University of Technology Sydney

91309 Biodiversity Conservation

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2022 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Science: Life Sciences
Credit points: 6 cp
Result type: Grade and marks

Requisite(s): 91154 Ecology
These requisites may not apply to students in certain courses. See access conditions.

Description

We are in the Anthropocene, a period of the Earth's history characterized by the dominant influence of human activity on the environment. Extinction of species throughout the world as a result of human activities is driving declines in native biodiversity, impacting on ecosystem functioning and modifying the provision of ecosystem services essential for human welfare. In this subject, students learn how to apply evidence-based, ecological science and skills to become experienced practitioners in the conservation of native biodiversity. Disciplinary knowledge and practical activities cover geographic and temporal patterns in biodiversity; global processes such as land clearing, catastrophic wildfires and the introduction of exotic species that lead to the extinction of native biodiversity; the arsenal of approaches that can be implemented for effective biodiversity conservation; the critical role of taxonomy for conservation; indigenous biodiversity knowledge; the biogeography of Australia’s flora and fauna; and the mechanistic links between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning and services. Students are asked to think critically and engage actively in research project design and fieldwork, with projects exploring plant-pollinator networks as well as patterns of change in vegetation across landscapes. Importantly, students have the opportunity to apply plant and insect identification skills in real-world environments. The overarching framework of this subject is a solutions-based approach for positive change for the natural environment.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

Upon successful completion of this subject students should be able to:

1. Explain geographical and temporal patterns in biodiversity; the global processes (e.g. land clearing, unprecedented wildfires and the introduction of exotic species) that can lead to the extinction of native biodiversity; and the critical role of taxonomy for conservation.
2. Evaluate the arsenal of approaches that can be implemented for the conservation of native biodiversity, and determine the most effective evidence-based approaches to ensure successful conservation actions.
3. Describe the biogeography of Australia’s flora and fauna with its contrasting patterns of extinction among evolutionary clades, and recognize the importance of indigenous biodiversity knowledge for contemporary conservation.
4. Explain the mechanistic links between biodiversity, ecosystem functioning and ecosystem services, and appreciate the different ways to value biodiversity.
5. Identify terrestrial Australian plants and invertebrates, apply identification skills in field survey work, and construct interaction networks between plants and their pollinators
6. Conduct statistical tests to analyse field-collected data, interpret the outcomes in relation to conservation objectives, and communicate the results in a scientific format.

Course intended learning outcomes (CILOs)

This subject also contributes specifically to the development of following course intended learning outcomes:

  • Apply: Illustrate the fundamental principles of biodiversity, ecosystem function, and the evolution of life on Earth. (1.1)
  • Analyse: Assess how ecological processes are influenced by human activity. (1.2)
  • Synthesise: Design interventions combining the principles of sustainability and conservation to support the protection and management of the environment. (1.3)
  • Apply: Demonstrate the application of research methods to design appropriate ecological field and laboratory studies to test scientific questions. (2.1)
  • Analyse: Investigate and critically evaluate scientific evidence and literature. (2.2)
  • Synthesize: Discover and hypothesize solutions to new and emerging environmental problems. (2.3)
  • Apply: Demonstrate proficient time management, personal organization, teamwork skills, data collection, laboratory skills, data handling, quantitative modelling, and computer literacy skills. (3.1)
  • Analyse: Select and use mathematical and statistical approaches to problem-solving and ethical decision-making for biological, ecological, and conservation purposes. (3.2)
  • Apply: Demonstrate the ability to reflect and make effective judgments about one's own work as a professional environmental scientist. (4.1)
  • Analyse: Evaluate and use appropriate technological and scientific skills to investigate ecological issues and use initiative to adapt to new situations. (4.2)
  • Synthesise: Appraise evolving concepts in environmental science, including mainstream and alternative sources of knowledge and technology, to enhance the application of scientific practice and skills in a professional context. (4.3)
  • Analyse: Examine and articulate the role of environmental science within local, regional, and global settings. (5.2)
  • Apply: Demonstrate an appreciation of historical and contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Knowledges relevant to environmental science. (6.1)
  • Analyse: Develop cultural awareness for ethical and respectful practices, and when developing community relations. (6.2)
  • Synthesise: Integrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledges, as both experience and analysis, into professional practice. (6.3)

Contribution to the development of graduate attributes

Graduate attributes

1. Disciplinary knowledge

Lecture and practical content covers comprehensively the fundamental disciplinary knowledge about biodiversity, conservation and sustainability. This knowledge underpins the subject’s primary aim: learning how evidence-based, ecological science can be applied to ensure successful conservation of native biodiversity. Disciplinary knowledge is actively and collaboratively applied in the development of professional laboratory and field research skills required by highly competent environmental scientists. Importantly, this subject is kept up-to-date each year with the inclusion of new information about biodiversity, conservation and events across the world that impact on the environment. In particular, disciplinary knowledge of fire ecology and bushfires is covered extensively.

2. Research, inquiry and critical thinking

This subject is designed to engage you closely in the learning process, by encouraging active and collaborative learning in laboratory and fieldwork. You pose a series of questions about biodiversity and collect data as part of a team in the field. You need to think critically about how to collect these data by utilizing your experimental design skills. In particular, you evaluate and use appropriate technological and scientific skills to investigate ecological questions. You ask questions of your data, apply sophisticated analytical techniques to provide answers about biodiversity patterns, and think deeply about how to interpret the patterns that you uncover in the context of conservation. During fieldwork you gain hands-on experience by applying recently learned plant and insect identification skills in survey work, a key requirement of many environmental jobs. These aspects of the practical work are particularly relevant for professional practice in ecological work that provides expert assessment for conservation projects and cases.

You are required to read a range of materials which are available on Canvas prior to coming to practical classes, reading material that provides context and discussion material for engaging in collaborative learning in the laboratory and field class environments. In particular, you are required to study a bespoke field identification guide to the plant species of the lower Blue Mountains prior to doing fieldwork, so that you can hit the ground running with the field vegetation survey in the region. You are also encouraged to engage beyond the classroom in further exploration of the relative impacts of a range of current human activities on native biodiversity, ecosystem functioning and ultimately their effects on human welfare.

3. Professional, ethical and social responsibility

You learn professional skills for the identification of terrestrial plants, insects and pollination networks between plants and animals. Your grasp of identification skills is assessed explicitly in laboratory quizzes and your ability to evaluate and discuss your findings in a meaningful scientific context are assessed in within-session written assessment tasks. These assessments require presentation of data and analytical outcomes as well as interpretations of emergent patterns. You receive personalised feedback right from the beginning of the session to its end, allowing for continual improvement over the course of the session. You are directly advised of the WHS issues related to working in field and laboratory situations so that you can perform required tasks safely and effectively.

4. Reflection, innovation and creativity

You learn how to consider the intellectual and practical features of this subject in your everyday life as a professional environmental scientist. This subject promotes ongoing reflection about the natural world with a continued desire to understand biodiversity, its role in the healthy functioning of ecosystems, and the benefits ecosystems provide for humans. Furthermore, since scientific theories continually shift as our understanding of the natural world deepens, and as this subject explores the changing and progressing nature of conservation theory over time, you gain an appreciation of the importance of continued learning in conservation science and its application to the real world. You are asked to be innovative and creative in your application of research methods to design appropriate ecological field studies to test questions about biodiversity conservation. Your creativity in building dichotomous trees to explain relationships among species based on observable morphological features is explicitly tested in the laboratory practicals.

5. Communication

You further develop your scientific, written communication skills that draw on the use of relevant literature, in the style of practicing environmental scientists. Written assessments are set to the professional standard of writing expected in many scientific careers. Your written work is critiqued by staff and feedback is provided to allow you to develop your communication skills. You are also encouraged to seek and make use of scientific literature throughout the course. The consultation practicals provide you with valuable opportunities to interact with experienced ecologists, conservation biologists and fellow students to discuss scientific methodology and theoretical ideas. You are asked throughout the course of the subject to investigate, critically evaluate and communicate scientific evidence. All topics related to the field trips and laboratory practicals are explored with you on request.

6. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledges and connection with Country

A key focus of this subject is an appreciation of and respect for historical and contemporary Indigenous knowledges of Australian biodiversity and landscape processes relevant to environmental science. Lectures and practicals integrate Indigenous knowledges into your learning of professional practice as a conservation scientist. In particular, Indigenous burning practices are an important component of disciplinary knowledge of fire ecology covered in this subject.

Teaching and learning strategies

Disciplinary knowledge drawn from research literature in the field of biodiversity conservation is covered in lectures and practicals. During lectures, you engage with the lecturer and each other in discussions about real-world conservation issues. For some lectures, readings will be provided that you can access, read and reflect on before the lecture, to facilitate these discussions.

In the practicals, you are trained in the identification of plants and insects using a broad range of fresh and preserved specimens available for your learning experience. These identification skills are applied in your fieldwork projects in the subject, and are skills vital to future employment in environmental sciences. You are particularly encouraged to discuss with your peers during the practicals about features of the specimens that are diagnostically helpful in identifying species. At the end of each plant identification practical, your skills are individually tested in a short quiz using unnamed specimens that you have previously learned how to identify in the practical. This approach immediately engages and reinforces your knowledge of biological characteristics used for identification. The lab quizzes demonstrate that you can complete assessment tasks individually to confirm integrity of out-of-class assessments. You will also have the opportunity to receive feedback on your learning before the census date.

You actively engage in the design of your fieldwork project examining plant-pollinator networks in a conservation setting. The ability to design such projects with care and diligence is actively sought by employers in environmental sciences. In your fieldwork, you collect your own data as a group using appropriate technical and professional skills. You work collaboratively in groups and must learn how to allocate tasks in an effective and equitable way to ensure all data are collected in the available time. You are encouraged to help each other with the fieldwork, data preparation for analysis and statistical and graphical analyses. Note that the assessment task based on the fieldwork is written up and submitted individually.

Content (topics)

• Geographical and temporal patterns in biodiversity

• Extinction of native biodiversity from global processes such as land clearing, catastrophic wildfires and the introduction of exotic species

• The critical role of taxonomy for conservation

• The range of approaches for the conservation of biodiversity

• Biogeography of Australia’s flora and fauna

• The importance of indigenous biodiversity knowledge for contemporary conservation

• Mechanistic links between biodiversity, ecosystem functioning and ecosystem services

• Different ways to value biodiversity

• Identification of terrestrial Australian plants and invertebrates

• Interaction networks between plants and their pollinators

Assessment

Assessment task 1: Applied Conservation Evaluation

Intent:

This assessment item addresses the following graduate attributes:

1. Disciplinary knowledge

3. Professional, ethical and social responsibility

6. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledges and connection with Country

Objective(s):

This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

This assessment task contributes to the development of course intended learning outcome(s):

1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 3.1, 6.1, 6.2 and 6.3

Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 35%
Criteria:

Correct identification to family and species levels of unnamed plant specimens; ability to use and design a dichotomous key; numerical proficiency; critical thinking; correct answers to questions that are either one-word answers, short-paragraph answers, numerical answers, or computer-generated graphs.

Assessment task 2: Pollination Network Analysis

Intent:

This assessment item addresses the following graduate attributes:

1. Disciplinary knowledge

2. Research, inquiry and critical thinking

3. Professional, ethical and social responsibility

4. Reflection, innovation and creativity

5. Communication

Objective(s):

This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6

This assessment task contributes to the development of course intended learning outcome(s):

1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 3.1, 3.2, 4.1, 4.2 and 5.2

Groupwork: Group, individually assessed
Weight: 35%
Criteria:

Correct answers to questions; numerical proficiency; critical thinking; data handling; statistical analysis; clarity of writing; appropriateness of presentation. All marking is criterion referenced, an assessment rubric is available, and clear information about assessment requirements is provided during the practicals.

Assessment task 3: Biodiversity Fieldwork Survey

Intent:

This assessment item addresses the following graduate attributes:

1. Disciplinary knowledge

2. Research, inquiry and critical thinking

3. Professional, ethical and social responsibility

4. Reflection, innovation and creativity

5. Communication

6. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledges and connection with Country

Objective(s):

This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6

This assessment task contributes to the development of course intended learning outcome(s):

1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 3.1, 3.2, 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 5.2, 6.1, 6.2 and 6.3

Groupwork: Group, individually assessed
Weight: 30%
Criteria:

Correct answers to questions; numerical proficiency; critical thinking; experimental design; data handling; statistical analysis; graphical presentation; clarity of writing; appropriateness of presentation. All marking is criterion referenced, an assessment rubric is available, and clear information about assessment requirements is provided during the practicals.

Minimum requirements

The Faculty of Science expects you to attend at least 80% of classes in this subject. You may not be eligible to pass the subject if your attendance rate is less than 80%. Attendance on the field trip to Lapstone is compulsory: acquiring data collection skills in a real-world environment is an integral part of learning in this subject. Active participation in data collection during all fieldwork (which includes fieldwork for the Pollination Network Report) is expected for you to be eligible to submit the Pollination Network Report and the Biodiversity Fieldwork Report.

Required texts

There is no required text-book for this subject.