Course Schedule

Submitted by C. Josh Donlan (inactive) on Tuesday, 1/19/2010, at 3:53 PM
This PDF includes readings (book chapters and e-reserves) for each week, along with topics.
Submitted by C. Josh Donlan (inactive) on Monday, 1/4/2016, at 4:24 PM

Spring 2010: BIO 48 – Seminar Conservation Biology
Josh Donlan, LSB 139,, x5247
Office hours
: Tuesdays 12-2pm & by appt. 227 McGuire Life Sciences Building Class: Tuesdays 2-5pm, Merrill 401

Optional: Science Magazine’s State of the Planet 2008-09. Edited by Donald Kennedy. AAAS.
Optional: Groom et al., 2006. Principles of Conservation Biology, 3rd edition. Sinauer
Optional: Fearn, E. and K. Redford. 2008. State of the wild: 2008-2009: A global portrait of wildlife, wildlands, and oceans. Wildlife Conservation Society & Island Press. Washington D.C.

In this class we will explore the vast field of biodiversity and environmental conservation. Biodiversity conservation now spans many disciplines, including ecology, economics, sociology, finance, and psychology. The format of the course will primarily be a discussion seminar. I expect all students to read, think, write, and talk extensively. Students will be responsible for spending extra time on disciplines they are less familiar with at times during the semester, which I will be willing to assist you with.

The majority of reading will come from the primary literature. All articles are available via e-reserves from the Bio48 website.  Chapters from the text(s) will also be assigned. Copies of each text are on reserve in the library (but I encourage you to pick up copies of the text).

Intellectual Responsibility—Plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty are a violation of the Amherst College Honor Code ( and will not be tolerated.  Plagiarism includes copying text directly from an article or book, as well as borrowing ideas from another source without appropriate acknowledgment (citation). If you are unsure, feel free to ask me or consult the following web page:

Your grade will be comprised of the following:
Weekly Homework (10%)
Quizzes (10%)
Discussion Leadership (15%)
Group research paper and presentation (15%)
Independent research paper (15%)
Oral presentation of research project (15%)
In-class discussion participation  (20%)
Case Studies (Extra Credit) 

 Weekly Homework (10% of your grade)
For all classes, you are responsible for reading papers carefully and interpreting the data and concepts presented.  Prior to each class you must submit the following (via CMS):  

  • At least 5 questions that you had about the paper(s).
  • What struck you about the paper(s) as particularly interesting, exciting, or disturbing.

Those questions should be submitted by 12:00 p.m. on the day of class. These should be thoughtful questions that can provoke discussion.

Quizzes (10% of your grade)
To incentive that you do the reading, there will four random quizzes on the weekly reading throughout the semester.

Discussion Leadership (15% of your grade)
Each student will be responsible for leading the class discussion once during the semester. This will be done in groups of 2-3.  I have already chosen the papers for each of these discussions, but you and your partner(s) may want to read a few additional sources that are relevant to the topic (I also suggest some background reading in the textbooks).  You and your partner(s) should distribute an outline of the topic to your colleagues at the beginning of class, present ~20 minutes of background information, and then offer a series of questions to facilitate the discussion.  You may distribute materials or use PowerPoint if you desire. You can also break the discussion into topical sections if you think that is appropriate. Each group should be prepared to lead a lively discussion for 1.5 hours. You are encouraged to come talk with me prior to leading the class discussion. At the least, students should email me their outline and discussion plans for feedback prior to the day of class.

Threat & Mitigation Group Projects: Due on February 16 (15% of your grade)
This group assignment will consist of a short research paper and PowerPoint presentation. You will work in groups of four. Guidelines for the paper and presentation are below. On Feb 9th, you will have the entire class period to work on this assignment, following a research presentation by Ms. Kimball, the Science Librarian.

Each group will tackle a major threat to biodiversity (see below). Each group will prepare a short paper and presentation that 1) defines the threat, 2) describes and categorizes its past, present, and predicted future impact on biodiversity, and 3) explores past and current strategies and methods to mitigate that threat. You will do so by reading the primary literature (you can use the Internet sources for information and background (e.g., Wikipedia), but references must come from the primary (published) literature. A good place to start is Google Scholar. Below is a list of journals that will be helpful in your research. Often it is helpful to search for papers at the website of a particular journal (in addition to scientific databases). The optional texts should also have helpful information for your research.

Journals you should be reading papers from (not an exclusive list):
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U.S.
PLOS-One (Public Library of Science)
Conservation Biology
Biological Conservation
Ecological Applications
Biodiversity and Conservation
Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment
Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics
Conservation Letters
Ecology Letters
Trends in Ecology and Evolution

Group Topics
Group 1: Resource over-exploitation (includes hunting & fishing)
Group 2: Habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation
Group 3: Exotic species (includes direct impacts and genetic pollution/hybridization impacts)
Group 4: Pollution & Disease (includes nutrient loading)

Research Paper

  1. Maximum length: 3,000 words (not including references)
  2. Minimum number references: 15
  3. DO NOT use websites as sources for your references
  4. Follow reference style from the journal Conservation Biology (
  5. Paper must include title, authors, affiliations, keywords (5), abstract (<300 words), introduction, methods, discussion, literature cited.
  6. Your paper will follow a review format. For an example see Howald, G., C. J. Donlan, J. P. Galván, J. Russell, J. Parkes, A. Samaniego, Y. Wang, D. Veitch, P. Genovesi, M. Pascal, A. Saunders, and B. Tershy. 2007. Invasive rodent eradication on islands. Conservation Biology 21:1258-1268. Available at
  7. Figures and/or tables are not required but encouraged.
  8. Paper is due at class on Feb 16. Each group will turn on one hard copy of the paper, 11-point font and double-spaced. Do not print double-sided for the research paper. Number you pages.

Group presentations will be 15 minutes long. Group presentations can have a single or multiple presenters, but everyone must contribute to the assignment (paper and presentation). The presentation should follow the research paper, highlighting your main points.

Individual Research Paper and Presentation: Prospectus due March 23; Paper due May 4 (30% of your grade)
You will have the opportunity to explore and research a topic of your choice, culminating in a final paper and presentation. I encourage you to choose a overarching theme covered during the seminar (or a related theme). Your research paper will identify a specific environmental challenge, explore current approaches to that challenge, and propose an improved solution(s) that is supported (at least partially) in the literature. Your solution must be S.M.A.R.T.: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.  You are encouraged to brainstorm with me in person and/or email on potential topics. A prospectus of your topic (maximum of 1 page) is due to me via email no later than March 23rd.

 Topics cannot be broad problems. Inappropriate topics include 1) exotic species, 2) climate change, or 3) over-hunting. Appropriate topics for a research paper on the topics just mentioned would include 1) impacts of invasive rodents on island ecosystems and their removal as a restoration tool, 2) the use of forest carbon projects as a tool for biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation, and 3) the status and impact of the bush meat trade in Africa. These are just examples. Other timely examples could include the recent climate meetings in Copenhagen, carbon offsets—do they work or are they a sham?, water markets in the US West, assisted migration, marine protected areas, transfrontier parks, convention on biological diversity, and conservation payment schemes.

Research Paper

  1. Maximum length: 4,000 words (not including references)
  2. Minimum number references: 25
  3. DO NOT use websites as sources for your references
  4. Follow reference style from the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment
  5. Paper must include title, authors, affiliations, keywords (5), abstract (<300 words), introduction, methods, discussion, literature cited.
  6. Your paper will follow a Concept & Questions format of the journal Frontier in Ecology and the Environment. See Mandel, J. et al. 2010. A derivative approach to endangered species conservation. Frontiers in Ecology & the Environment. In press. for an example (see e-reserves).
  7. Figures and/or tables are not required but encouraged.
  8. Paper is due at class on May 4. Turn in one hard copy of the paper, 11-point font and double-spaced. Do not print double-sided for the research paper. Number your pages.

Powerpoint Presentations will be 15 minutes long. The presentation should follow the research paper, highlighting your main points.

Extra-credit Case Studies

Submitted by C. Josh Donlan (inactive) on Tuesday, 1/19/2010, at 4:23 PM

Extra-credit Case Studies
You will have the opportunity to analyze a case study for extra-credit. These case studies explore a specific environmental problem and potential solutions – challenges not explicitly covered extensively in class. Case studies consist of a 2000-word (maximum) paper that synthesizes the readings below and provides an analysis of the problem and proposed solution. Students can do a maximum of two case studies. The papers below are not on e-reserve, and you will have to hunt them down yourselves.

Case I: Fisheries, MPAs, Social Capital, and Roaming Bandits
1. Cudney-Bueno, R., X. Basurto, and C. R. Mcclain. 2009. Lack of Cross-Scale Linkages Reduces Robustness of Community-Based Fisheries Management. PLoS ONE 4:e6253.

2.  Cudney-Bueno, R., L. Bourillon, A. Saenz-Arroyo, J. Torre-Cosio, P. Turk-Boyer, and W. W. Shaw. 2009. Governance and effects of marine reserves in the Gulf of California. Ocean & Coastal Management 52:207-218.

3. Cudney-Bueno, R., M. F. Lavín, S. G. Marinone, P. T. Raimondi, W. W. Shaw, and C. R. Mcclain. 2009. Rapid Effects of Marine Reserves via Larval Dispersal. PLoS ONE 4:e4140.

4. Berkes, F. 2007. Community-based conservation in a globalized world. PNAS: 104: 15188-15193

5. Berkes, F. et al. 2006 Globalization, roving bandits, and marine resources. Science 311: 1557–1558.

Case II: Invasive Species, Ecological Surprises, Law, and the Politics of Management
1. Roemer, G. W., C. J. Donlan, and F. Courchamp. 2002. Golden eagles, feral pigs and insular carnivores: how exotic species turn native predators into prey. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 99:791-796.

2. Roemer, G. W., and C. J. Donlan. 2004. Biology, policy and law in endangered species conservation: I. The case history of the island fox on the northern Channel Islands. Endangered Species Update 21:23-31.

3. Courchamp, F., R. Woodroffe, and G. Roemer. 2003. Removing protected populations to save endangered species. Science 302:1532.

4. Collins, P. W., B. C. Latta, and G. W. Roemer. 2009. Does the Order of Invasive Species Removal Matter? The Case of the Eagle and the Pig. PLoS ONE 4:e7005.

5. Roemer, G. W., T. J. Coonan, D. K. Garcelon, J. Bascompte, and L. Laughrin. 2001. Feral pigs facilitate hyperpredation by golden eagles and indirectly cause the decline of the island fox. Animal Conservation 4:307-318.

6. Roemer, G. W., and C. J. Donlan. 2005. Biology, policy and law in endangered species conservation: II. A case of adaptive management of the island fox on Santa Catalina Island, California. Endangered Species Update 22: 144-156.

Case IV: Biodiversity Offsets: Efficient market mechanism or license to kill?
1. Wilcox, C., and C. J. Donlan. 2007. Compensatory mitigation as a solution to fisheries bycatch-biodiversity conservation conflicts. Frontiers in Ecology and Environment 5:325-331.

2. M. Arnold, R. W. Henry, P. Sievert, J. Croxall, and D. Lusseau. 2008. Evaluating the Potential Effectiveness of Compensatory Mitigation Strategies for Marine Bycatch. PLoS ONE 3:e2480.

3. Donlan, C. J., and C. Wilcox. 2008. Integrating invasive mammal eradications and biodiversity offsets for fisheries bycatch: conservation opportunities and challenges for seabirds and sea turtle. Biological Invasions 10:1053-1060.

4. Žydelis, R., B. P. Wallace, E. L. Gilman, and T. B. Werner. 2009. Conservation of marine megafauna through minimization of fisheries bycatch. . Conservation Biology 23:in press.

5. Wilcox, C., and C. J. Donlan. 2009. Need for clear and fair evaluation of biodiversity offsets for fisheries bycatch. Conservation Biology 23:770-772.

Case V. Conservation Planning
1. Margules, C. R. and R. L. Pressey. 2000. Systematic conservation planning. Nature 405: 243-253

2. Soule ́, M. and M. A. Sanjayan M.A. 1998. Conservation targets: do they help? Science 279, 2060–2061.

3. Wilson, K.A., Underwood E.C., Morrison S.A. et al. 2007. Conserving biodiversity efficiently: what to do, where, and when. PLoS Biol 5, e223 doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050223.

4. Rodriguez, J.P., Taber A.B., Daszak P. et al. 2007. Globalization of conservation: a view from the south. Science 317, 755–756.

5. Chan, K.M.A., Shaw M.R., Cameron D.R., Underwood E.C., Daily G.C. 2006. Conservation planning for ecosystem services. PLoS Biology 4, e379.

6. Andelman, S.J., Fagan W.F. 2000. Umbrellas and flagships: efficient conservation surrogates or expensive mistakes? Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 97, 5954–5959.