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BIO3039 : Biodiversity Science and Management

  • Offered for Year: 2019/20
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Marion Pfeifer
  • Lecturer: Professor Stephen Rushton, Dr Aileen Mill, Dr Zarah Pattison
  • Owning School: Natural and Environmental Sciences
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


The module will present an overview of biodiversity science and the changing nature of global efforts to conserve it. It will introduce students to the sorts of decisions that will have to be made about biodiversity: what does society aspire to or will it settle for? It will also provide more detailed description and analysis of issues of conservation concern that School of Biology staff are involved with.

This is a research-led module consisting of contributions on research topics currently of interest to staff in the School of Biology. The approach is contemporary and critical, involving detailed scrutiny of the recent journal literature.

Outline Of Syllabus

Biodiversity is a contraction of biological diversity and to date it is typically considered at three levels: genes, species and habitats. As a result efforts to understand biodiversity have largely been concerned with describing, measuring (how many species, how much habitat etc) and cataloguing the components that are both of great interest to humans (e.g. charismatic species and habitats) and most easily identified. This has shaped the way that conservation has sought to conserve biodiversity.

The study and management of biodiversity is now at an important stage. First, our knowledge of its patterns across the globe is increasing rapidly. For example, our understanding of marine biodiversity has developed hugely, in both concepts and knowledge in recent years. Second, there is a similarly rapid increase in our knowledge of how complex biodiversity (the “variety of life”) is and how dynamic its processes are. Third, the focus of conservation science is moving from preservation to a more dynamic view of biodiversity as part of an interconnected human and natural system. This means that society will have to make decisions about whether it values biodiversity and, if so, what aspects are of most concern.

The module will: a) equip students with a knowledge of global issues in the study of biodiversity and how global conservation programmes and governance processes are responding to the deteriorating state of biodiversity; and b) explore research topics currently of interest to staff in the School of Biology, whose current areas of interest range from global conservation policy to wildlife diseases and saving species from extinction. It will explore what biodiversity is, global level approaches to its conservation, and case-specific examples of research informing practice.

Topics covered will be drawn from:
a) Why is biodiversity important and how our views conserving it have changed;
b) Large-scale patterns and processes of diversity, primarily of terrestrial and marine species and habitats;
c) Recent developments in our understanding of the complexity of biodiversity that includes functional traits, interactions and evolutionary potential;
d) Issues at the heart of science and policy, such as ecosystem services;
e) Domestication, agricultural biodiversity, wild relatives and food security;
f) Approaches to conserving diversity: application of ecological theory to conservation policy and practice of major international conservation organisations;
g) Global funding schemes: what are the priorities and where is the money going; and
h) What biodiversity do we want?

Specific topics that are researched by staff in the School will be selected from amongst the following:
- How global conservation policy informs action and vice versa;
- Prioritising conservation effort.
- Agriculture and biodiversity in UK: researching mitigation strategies
- Computer modelling and management of wildlife diseases and human wildlife conflict;
- Application of molecular genetics species conservation
- Integrating in situ and ex situ conservation
- Ecosystem services

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion14:004:00Computer assessment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion32:006:00Computer assessment preparation
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture151:0015:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion12:002:00Final exam
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion201:0020:00Revision for final exam (including revision of workshops)
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion12:002:00Computer assessment reflection
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops22:004:00Student-led workshops
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops13:003:00Student led workshop
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity14:004:00Debate session reflection
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity14:004:00Debate session preparation
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity13:003:00Debate session
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity312:0036:00Preparation for workshops and reflection on those completed
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study152:0030:00Study of lectures, ReCap, Blackboard etc.
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study151:0015:00Lecture follow-up
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study202:3050:00Directed reading - extending knowledge beyond lecture material
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study12:002:00Process workshop content
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Teaching comprises lectures and facilitated debates/workshops supported by directed reading and guided independent study and reflection. Lectures will be used to introduce current knowledge and approaches to many of the major topics that will be covered and this will be supported by directed reading of the significant literature to which students will be pointed. Workshops will provide the opportunity for students to develop arguments about applying scientific knowledge to decision-making on what biodiversity to conserve, and then to take into account other, non-scientific values of biodiversity.

As this area of science is very fast moving and the link between concepts, fieldwork and conservation practice is very dynamic, lectures will concentrate on presenting a framework of key principles, approaches and practices. This will be supported by reference to a range of challenging analyses and perspectives from the literature and students will be guided towards this further reading. As there will be a significant body of conceptually diverse literature for students to explore, it is important that they have adequate time to comprehend the material within the context presented during lectures, and to reflect on it (including revision time). Taken together this will provide a sound platform from which students can develop their own understanding of science and how it relates to biodiversity conservation programmes.

Workshops and the debate will help students analyse information, and then frame and articulate arguments in different contexts. This will give experience of detailed analysis of the science underpinning decisions that guide global conservation programmes, and then setting that understanding within a broader policy and public context.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1202A80N/A
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Case study2M20Computer-based in course assessment 4 pages
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The in course assessment requires scrutiny and understanding of information and then decision-making. In the exam, questions test for knowledge, logical thought and objective analysis. They will require application of skills developed during the workshop processes and the associated independent study and the knowledge provided in the lectures and gathered in directed reading.

Reading Lists