wide but deep grounding in the key questions and arguments that animate contemporary discussions of wildlife and wildness in this contemporary ecological moment known as the Anthropocene.

The unit poses key questions about the nature and geography of wildlife and wildness, such as 'what is wilderness and who gets to define it?', 'what is "wild" about wildlife, and does it matter?', and 'is wildness compatible with increasing urbanisation?'. These questions will be taken up through a series of key contemporary issues and debates surrounding wildlife and wildness, including: the politics and ethics of wildlife conservation, human-wildlife conflicts, valuations of wildlife and the wild, and new approaches to wild(er) ness in the Anthropocene. Throughout a wide range of cases will be discussed from around the world.


  • To explore whether and how wildness can flourish in the Anthropocene ('the age of humans'), when wildlife and wild places are fast disappearing
  • To consider how the ideas of wildlife and wilderness relate to the realities they denote and to examine the complexity of these ideas and their sometimes contested political implications
  • To question commonly understood geographies of wildlife and wilderness, and to explore alternative geographical representations, and realities, of wildness
  • To examine the cultural, political and ethical dimensions of human relationships with wildlife, biodiversity loss, and conservation across a wide range of geographical settings
  • To critically reflect upon how wildlife and wildness are represented in mass media and to consider how such representations shape popular and policy understandings of the wild

Learning outcomes

• Demonstrate knowledge of the practical and ideological complexities of the categories of 'wildlife' and 'wildness'

• Critically reflect on how representations of wildness in popular media shape your own and wider societal understandings of, and relationships with, wildlife and wild places

• Demonstrate an understanding of the social, political and ethical challenges of living with, and making space for, wildness in the Anthropocene (i.e., 'the age of humans')

• Apply theoretical perspectives on wildness to specific contemporary challenges and cases related to wildlife and wild places

• To identify the strengths and weaknesses of these perspectives

• Assess the strengths and weakness of prominent ideas and policies about wildness today

Teaching and learning methods

The course unit will be delivered through a combination of lectures and seminars. Each of the teaching weeks will involve both a two-hour lecture and a one-hour seminar. Sessions will draw upon a range of resources, including key readings, visual and audio media, and Power-point slides. These resources will be compiled on Blackboard for student access.

Assessment methods

The course will be assessed through a 3,000-word essay (this will constitute 100% of your mark for the unit). You may optionally submit an essay plan no later than week 9 for written formative feedback. Formative feedback on your ideas and questions can also be given verbally any time during consultation hours.

Feedback methods

Feedback will be provided in the following ways during this course unit:

  • Verbal feedback will be provided through Q&A, discussion and interactive activities within lectures and seminars
  • Written feedback will be provided on the coursework assignment
  • Verbal feedback can be provided on any course unit question or issue through consultation hours and/or during seminars.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Independent study hours
Independent study 130

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Aurora Fredriksen Unit coordinator

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