Conservation Biology (Biology 45300)

An Ecology Course for the Spring of 2018 with RF Rockwell



This course meets in a secure area of the American Museum.  Please be at the first floor,  Central Park West securilty entrance by 12:15 and I will meet with you there and arrange for passes.

Is this polar bear upset because global climate change is thawing the arctic?

Could it be he is hungry since the warming makes it more difficult to catch seals? Could it be that he is tired of humans thinking he (and his species) can not again survive a period of warming?

This is one of many problems we will examine this Fall semester in Conservation Biology. We will also examine how simple models coupled with natural history can be applied to complex, real-world situations. We will explore demography, population dynamics (including epidemics), community dynamics (including herbivory, predation, and competition) and ecosystem functioning (including nutrient cycling and energy flow).

We will draw on real world studies and problems involving various animal and plant species that are in some sort of trouble. We will also explore how hard science often has to be softened to reach conservation goals acceptable to a diverse society.

You will gain personal experience at this by advocating for an endangered or threatened species and part of your grade will depend on your success.

The course meets on Wednesday from 12:30-3:15 in the Ornithology classroom at the American Museum of Natural History. It is limited to 24 students.

The Text for the course is: Primack, RB. 2014. Essentials of Conservation Biology, 6th Edition, Sinauer, Sunderland.

**Note that the 2010 5th edition of the Primack text is adequate!!!!!

Contact information for rf rockwell is:

212.769.5795 and (subject=conservation biology) to avoid the spam pit.


date topic reading
01/31 conservation biology and biological diversity  chapters 1-2
02/07 more on biodivdersity and its global distribution  chapters 2-3
02/14 biodiversity and its value: economic and ecological chapters 4-5
02/21 biodiversity and its value: indirect and ethica chapters 5-6
02/28 lthreats to biodiversity: extinction and vulnerability          project species choice due chapters 7-8
03/07 threats to biodiversity: habitat, environment, exploitation, invasives and disease chapters 9-11
03/14 no class - Conference break

03/21 population biology  chapters 12-14
03/28reintroductions and ex situ conservationchapters 15-16
0404 no class - spring break
04/11 no class - friday schedule
04/18 protected areas, practical applications and review chapters 17-19
04/25 written exam  
05/02 student presentations  
05/09 student presentation
05/16 student presentations  

readings are from Primack, RB. 2014. Essentials of Conservation Biology, Sixth Edition.

**Note that the 2010 5th edition of the Primack text is adequate!!!!!

Your grade in the course will be based on a final exam (45%), your oral  presentation of your endangered species or habitat project (45%) and (10%) on class participation during the weekly conservation events portion of the class.

You must select your endangered species by 02/28 or I will assign one you have never heard of.  Only one person can have a given species and it is first come first served.

Student presentations will begin 05/02 and the names will be listed above. On a given date, order of presentation will be by draw of a card. Remember you have 12 only minutes for your presentation followed by 3 minutes of questions and discussion.


conservation presentations


Endangered Species Project Topics

For your endangered species, you must consider the following:

1. Basic biology of the species that is relevant to its being endangered.

2. Historic population size and distribution

3. Current population size and distribution

4. What are the primary causes of the change in population size and distribution?

5. What actions are being taken to “help” the species? (e.g. what are the recommendations in the endangered specie’s management plan?)

6. Do you think these are the appropriate actions? Why?

7. What would you do to “help” the species?

Best starting point for your project is the red list of endangered species


Educational goals

1. examine the reasons underlying our attempts at conservation.
2. realize that solutions are not simple and often lead to more environmental problems than they resolve.
3. realize that "conservation biology" is not really biology per se as it involves making value judgements.
4. learn to use a variety of informational outlets including published literature but also government reports, media outlets, etc.
5. come to understand that in resolving conservation issues no one view is going to prevail - compromise is required.
6. success at preserving a species only comes from thorough knowledge and thoughtful presentation of facts to the public.


last revised 08/23/17