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Module DXX-4016:
Conservation science

Module Facts

Run by School of Natural Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Prof Julia Patricia Gordon Jones

Overall aims and purpose

strong textTo critically explore the main theoretical and applied aspects of conservation science.

Course content

This module presents key concepts that underpin modern conservation science. As such it is highly interdisciplinary; emphasising the interactions between natural and social systems. We start by considering the evidence that we are living in the Anthropocene: a geological epoch where human influence is the dominant influence on the climate and the environment and discuss what this means for those of us interested in biodiversity conservation. We discuss global patterns of biodiversity and threat and the relative importance of the various global threats to biodiversity. We discuss the ever increasing demand for food and how this can be best balanced with conservation. We critically discuss a range of (overlapping) approaches to conservation including protected areas, biodiversity offsetting, market mechanisms (including Payment for Ecosystem Services), and the role of ex situ conservation (focusing on plant conservation). We consider overexploitation and how understanding of population dynamics and social-economic factors can help improve the management of harvested wild species. We also discuss the role of monitoring and impact evaluation in effective conservation. We end, with some optimism: conservation can work. We have had to rethink the course structure this year due to the covid restrictions. While I’d rather be with you in person for every session, this disruption has given me the opportunity to refresh the course and I think the changes make it better than ever. While we will have two field trips and I will be offering small group tutorials (hopefully in person if you prefer), much of the teaching will have to be online. This will be a combination of watching short videos of me introducing a subject and the main points, then attending synchronous sessions (i.e. we will all be logged on at the same time). Interaction is a key part of your education so I strongly encourage to attend all the synchronous sessions (everything in the timetable). You will get MUCH more out of these if you watch the videos and do the preparation in advance. I have decided to record the short preparatory videos in advance so you are not just listening to me in the synchronous sessions and we can make these more interactive. We will also have three student-led seminars which you will need to prepare for in advance, working in groups with your colleagues.

Assessment Criteria


ESSAY Threshold: Summarise information given during the module, or available from very basic reading, in a way which answers the question.

PRESENTATIONS Threshold: Produce a clear presentation which makes a reasonable argument, addressing a sesible and appropriate topic.


ESSAY Good: Answer the question using appropriate sources in a critical way to structure a coherent argument.

PRESENTATIONS Good: Synthesise and critique a range of suitable sources to produce a clear presentation which makes a reasonable argument, addressing a sesible and appropriate topic.


ESSAY Excellent: Answer the question using a wide range of sources in a critical way to structure a well-written and coherent argument which shows deep understanding of the complexities involved.

PRESENTATIONS Excellent: Synthesise and critique an extensive range of suitable sources to produce a very clear presentation which makes a reasonable argument. Shows mature and deep understanding of the topic and excellent presentation.

Learning outcomes

  1. Understand the concepts and theories underlying the subject of conservation science.

  2. Understand the interdisciplinary nature of conservation science and demonstrate a good awareness of the relevance of both ecological and social sciences to conservation.

  3. Understand the importance of taking an evidence-based approach to the management of biodiversity.

  4. Understand the value-judgements central to decision making in conservation science.

  5. Synthesize and critique sources of evidence to produce a coherent written or verbal argument.

  6. Be able to express themselves clearly in semi-formal presentations and debates and in a written essay.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
GROUP PRESENTATION Group presentation

Purpose of assignment: To encourage you to explore concepts and theories underlying conservation science and the interdisciplinary nature of the subject. To help you to develop an evidence-based approach to the management of biodiversity (synthesizing and critiquing sources of evidence as appropriate) while also recognising that value judgements are important. To develop presentation skills. (Learning outcomes 1,2,3,4,5 and 6). Instructions: You can chose any title related to the subject of the module that gives you the opportunity to research something of interest to you. Please tell me your title before you start work so I can confirm that it is appropriate. I expect you to do some research using a wide range of sources. This is a scientific presentation so there needs to be a critique of the literature. It is therefore not appropriate to present a point of view or a conservation project you have read about on a single website or in a single article. Questions which can be answered in the presentation make good topics. Examples of previous topics include: 1) What might brexit mean for the future of UK conservation? 2) How can data from social media be helpful to conservation science? 3) Can REDD+ equitably reduce deforestation in the Amazon? 4) Do no take zones benefit fisheries in Europe? 5) What is the role of upland management on lowland flooding in the UK? 6) Is conservation evidence-based? Please work in groups of 2 or 3. Groups of 2: you will have 12 minutes and 3 minutes for questions. Groups of 3: you will have 15 minutes and 4 minutes for questions. Sticking to time is vitally important. I will warn you when you have 5 mins left and when you have 1 minute. If you overrun you suffer a penalty (worth up to 10% of the marks). Please submit your title and co-presenters on the google doc at least 2 weeks before the final presentation date (details provided in class). Marking Scheme: Content 40% Structure 20% Presentation style (verbal) 20% ` Quality of the slides 20%

ESSAY "Why and how I would conserve the ......"

Purpose of assignment: To encourage you to explore concepts and theories underlying conservation science and the interdisciplinary nature of the subject. To help you to develop an evidence-based approach to the management of biodiversity (synthesizing and critiquing sources of evidence as appropriate) while also recognising that value judgements are important. To develop presentation skills. (Learning outcomes 1,2,3,4,5 and 6). Instructions: Please write a 2000 word essay (excluding references and figure legends) with the title “Why and how I would conserve the…….” ‘The ….’ can be a species or habitat or species assemblage of your choice e.g. “Why and how I would conserve the coral reefs of the Caribbean” or “Why and how I would conserve bitterns in the UK” or “Why and how I would conserve polar bears”. In this essay I would like you to bring together what you have learnt in the course (and from your own knowledge and wider reading) to argue why your target justifies conservation investment and what sort of approach you would take to conserving it. Please use the literature (including core concepts) carefully in researching and writing this essay. For example, you may want to refer to anthropocentric and biocentric arguments for the conservation of your target including referencing limitations of both value systems. You have significant time to work on this essay and I expect you to research it deeply. If you chose a highly specialised topic with little literature on conservation approaches for your specific species or habitat, this does not mean there is no literature you need to refer to. A good essay will draw heavily on relevant literature (e.g. critiquing conservation approaches) not necessarily focused on your target but will make it relevant. There is a strict 2000 word limit for this exercise (excluding the literature cited and any figures or tables). Please give the word count at the end of your work. There are some simple guides to writing essays in the web. Key points for performing well in this essay are: A) It must have a clear introduction which sets up the context and frames the scope of the essay B) It must be clearly structured (sub-headings can help with this) C) It must be properly referenced with all sources referred to in the text and listed in alphabetical order by author at the back (see any good journal e.g. Conservation Biology and follow their style). D) You must answer both ‘why’ and ‘how’. E) It must have a clear concluding paragraph which draws it all together.

Marking Scheme: Structure and logical flow 25% Content 25% Quality of the writing 25% Sources, reference list & style 25%


Teaching and Learning Strategy


12 hours are timetabled: students will sign up for slots as they feel is needed

Private study 123

You will need to watch a short video or two (recorded lecture) before we meet for the synchronous online lectures


Students will prepare the seminar topics in advance (in groups) and present to the class

Study group

Students will work in groups to prepare for the seminars and the group assessed presentations.

External visit

field trips to Cwm Idwal and Treborth botanic garden


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Safety-Consciousness - Having an awareness of your immediate environment, and confidence in adhering to health and safety regulations
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Mentoring - Able to support, help, guide, inspire and/or coach others
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • Recognize the moral, ethical and social issues relating to the subject.
  • Develop and identify research question(s) and/or hypotheses as the basis for investigation.
  • Conduct fieldwork and/or laboratory work competently with awareness of appropriate risk assessment and ethical considerations
  • Consider issues from a range of interdisciplinary perspectives.
  • Engage in debate and/or discussion with specialists and non-specialists using appropriate language.
  • Demonstrate the independence and skills required for continuing professional development


Resource implications for students

Students will need to wear appropriate outdoor clothing and footwear on field trips and take their own lunch for the two field trip days. Students will need to make their own way to Treborth.

Talis Reading list

Reading list

Courses including this module