Forestry/Biology 4252; Biology 5131 - 2003


Dr. Douglas Morris

Office: CB4017

Lab: CB3019


Pimm, S. L. 2001. The world according to Pimm. McGraw-Hill, New York.

Morris, D. W. 2003. Forestry/Biology 4252: Conservation ecology. Course Materials - 2003.

Office Hours:

Tuesday: 10:30-11:30; Thursday: 11:00-12:00 (7 January - 3 April 2003 only).

Other times by appointment


Friday 08:30-11:30, Room BB1006


Introduction Course Objectives
Evaluation Report Format
Report Due Date Report Style
Final Term Report Oral Reports
Tentative Timetable A guide to the Literature


This course is designed for the senior undergraduate/graduate student who wants to understand issues of conservation ecology, the processes that lead to conservation crises, and strategies to reduce/eliminate their effects. Course instruction will include a mixture of lectures, oral presentations and discussions, workshops, and investigative assignments. The lectures will emphasize conceptual, empirical, and experimental approaches to the study of conservation ecology. The course will be centred on "Problem-based Learning". All students will be required to participate actively in workshops and discussions, and to seek solutions to each "problem set". Though specific lectures are planned for each week's meeting, these may be "replaced" by class discussions and workshops. Students may be required to present a "lecture" to the class, and are expected to participate in the presentations of their classmates.

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Course Objectives:

1. To familiarize students with ecological and evolutionary principles applicable to conservation.

2. To introduce students to the relevant and recent literature on a variety of issues and processes in conservation ecology.

3. To inspire students to question and discuss current concepts and controversies in conservation ecology.

4. To assist students in developing the skills, discipline, and study habits necessary for self-instruction in this and other areas of ecology.

5. To help provide students with the theoretical and empirical background, and the communication skills, necessary for informed discussions on issues of conservation ecology.

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Attendance, problem sets, discussions, weekly assignments and lectures: 80%

Term Report: 20%

THERE ARE NO FORMAL TESTS OR EXAMS. Rather, students will be evaluated weekly on their understanding of course material, and their contribution to solving problem sets. Grades will include components of self and peer evaluation. Students will be assigned to groups to solve specific conservation and ecological problems. The solutions will be presented to classmates, discussed, and summarized in written reports. ATTENDANCE IS MANDATORY. Students who miss a scheduled class date without bona fide reasons (e.g., medical statement, pre-approval from the instructor) will lose 10% of their total achievable grade. Students arriving late will have their grade in that session pro-rated accordingly. There may be one or more in-class quizzes that do not contribute to the course grade. In addition, graduate students are expected to be active participants in the Lakehead Ecology And evolution Discussions on Environmental Research (LEADER). All students should attempt to attend guest lectures related to issues of conservation.

Performance will be evaluated regularly. The evaluation will be based on the student's grasp of important issues, logical reasoning, non-trivial criticisms of the material, and the ability to understand and solve conservation problems. Students are encouraged to actively share their ideas and their questions.

Written or oral reports may be assigned at intervals during the course. Evaluation of these reports will be based on the student's ability to synthesize a field of enquiry, to apply that synthesis to a particular problem, or to develop significant new insights into issues of conservation ecology. The reports should not, in general, be restatements of review papers. Rather they will require the student to apply what is known (and what's not known) about an unresolved question or issue in conservation ecology. Evaluation will be devoted equally to clarity of presentation, rigour of treatment, and suitability of the report to the assignment.

A term report, representing the student's audit (see below) plus a summary of the student's self-evaluation during the course, must be submitted no later than 11:20 on 4 April 2003. There will be no extension.

Please note: The report is a term project and not a final examination. Students will be ineligible to write a special examination as outlined in general regulation VII in the Lakehead University Calendar.

Students may also participate in a class project related to an appropriate theme in conservation ecology. Class projects will be chosen as a group, and can range from detailed analyses of a particular issue, to the collection and analysis of novel data.

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Report Format:

Read each assignment carefully and include only relevant material. Unless otherwise indicated, maximum length of reports including tables, figures, and references will be six typed pages (double-spaced, 2.5 cm margins, minimum height of lower-case letters 2mm).

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Report Due Date:

All regular reports will be due two weeks after the assignment date. Late submission will be penalized at the rate of 10 % per calendar day unless prior permission is received. The due date for the final report is 4 April 2003. Reports submitted after 4 April 2003 will not be accepted for grading.

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Report Style:

Be concise. Use the active voice. Organize your thoughts before you begin writing. Omit needless or redundant words. Express your thoughts as clearly as possible even if it means re-writing the report. Write in your own words. Use quotations only when you cannot express the thoughts yourself. Never borrow a phrase without quotations. Never repeat observations, interpretations, or ideas without proper citation. Never cite a reference that you have not read. For scientific reports, follow the style of recent articles appearing in the journal "Oikos". For reports on problem sets, follow the instructions provided by the course instructor.

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Final Term Report:

Each student must submit an audit of the "State of Conservation in the Province of Ontario". Contents of the audit will be accumulated from each week's problem set. The audit should incorporate a balance sheet contrasting the "consumption" of resources and biodiversity by the people of Ontario, with the "surplus" saved for the rest of nature. The audit should include a one-page "exectutive summary" that highlights the key points and implications of the audit.

Each student must also submit a summary of their self-evaluation throughout the course. The summary should include weekly "scores" representing the student's understanding of material, contributions to discussions, as well as the student's contribution to solving the weekly problem set. These scores should be reported in a concise table with mean scores for each component in the final row. Students may also elect to attach a simple "journal" with no more than a single short paragraph describing their learning experience and contribution to each week's class. The total length of the self-evaluation must not exceed 6 double-spaced pages.

Each graduate student must present a class "lecture" chosen from the list of topics below. The list may be updated, expanded, or reduced by your instructor. Lectures should be designed as 30-minute presentations. In addition, each graduate student must submit a 1500 word"summary" of the lecture on or before 4 April 2003. The summary should be written in the style of the "boxes" commonly used in modern textbooks, or in the journal "Trends in Ecology and Evolution". Please scutinize published boxes to find a model that "works" for your theme. Your "box" must also include a list of key references used in preparing the summary.


Maximum length of the graduate-student term report including tables, figures, and references will be twelve typed pages (double-spaced, 2.5 cm margins, with a "Times New Roman 12" font).

The "lecture assignment" has several objectives. Some of the more important ones include: 1. To develop skills of self-instruction, communication, and teaching. 2. To help classmates learn about principles, concepts, and applications that may not be covered in lecture or in the course text. 3. To build a legacy of teaching boxes that can be added to the course materials in Forestry/Biology 4252. 4. To learn about new concepts, ideas, and applications. Please keep these objectives in mind as you prepare your lecture and summary report. General rules for the report include the following:

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Oral Reports:

Presentations and lectures will be given to the class throughout the term. Students making electronic presentations are required to make their own arrangements for appropriate video equipment (e.g., data projector and notebook computer). Be certain to rehearse your presentation before class to ensure that it is the proper duration. Presentations that are either too short, or too long, will be graded appropriately. Presentations will be graded primarily on content, and effective communication, not on style. Material presented by students will be considered part of the course, and students will be evaluated on that material in tests.

Evaluate the theme carefully and include only relevant material. Use visual aids in your presentation if appropriate (e.g., overheads). Concentrate on communicating the central message to your peers. Relate your lecture to recent material covered in class. Prepare to challenge your peers by making a list of important or unresolved questions you would like to see addressed. Can you articulate your perspective of the issues? Can you design a definitive study to test the underlying theory? What additional theoretical innovations are necessary to facilitate empirical tests or applications?

As much as possible, student lectures will be followed by class discussions. Students will be evaluated by the quality and consistency of their contribution.