Term Paper for Conservation Biology
(Term paper optional for WIS 4554, required for WIS 5555)
Goal: The goal of this project is for students to practice their critical thinking skills in an applied topic area of conservation biology. The project is an opportunity to creatively expand upon knowledge gained in class. The choice of topics and approach is left broad so that each of you can pick something that is of interest to you and perhaps facilitate your future work. I suggest that you do one of the following:
1) A conceptual model of the system in which you are working or plan to work (or a system chosen by your group). This will help put your thesis project in a larger context. Also, with increasing frequency, funding agencies are requiring conceptual models of problems for grant proposals. I would suggest that you choose this option.
2) A review paper.
Guidelines for these are below. In either case, I would encourage you to work in groups to produce one paper for the group. Most issues that you will address in a career in conservation involve working in groups comprised of multiple disciplines, multiple stakeholders, etc.
Conceptual model of a system
Making a conceptual model of an ecological/social system is useful to: 1) define key research questions for conservation, 2) put smaller pieces of research into a larger context, 3) be sure that research is focusing on critical problems, 4) make links between research and implementation of conservation strategies, and 5) develop strong arguments for funding. Previous students in this class have found that developing a model helps them develop their thesis proposal and write the thesis!
Wildlife Conservation Society has several good papers on developing conceptual models that they use to train field staff. I suggest that you follow their model. For the class, submit a diagram of your conceptual model (e.g., one or more diagrams with boxes and arrows) and a 3-5 page explanation of the key points of the conceptual model. If you already have defined your thesis research, be sure to indicate how this research fits into the model. If the class wishes, we also can have oral presentations and discussions of these models.
Format of the conceptual model: You should present a diagram of your conceptual model and then a maximum of 5-6 single pages of explanation (see the paper on creating conceptual models below for an example).
Paper on creating conceptual models - pdf
Paper on using conceptual models - pdf
Lecture on Conceptual Models - pdf
A review paper could take on a variety of forms including: 1) a critical review of recent literature on a topic discussed in class, or 2) a critical review of the literature summarizing application of a theory discussed in class to real world examples. We expect you to research your topic thoroughly and to be an expert on the topic by the time you begin writing your paper.
All topics should be approved by the course instructor or the TA (if we have one) prior to initiation of the project.
Format of the paper: The paper should be 5 to 6 pages (single spaced to save paper!), including a literature cited section with a minimum of 10 references. Please divide your paper into sections that represent major topics. Papers should follow the general style of papers in the journal Conservation Biology (essay style or style for a data paper, depending on your choice of topics) or TREE (Trends in Ecology and Evolution). Also, use the style of these journals for citation of references. I included TREE because this journal frequently has reviews of major topics in Ecology and Evolution, including some topics related to Conservation Biology. You should be able find good reviews as models in this journal. Grading will be based primarily on content (analysis and synthesis), but strong organization and writing also will be expected.
Sources: You may use the web to get ideas of important issues for the topic you have selected. However, your paper should be based on information from peer-reviewed journals (such as Conservation Biology, Ecology, Ecological Applications, and Biological Conservation), government documents, and other scientific documents. Citations of websites, newspapers, and popular literature are not appropriate unless these contain supplementary information critical to the paper (e.g., software described in a peer-reviewed publication). Also, you should use journals primarily rather than books. If you are unclear about which sources are peer-reviewed, primary literature, etc. discuss this with the instructor.
Start your paper early in the semester. Key literature may be checked out of the library and have to be recalled. Also, you may have to obtain materials from interlibrary loan.
We look forward to reading some very interesting term papers!!