BSc Zoology

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Conservation Biology (E)

Course unit fact file
Unit code BIOL31482
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


The biodiversity of our planet is increasingly at risk due to the activities of man. This unit aims to provide the conceptual background to enable students to understand the main concerns in the loss of biodiversity and how appropriate conservation strategies could help to ameliorate man’s impact.


The biodiversity of our planet is increasingly at risk due to the activities of man. This unit aims to provide the conceptual background to enable students to understand the main concerns in the loss of biodiversity and how appropriate conservation strategies could help to ameliorate man’s impact. The theoretical basis of conservation biology is multidisciplinary involving population genetics, ecology, evolution, population biology, etc. Students will be expected to have some basic knowledge in these areas (see prerequisite recommendations), which will be extended and applied to conservation using a wide range of examples of conservation research and management. (Students without the prerequisite units can take this unit providing they catch up on background material in their own time. Information on this will be provided prior to the start of the course.) Lectures will be interspersed with case studies and debates that exemplify and apply the lecture material by exploring research papers or interpreting data on a particular conservation issue. This approach aims to ensure students can develop a deep understanding of how conservation science relates to conservation practice and to allow students to explore the complexities of topical issues.


Learning outcomes

Students will be able to:

· explain objectively the importance of conserving biodiversity

· explain the broad base of theory and scientific methodology underlying conservation biology

· interpret information and evidence on biodiversity and apply this to inform conservation management strategies



1 Introduction to Conservation Biology: What is the current state of biodiversity and what national and international strategies are there to protect it? (CW)

2 The global protected area network: anthropogenic land use and transformation, protected areas history and bias. (SS)

3 Understanding species extinction risk: Intrinsic risk, gap and refugee species, defining risk and vulnerability, adequacy of protection. (SS)

4. Modelling current and future viability. Species distribution models and population viability analysis. (SS)

5 Problems of small populations 1: loss of genetic diversity and adaptive potential, inbreeding depression, neutral versus functional genetic variation, minimal viable populations. (CW)

6 Problems of small populations 2: Outbreeding depression and issues for captive breeding and reintroduction. Gray wolves as a case study. (CW)

7 Case Study/data interpretation session: The Scimitar-horned Oryx. How can genetic data from captive populations be used to select individuals for reintroduction.

8 Problems of fragmented populations 1: population structure and gene flow, managing protected and unprotected areas

9 Problems of fragmented populations 2: habitat corridors, translocations. (CW)

10 Case Study/data interpretation session on Tropical Forest Biodiversity. How can we use spatial genetic information on forest species to inform conservation management? (CW)

11 Disease and conservation. Ecohealth and balancing human and wildlife needs. (CW)

12 Debate 1: Disease and conservation (CW)

13 Conservation physiology: stress and reproduction in captive and wild populations and discussion of research design (SS)

14 Debate 2: Trophy hunting, fishing and paying for conservation (SS)

15 Conservation Management in Wetland and Freshwater Ecosystems: including issues of biological invasions, eutrophication, impacts of water extraction and pollution. (AG)
16 Debate 3: Management conflicts in Doñana and similar Mediterranean wetlands. e.g. is growing rice good or bad? Is cattle grazing good or bad? (AG)

17 Conservation for the long term: species and ecosystem responses to climate change. (CW).

18 Feedback Session. Including announcement of poster prizes. (All).


Employability skills

Analytical skills
During Case Study sessions, students will be presented with data to interpret and apply to conservation management.
Group/team working
Students will be encouraged to participate in group discussions during Debate and Case Study sessions. Students will also work in small groups to prepare and present a poster.
Students have the opportunity to be creative during Case Study sessions where they will be asked to outline research ideas in response to a particular conservation need. In addition, students should be innovative in the creation of their poster on a topic of their choice.
Oral communication
Students encouraged to take part in class discussions of the Case Studies and in Debates.
Research required to prepare for the Debates and Poster Session.
Written communication
Poster creation, poster summary and final exam.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 40%
Written exam 60%

Final examination: 1 essay style question (60% of marks). Coursework: 1. Two online tests that test students on both lecture and Case Study material (15% of marks). 2. Group creation and presentation of a poster within a poster session on a conservation topic chosen by the students and individual summary of a selected poster (25% of marks).


Recommended reading

  • Frankham R, Ballou JD & Briscoe A (2010) Introduction to Conservation Genetics. Cambridge University Press
  • Primack R B (2014) Essentials of Conservation Biology. Sinauer Associates, Sunderland. Mass.
  • David W. MacDonald, Katherine J Willis (Eds) (2013) Key Topics in Conservation Biology


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 18
Independent study hours
Independent study 80

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Catherine Walton Unit coordinator

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