Conservation Biology

Discipline: Biology
Instructor: vonHippel
Credits: 3
Day: B
Start: 0925
End: 1040
Field Work: Day 2 | Hawaii, United States Download Syllabus

This upper-division course reviews the drivers of global environmental change (human population growth and consumption of resources), resulting environmental degradation, and tools to slow down or reverse environmental damage. The course begins with analyses of levels of biodiversity and species richness, and then covers concepts in demography, such as source and sink dynamics and population viability analysis. These concepts are then employed to understand major environmental problems, including habitat conversion and modification, climate change, eutrophication, acid rain, stratospheric ozone depletion, endocrine disruption due to contaminants, trade in threatened species, and biological invasions. Connections are explored between biodiversity and human health in a changing global environment. Interactions and synergisms between environmental problems are then illustrated via analysis of the global declines of amphibians, reptiles and primates. The final third of the course explores the conservation biology toolbox, including conservation genetics, island biogeography and the design of nature reserves, and environmental policy. Special attention is paid to conservation problems along the route of the Semester at Sea voyage.

Field Work

Country: Hawaii, United States
Day: 2

Hawaii has the highest known extinction rate in the world, and the most important driver of extinctions in Hawaii is invasive species.  More generally, invasive species tend to be more important than habitat loss in causing extinctions on islands worldwide, the opposite of the trend for mainland habitats.  Hence, there may be no better place than Hawaii to study the impact of invasive species and how the field of restoration ecology is used to repair environmental damage caused by invasive species.  We will visit the Keaukaha Military Reservation in Hilo and participate in the Hybrid Ecosystem Project in a low elevation forest.  Low elevation forests are rare in Hawaii, and those that remain are highly invaded by non-native plant species.  The forest at the Keaukaha Military Reservation has native species in the overstory, but native species are not regenerating well in the understory.  Here we will learn about the ecological mechanisms that make invasive species so destructive on islands and how specific techniques are used in restoration ecology of tropical forest ecosystems. The Hybrid Ecosystem Project utilizes a variety of tools, including employing mixtures of native and non-native plant species, each with its own ecological function.  Non-native species are selected based on features that should make them non-invasive.  Students will learn about this innovative research, and spend the morning in a service project.  Prepare to get dirty as we will be clearing, weeding and planting to help the project along.  Students will learn about the difference between restoration ecology and intervention ecology, and see the application of intervention ecology first-hand.  After lunch, we will visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to see more intact, native forest and to learn about invasive species in different forest types. Note: The weather will be hot, and the field trip will extend from 0800 am to 1800.  The first half of the day we will be working hard cutting, weeding and planting.  During the second half of the day we will be walking through rough terrain in intact forest.  Wear a thin, long-sleeved shirt and long pants, boots, and a hat.  Bring along rain gear and plenty of water. Academic Objectives:

  1. Gain hands-on experience in restoration ecology, with a focus on invasive species in lowland rainforest and some of the latest ideas of invasive species management.
  2. Gain skills in the taking of professional field notes and the subsequent integration of these notes into testable ideas on the theoretical framework of restoration ecology.