If these are questions that you find urgent, exciting, or otherwise fascinating, then you have come to the right class to explore these topics further. Recent studies estimate that as many as 10-50% of all species on Earth are at risk of extinction. Different anthropogenic activities such as land conversion for agriculture or the exploitation of natural resources such as fisheries and bushmeat pose major threats to biodiversity.

Ultimately, the threats facing species and ecosystems are driven by human behaviors and societal decisions. Finding solutions therefore requires the combination of the social sciences alongside ecology. Most of the material that we will cover in class will take the form of conceptual models linked to “lessons learned” from conservation successes or failures. The course will be centered on discussions and collaborative group work. In this course, you will also be introduced to key computational tools used by conservation scientists and you will apply these skills in your own projects.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, a successful learner will be able to:

  1. define biodiversity, describe trends pertinent to global biodiversity, and arguments to conserve biodiversity;
  2. critically review evidence for causes of biodiversity declines;
  3. evaluate different strategies to effectively mitigate biodiversity decline;
  4. discuss the use of science in conservation practice and consider the role of personal and social norms and values in conservation.

General information


  • Lecture: Seaver South Room 52
  • Lab: Seaver South Room 48
    • NB: If you ever need to join by Zoom, you can find the lecture or lab Zoom call information at the Sakai Zoom Pomona tab.

Schedule: Tuesdays & Thursdays, 9:35-10:50am PT, Labs Thursdays 1:15-5pm PT

Office Hours: My regularly scheduled office hours will be Tuesdays from 1:00-3:00pm. I am always happy to talk to you. You can find me at my office or lab. In case you’d like to use Zoom, I recommend giving me a heads up at my Calendly.

Prerequisites: Bio 41E (Intro Ecol & Evolutionary Bio w/Lab) or instructor permission

Readings: This course will use a combination of the primary literature, popular science books, and the free, online textbook Conservation Biology for All.

Student Well-Being: Our health, both mental and physical, is paramount. In an era where we are still impacted by COVID19, we must consider the health of others inside and outside the classroom. Class attendance is important, but if you need to miss class for health reasons, concerning symptoms, suspected COVID exposure, unexpected dependent care, technology issues, or other emergency reasons I will work with you. Let me underscore this: please make your decisions always based on health, safety, and wellness—yours and others—and I will work with you at the other end. Take any potential symptoms seriously; we’re counting on each other.

In addition to the course policies below, I prioritize your health and well-being. Physical or mental illness, personal crises, family care, and other responsibilities can strongly impact your ability to participate in this course. Please let me and/or staff in the Student Affairs or related offices know if any of these issues pose severe obstacles to you and we will work together to come up with solutions. I am also more than happy to work with you and a representative from Student Affairs in situations where sensitive information is involved.

Digital ethics: One of the tools we will use from time to time in this course is Zoom. To facilitate access, I will typically record Zoom meetings. I will inform students when recordings are in progress. I expect that students in my class will respect one another and my privacy. To that end, students will not record any other member of the class–including the instructor–without obtaining their consent in advance. Students will also not share information about other members of this course in any type of public fora, such as social media. As the instructor, I own the copyright to my instructional materials. These materials cannot be distributed in whole or in part to any person or entity other than other members of the current class without my prior written consent.

Course assessment

  • Discussion contributions: 10%
    • Weekly self-assessments: 5%
    • Article reflection questions: 5%
  • Lab and lecture assignments: 20%
  • Case study presentation and discussion facilitation: 20%
    • Case study presentation: 15%
    • Discussion facilitation: 5%
  • California county conservation analysis: 30%
    • Presentation: 10%
    • Report: 20%
  • Independent project: 20%
    • Presentation: 10%
    • Group report: 10%

As this course is a Speaking Intensive course and involves extensive student discussion in lecture and laboratory, I reserve the option to assign a failing grade if students have six or more unexcused absences.

Mutual expectations

What I expect from you

I welcome individuals of all ages, backgrounds, beliefs, ethnicities, genders, gender identities, gender expressions, national origins, religious affiliations, sexual orientations, ability - and other visible and non-visible differences. As an instructor, I strongly emphasize student agency; this class is your learning journey, and as such, I expect students to take leadership in their own learning and to keep track of assignments and examination dates. I expect we will respectfully consider differing opinions and engage in constructive discourse. As such, I expect that everyone will help create a collegial environment where all students feel welcome and their rights to learn are respected. Please refer to the Pomona College Student Code for official policy.

What you can expect from me

I will strive to provide an equitable and inclusive learning environment. My overarching goal is to help you succeed in your exploration of conservation. To that end, you can expect me to be responsive to your concerns about course content, delivery style, and suggestions on how I can improve this course.

A key component of my role as an instructor is office hours. During office hours, I am available to help you work through any problems, questions, or thoughts you have about the course. I am also more than happy to chat about broader questions such as career paths in conservation, next steps after Pomona College/the Claremont Colleges, or other topics of interest to you.

General course policies

Office hours, email, and class Slack channel: During office hours, I am available to help you work through any problems, questions, or thoughts you have about the course. If you would like to discuss a particular problem or topic that would benefit from preparation on my part, please give me advance notice via Calendly.

I have email boundaries and I encourage you to find your own. Mine include not answering emails after 6pm, or on weekends or holidays. Finally, I request that emails only be used for interactions that are truly one-on-one (e.g. requesting extensions to assignments or accommodations); in general, to help create an atmosphere of transparency and group learning, I request that questions about content and assignments be directed to the #bio104sp23 Slack channel in the Pomona College Division-II workspace.

Learning diversity & accommodations: Pomona College welcomes and accommodates students with disabilities. As your instructor, I care about you and your growth as an environmental scholar. If you encounter obstacles to your success, please let me know immediately so that we can work together to identify ways to overcome any limitations of current course design. If you feel you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in this class, complete course requirements, or benefit from the College’s programs or services, you are also welcome to contact the student accessibility resource office at your College to begin this conversation or to establish accommodations for this or other courses.

Below is a list of the relevant accessibility resource offices at each of the Colleges:

  1. Claremont McKenna College (CMC) Accessibility Services
  2. Harvey Mudd College (HMC) Disability Resources Office
  3. Pitzer College (PZ) Academic Support Services
  4. Pomona College (POM) Student Accessibility Resources and Services Office
  5. Scripps College (SC) Accommodations for Students with Disabilities
  6. The 7 College (7C) Student Disability Resource Center and 7C Student Disability Resource Center email

Writing center and student support services: I urge all students to make use of your home campus’ Writing Center and other student support services. A list of relevant resources in included below. For example, the Writing Center is a great resource to workshop and improve your writing whether that is for classwork, for public consumption (e.g. op-eds), graduate school or funding applications, or any other domain.

  1. CMC Center for Writing and Public Discourse
  2. HMC Writing Center
  3. POM Writing Center
  4. PZ Writing Center
  5. SC Writing Center

Late assignments: When assignments are handed in late without prior notice, I reserve the right to apply a grade deduction penalty (up to 1 grade reduction for each day late).

Academic integrity: Academic honesty is a core value of Pomona College and the Claremont Colleges. Plagiarism undermines academic integrity and is a threat to communal ethics. I will assign plagiarized assignments a failing grade and will report any instance of plagiarism to the College.

Course Schedule

Please note that this schedule is subject to change; this syllabus is very much a living document that will change to reflect the unique conditions of this semester. I reserve the right to exercise some flexibility in scheduling, usually in favor of giving more time to students.

Week Date Topic Resources Lab
1 1/17 Introduction to conservation biology & biodiversity overview Mace (2014); Sandbrook et al. (2019); Conservation Biology for All Chapter 2 Getting set up with RStudio.Cloud and R introduction
2 1/24 Measuring biodiversity & the global extinction crisis Myers et al. (2000); Pimm (2009); Ceballos et al. (2015) Exploration of the class California county biodiversity dataset
3 1/31 Why should society care? Defining ecosystem services. Conservation Biology for All, Chapter 3; Valuation of Ecosystem Services; McCauley (2006); Armsworth et al. (2007); Tallis et al. (2011); Cardinale et al. (2012) Observing habitats through nature journaling with Assistant Curator S. Moore of the Benton Museum; practice using binoculars
4 2/7 Describing extinction risk: the IUCN Red List and listing species for protection Akçakaya et al. (2018); Collen et al. (2016); Lindenmayer, Piggott, and Wintle (2013); Scott et al. (2005); Waples et al. (2013); The IUCN Red List: A Barometer of Life; ZSL video Biodiversity surveys
5 2/14 Consumer behaviors and habitat loss Lenzen et al. (2012); Conservation Biology for All, Chapter 4 - subset; Conservation Biology for All, Chapter 5; Mendenhall et al. (2014) Biodiversity surveys/work session for California biodiversity report
6 2/21 Protected areas as a tool in conservation Balmford and Whitten (2003); DeAngelis (2019); Geldmann et al. (2013); Kareiva (2010); Sarkar and Montoya (2011); Rasolofoson et al. (2015) Common pool fishery game
7 2/28 Over-exploitation as a threat to species Peres (2001); Pullin (2002), Chapter 6; Dirzo et al. (2014); Milner-Gulland et al., Chapter 5 in Conservation Research, Policy and Practice; Will the oceans ever run out of fish? California biodiversity final peer review, biodiversity survey at BFS
8 3/7 Environmental economics and conservation Guest lectures by Prof. Sahan Dissanayake. Readings will be posted at Sakai. California biodiversity short presentations
3/14 California county conservation report due
9 3/14 Week of spring break
10 3/21 Population dynamics in conservation Morris, Doak, et al., Chapters 1, 2, and 4; Simberloff chapter 6 in Conservation Science and Action Independent projects
11 3/28 Climate change Guest lecture by Prof. Nina Karnovsky, Conservation Biology for All, Chapter 8; Walther et al. (2002); TedEd video on phenology; Project BudBurst phenology video and an additional reading to be posted at Sakai. Independent projects
12 4/4 Introduced and invasive species MacDonald et al., Chapter 13 in Key Topics in Conservation Biology; Kimmerer (2000); Norton (2009); Seddon et al. (2014); Larson (2005) (optional) Independent projects (lab may be async this week)
13 4/11 Career paths in conservation Maya Higa and Michael Levin (4/11), readings will be posted at Sakai Independent projects
14 4/18 Pollution O’Neill (2018); Erisman et al. (2013); video on sampling stream macroinvertebrates; video on nitrogen pollution Independent projects
4/20 Inter-group peer review of report and presentation
15 4/25 Making conservation a success story Reddy et al. (2017); one of the following: Asensio and Delmas (2015); Blackman et al. (2017); Buechley et al. (2015); Clements et al. (2010); Poonswad et al. (2005); Saypanya et al. (2013) Independent project presentations and end of semester celebration
16 5/2 Course retrospective and end of semester celebration
5/3 End of semester
5/12 Group project report due

Reading list

Akçakaya, H Resit, Elizabeth L Bennett, Thomas M Brooks, Molly K Grace, Anna Heath, Simon Hedges, Craig Hilton-Taylor, et al. 2018. “Quantifying Species Recovery and Conservation Success to Develop an Iucn Green List of Species.” Conservation Biology 32 (5): 1128–38.

Armsworth, PR, KM Chan, GC Daily, PR Ehrlich, C Kremen, TH Ricketts, and MA Sanjayan. 2007. “Ecosystem-Service Science and the Way Forward for Conservation.” Conservation Biology 21 (6): 1383–4.

Asensio, Omar I, and Magali A Delmas. 2015. “Nonprice Incentives and Energy Conservation.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112 (6): E510–E515.

Balmford, Andrew, and Tony Whitten. 2003. “Who Should Pay for Tropical Conservation, and How Could the Costs Be Met?” Oryx 37 (2): 238–50.

Blackman, Allen, Leonardo Corral, Eirivelthon Santos Lima, and Gregory P Asner. 2017. “Titling Indigenous Communities Protects Forests in the Peruvian Amazon.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 114 (16): 4123–8.

Buechley, Evan R, Çağan H Şekercioğlu, Anagaw Atickem, Gelaye Gebremichael, James Kuria Ndungu, Bruktawit Abdu Mahamued, Tifases Beyene, Tariku Mekonnen, and Luc Lens. 2015. “Importance of Ethiopian Shade Coffee Farms for Forest Bird Conservation.” Biological Conservation 188: 50–60.

Cardinale, Bradley J, J Emmett Duffy, Andrew Gonzalez, David U Hooper, Charles Perrings, Patrick Venail, Anita Narwani, et al. 2012. “Biodiversity Loss and Its Impact on Humanity.” Nature 486 (7401): 59.

Ceballos, Gerardo, Paul R Ehrlich, Anthony D Barnosky, Andrés Garcı́a, Robert M Pringle, and Todd M Palmer. 2015. “Accelerated Modern Human–Induced Species Losses: Entering the Sixth Mass Extinction.” Science Advances 1 (5): e1400253.

Clements, Tom, Ashish John, Karen Nielsen, Dara An, Setha Tan, and EJ Milner-Gulland. 2010. “Payments for Biodiversity Conservation in the Context of Weak Institutions: Comparison of Three Programs from Cambodia.” Ecological Economics 69 (6): 1283–91.

Collen, Ben, Nicholas K Dulvy, Kevin J Gaston, Ulf Gärdenfors, David A Keith, André E Punt, Helen M Regan, et al. 2016. “Clarifying Misconceptions of Extinction Risk Assessment with the Iucn Red List.” Biology Letters 12 (4): 20150843.

DeAngelis, Donald L. 2019. “Modelling Protected Area Trade-Offs.” Nature Sustainability 2 (5): 358–59.

Dirzo, Rodolfo, Hillary S Young, Mauro Galetti, Gerardo Ceballos, Nick JB Isaac, and Ben Collen. 2014. “Defaunation in the Anthropocene.” Science 345 (6195): 401–6.

Erisman, Jan Willem, James N Galloway, Sybil Seitzinger, Albert Bleeker, Nancy B Dise, AM Roxana Petrescu, Allison M Leach, and Wim de Vries. 2013. “Consequences of Human Modification of the Global Nitrogen Cycle.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 368 (1621): 20130116.

Geldmann, Jonas, Megan Barnes, Lauren Coad, Ian D Craigie, Marc Hockings, and Neil D Burgess. 2013. “Effectiveness of Terrestrial Protected Areas in Reducing Habitat Loss and Population Declines.” Biological Conservation 161: 230–38.

Kareiva, Peter. 2010. “Trade-in to Trade-up.” Nature 466 (7304): 322–23.

Kimmerer, Robin Wall. 2000. “Native Knowledge for Native Ecosystems.” Journal of Forestry 98 (8): 4.

Larson, Brendon MH. 2005. “The War of the Roses: Demilitarizing Invasion Biology.” Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 3 (9): 495–500.

Lenzen, Manfred, Daniel Moran, Keiichiro Kanemoto, Barney Foran, Leonarda Lobefaro, and Arne Geschke. 2012. “International Trade Drives Biodiversity Threats in Developing Nations.” Nature 486 (7401): 109–12.

Lindenmayer, David B, Maxine P Piggott, and Brendan A Wintle. 2013. “Counting the Books While the Library Burns: Why Conservation Monitoring Programs Need a Plan for Action.” Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 11 (10): 549–55.

Mace, Georgina M. 2014. “Whose Conservation?” Science 345 (6204): 1558–60.

McCauley, Douglas J. 2006. “Selling Out on Nature.” Nature 443 (7107): 27–28.

Mendenhall, Chase D, Daniel S Karp, Christoph FJ Meyer, Elizabeth A Hadly, and Gretchen C Daily. 2014. “Predicting Biodiversity Change and Averting Collapse in Agricultural Landscapes.” Nature 509 (7499): 213–17.

Myers, Norman, Russell A Mittermeier, Cristina G Mittermeier, Gustavo AB Da Fonseca, and Jennifer Kent. 2000. “Biodiversity Hotspots for Conservation Priorities.” Nature 403 (6772): 853–58.

Norton, David A. 2009. “Species Invasions and the Limits to Restoration: Learning from the New Zealand Experience.” Science 325 (5940): 569–71.

O’Neill, Daniel. 2018. “Is It Possible for Everyone to Live a Good Life Within Our Planet’s Limits.” Vol. 8. The Conversation.

Peres, Carlos A. 2001. “Synergistic Effects of Subsistence Hunting and Habitat Fragmentation on Amazonian Forest Vertebrates.” Conservation Biology 15 (6): 1490–1505.

Pimm, Stuart L. 2009. “Extinction.” In Conservation Science and Action, edited by William J Sutherland, 20–39. John Wiley & Sons.

Poonswad, Pilai, Chumpol Sukkasem, Somnoi Phataramata, Sumsuding Hayeemuida, Kamol Plongmai, Phitaya Chuailua, Preeda Thiensongrusame, and Narong Jirawatkavi. 2005. “Comparison of Cavity Modification and Community Involvement as Strategies for Hornbill Conservation in Thailand.” Biological Conservation 122 (3): 385–93.

Rasolofoson, Ranaivo A, Paul J Ferraro, Clinton N Jenkins, and Julia PG Jones. 2015. “Effectiveness of Community Forest Management at Reducing Deforestation in Madagascar.” Biological Conservation 184: 271–77.

Reddy, Sheila MW, Jensen Montambault, Yuta J Masuda, Elizabeth Keenan, William Butler, Jonathan RB Fisher, Stanley T Asah, and Ayelet Gneezy. 2017. “Advancing Conservation by Understanding and Influencing Human Behavior.” Conservation Letters 10 (2): 248–56.

Sandbrook, Chris, Janet A Fisher, George Holmes, Rogelio Luque-Lora, and Aidan Keane. 2019. “The Global Conservation Movement Is Diverse but Not Divided.” Nature Sustainability 2 (4): 316–23.

Sarkar, Sahotra, and Mariana Montoya. 2011. “Beyond Parks and Reserves: The Ethics and Politics of Conservation with a Case Study from Perú.” Biological Conservation 144 (3): 979–88.

Saypanya, Santi, Troy Hansel, Arlyne Johnson, Annalisa Bianchessi, and Brooke Sadowsky. 2013. “Effectiveness of a Social Marketing Strategy, Coupled with Law Enforcement, to Conserve Tigers and Their Prey in Nam et Phou Louey National Protected Area, Lao People’s Democratic Republic.” Conservation Evidence 10 (2013): 57–66.

Scott, J Michael, Dale D Goble, John A Wiens, David S Wilcove, Michael Bean, and Timothy Male. 2005. “Recovery of Imperiled Species Under the Endangered Species Act: The Need for a New Approach.” Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 3 (7): 383–89.

Seddon, Philip J, Christine J Griffiths, Pritpal S Soorae, and Doug P Armstrong. 2014. “Reversing Defaunation: Restoring Species in a Changing World.” Science 345 (6195): 406–12.

Tallis, Heather, Taylor H Ricketts, Gretchen C Daily, and Stephen Polasky. 2011. Natural Capital: Theory and Practice of Mapping Ecosystem Services. Oxford University Press.

Walther, Gian-Reto, Eric Post, Peter Convey, Annette Menzel, Camille Parmesan, Trevor JC Beebee, Jean-Marc Fromentin, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, and Franz Bairlein. 2002. “Ecological Responses to Recent Climate Change.” Nature 416 (6879): 389–95.

Waples, Robin S, Marta Nammack, Jean Fitts Cochrane, and Jeffrey A Hutchings. 2013. “A Tale of Two Acts: Endangered Species Listing Practices in Canada and the United States.” BioScience 63 (9): 723–34.