Conservation Biology WIS4554/WIS5555

INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Lyn Branch
Office: 312 Newins-Ziegler Hall
Phone: 846-0564

Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday, 10:45-11:45 AM and at other times by appointment. My lab is on Archer Road , so it may be hard to catch me in my office outside of office hours. E-mail for appointments. 3:00-3:30 PM on Monday is a good time for an extra appointment (before departmental seminar).

TEACHING ASSISTANT: Santiago Espinosa (Office hours and location to be determined)

CLASS LOCATION and TIME: Newins-Ziegler Hall, Room 112; Tuesday and Thursday, 9:00-10:25 except the first day of class we will meet at 8:30 and exams will be from 8:30-10:25.

COURSE TEXT: Groom, M. J., G. K. Meffee, and C. R. Carroll. 2006. Principles of Conservation Biology. Third Edition. Sinauer Press.
(click on the text for a companion web site that includes web links to conservation organizations and other related sites, a glossary of terms used in the text, etc.)



Conservation biology is an interdisciplinary science that focuses on conservation of biological diversity at gene, population, species, ecosystem, landscape, and global levels. This discipline develops scientific and technical means for protection, maintenance, and restoration of ecological and evolutionary processes as part of biodiversity conservation. This course provides an overview of the discipline including the causes and consequences of biodiversity loss, established and emerging conservation approaches and strategies, and the ecological and evolutionary theory that underlies these approaches. The focus of this course is on ecological and evolutionary dimensions of conservation, rather than human dimensions which are covered in other courses, though the human component is a central part of class discussions on biodiversity threats and complexities of implementing science-based conservation policy and management . The course combines lectures, readings, in-class discussion, and a variety of writing exercises, with a special emphasis on critical thinking, problem solving, and global understanding. 

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

Finally, the course should be FUN!

Course requirements for WIS5555 that differ from WIS4554: Requirements are similar for WIS4554 and WIS5555 except for the following: 1) Students in WIS5555 are required to write a term paper. The paper is optional for students enrolled in WIS4554. 2) WIS5555 exams will have more readings from the primary literature (in addition to the reading required for WIS4554/WIS5555). See below. 

GRADING: A (94% or greater), A- (90%-93%), B+ (87%-89%), B (84%-86%), B- (80%-83%), C+ (77%-79%), C (74%-76%), C- (70%-73%), D+ (67%-69%), D (64%-66%), D- (60%-63%), E (<60%)

Important Dates and Deadlines

Sept. 8--Journal articles due -- 50 pts.
Sept. 22--First exam -- 200 pts.
Nov. 3 --Second exam -- 200 pts.
Nov. 17--Summary of current affairs due -- 50 pts.
Dec. 1 --Term paper due (optional for WIS4554, required for WIS5555) -- 200 pts.
Dec. 7--Third exam -- 200 pts., Extra credit seminar summaries due --5-15 pts.


See the webpage Course Schedule.


Readings required for both WIS4554 and WIS5555 are listed on the webpage under Course Readings. Links to readings also are provided with the Class Schedule.


Handouts are available for lectures from the class web site under Study Aids-Lecture Outlines and Other Handouts. Please print them and bring them to class with you each time. These handouts will help organize your notes!

EXAMS: total 600

Each of the 3 exams counts 200 points and will be designed to be completed in approximately one hour. However, exams will start at 8:30 so that you have two periods (almost 2 hours) for each exam. There will be no final exam.

REDUCE/RECYCLE!! Please save paper on ALL written assignments. Use recycled paper if possible (e.g., use paper that has something else printed on the other side), use the entire page (e.g., don't make a title page or leave large amounts of blank space between paragraphs or sections), print on the back if you have a printer that will do this and if you can't use recycled paper. Please do not put your papers in folders, but please staple all pages of your assignments together so that they don't get lost!

JOURNAL ARTICLES: 50 points total (10 points per article)

Conservation biology is one of the most rapidly growing fields of science. One of the best ways to keep informed of new ideas, development of new tools, etc., is to read scientific journals. Two of the most important journals in the field of conservation biology are Conservation Biology (the journal of the Society of Conservation Biology) and Biological Conservation. In addition to learning about conservation biology from reading these journals, you can get ideas about jobs (e.g., organizations where people do work that interests you) and graduate programs (e.g., universities where researchers are conducting research on topics you would like to study).

For this exercise, examine any 5 issues of these journals. Include some issues of each journal for a total of 5 articles -- or more if you are motivated! Read the most interesting article that you find in the issue. Report the following information for each of the 5 articles: 1) title of the article, 2) authors of this article, 3) institution with which the authors are associated (e.g., University of Montana, Environmental Protection Agency, etc.), 4) journal title, volume, and page numbers, and 5) a few sentences about why you found this article particularly interesting (total about 1/2 page for each article). See Important Dates and Deadlines for due date. (Grading for each article - parts 1-4 -- 1 pt. each, part 5 -- 6 pts.)

CURRENT AFFAIRS: 50 points total (10 points per article)

Each student will review 5 newspaper articles during the course of the semester that illustrate "real-life" examples of topics covered in class or in your book. For each article, you will provide (typed): 1) name of the newspaper and date (1 pt.), 2) a one-paragraph description explaining relevance of the article to principles of conservation biology (4 pts.), and 3) a short evaluation (one paragraph) of whether the public was informed appropriately by this article (e.g., Was accurate information provided? Were key points of view or key information omitted? Did the article present a fair assessment of the issues, or was it strongly biased? (5 pts.). See Important Dates and Deadlines for due date. Note: We prefer that you use paper copies of newspapers, but articles from online newspapers will be accepted. A goal of this exercise is for you to evaluate what the general public is learning about conservation issues. Therefore, sources for your articles must be newspapers that are widely available to the general public (e.g., Gainesville Sun, New York Times, Miami Herald, etc.). You do not need to submit copies of the articles.


The University of Florida is one of the outstanding centers in the USA for the discipline of conservation biology. Faculty and students from many departments conduct research on "cutting-edge" conservation issues and participate in development of conservation strategies at local, national, and international levels. Consequently, many opportunities exist for you to learn about conservation biology outside of class. One important resource is seminars given in a variety of departments (e.g., Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Biology, Center of Latin American Studies, etc.). Up to 15 points extra credit will be given for attendance at these seminars, five points per seminar. These points will be added to your total points for the course. Numerous seminars will be announced in class. Please let us know when you hear about a good seminar! Seminars for many departments also are listed on the web (see links on class web page). To receive credit for attending a seminar, you must prepare a one page summary (typed) with the following information: 1) subject of the seminar, 2) name of the speaker, 3) date and location of the seminar, 4) summary of key research questions (or hypotheses), methods, and conclusions, and 5) summary of how this seminar topic relates to conservation biology. To obtain credit, WIS5555 students must attend seminars outside their home department (because they already should be attending seminars there). See Important Dates and Deadlines for due date. The class web page provides schedules of some seminars.

TERM PAPER (optional for WIS4554, required for WIS5555): 200 points

If you do the term paper, your grade will be averaged over 900 points. If you omit the term paper (WIS4554 students only), your grade (including extra credit for seminars) will be averaged over 700 points. See description of paper under Study Aids on the web. See Important Dates and Deadlines for due date. I encourage WIS5555 students to work in groups (2-4 people per team) on the term paper. Ecosystem management plans, research papers, and other conservation documents usually are prepared by teams. This is a chance to share your expertise. NOTE: All term paper topics must be approved by the instructor.

UF requires the following on all syllabi:

Academic Honesty, Software Use, UF Counseling Services, Services for Students with Disabilities

In 1995 the UF student body enacted a new honor code and voluntarily committed itself to the highest standards of honesty and integrity. When students enroll at the university, they commit themselves to the standard drafted and enacted by students.

In adopting this honor code, the students of the University of Florida recognize that academic honesty and integrity are fundamental values of the university community. Students who enroll at the university commit to holding themselves and their peers to the high standard of honor required by the honor code. Any individual who becomes aware of a violation of the honor code is bound by honor to take corrective action. The quality of a University of Florida education is dependent upon community acceptance and enforcement of the honor code.

The Honor Code: We, the members of the University of Florida community, pledge to hold ourselves and our peers to the highest standards of honesty and integrity.

On all work submitted for credit by students at the university, the following pledge is either required or implied: "On my honor, I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid in doing this assignment."

The university requires all members of its community to be honest in all endeavors. A fundamental principle is that the whole process of learning and pursuit of knowledge is diminished by cheating, plagiarism and other acts of academic dishonesty. In addition, every dishonest act in the academic environment affects other students adversely, from the skewing of the grading curve to giving unfair advantage for honors or for professional or graduate school admission. Therefore, the university will take severe action against dishonest students. Similarly, measures will be taken against faculty, staff and administrators who practice dishonest or demeaning behavior.

Students should report any condition that facilitates dishonesty to the instructor, department chair, college dean or Student Honor Court.

(Source: 2007-2008 Undergraduate Catalog)

It is assumed all work will be completed independently unless the assignment is defined as a group project, in writing by the instructor.

This policy will be vigorously upheld at all times in this course.

Software Use:

All faculty, staff and students of the university are required and expected to obey the laws and legal agreements governing software use. Failure to do so can lead to monetary damages and/or criminal penalties for the individual violator. Because such violations are also against university policies and rules, disciplinary action will be taken as appropriate.

Campus Helping Resources

Students experiencing crises or personal problems that interfere with their general well-being are encouraged to utilize the university's counseling resources. Both the Counseling Center and Student Mental Health Services provide confidential counseling services at no cost for currently enrolled students. Resources are available on campus for students having personal problems or lacking clear career or academic goals, which interfere with their academic performance. The Counseling Center is located at 301 Peabody Hall (next to Criser Hall). Student Mental Health Services is located on the second floor of the Student Health Care Center in the Infirmary.

Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program (ASAP)

Center for Sexual Assault / Abuse Recovery & Education (CARE)

Eating Disorders Program

Employee Assistance Program

Suicide Prevention Program

Students with Disabilities

The Disability Resource Center coordinates the needed accommodations of students with disabilities. This includes registering disabilities, recommending academic accommodations within the classroom, accessing special adaptive computer equipment, providing interpretation services and mediating faculty-student disability related issues.

0001 Reid Hall, 392-8565,