Conservation Biology

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Hi Everyone

By now you have seen the two contrasting methods for determining how humans came to invade the World. This is in essence represents the start for the need for Conservation Biology, since from our earliest ancestors we have been interactive with nature, modifying it to suit our purpose to the point where we "make weather" and have probably almost irreversibly changed our Global Climates. The arrival of humans has caused the extinction of multitudes of species, we have changed the face of ecosystems so that they are unlikely to ever get back to what they were like in pre-human times. So this Ape wih Aptitude and Attitude has really shaken up things, but like the Pandora's box, there are things disturbed that ought best to have been left alone, and now there is a need to seek solutions to many of the problems that humans have brought upon themselves. For me this is Conservation Biology, a pro-active study that attempts to restore or mitigate and even counteract the actions that humans have done to the earth's ecosytems and its biodiversity. In seeking a "healing touch" there will scope for a huge amount of debate and possibly the most useful starting point is the use of the concept of the "Ecological Footprint". To put simply its concept indicates how much of the Earth's land surface is required to support one human with its natural resources (energy, water, waste etc). Obviously societies with higher standards of living will have bigger footprints, and the world's poorest societies the least. Calculated using national profiles, we can observe that the USA has easily the largest footprint, and while estimates vary it has been calculated that the USA today with 5% of the world's population uses almost 25% of the world's energy. In this course as we go through many facets of conservation biology - I would like to take a temporal - spatial analysis of such an ecological foot print from our very beginnings. You will be expected to be virtual global and time travellers and to anlysis this foot print and to debate what might have been prevented or its impact reduced had our forefathers had more foresight. Consequently 60% of the assessment will involve your contribution to this Weblog. At the end of the course I am expecting about 15 000 words of contribution during our journey. Since we are all training to improve our scientific skills it will be ncessary for you to support your contributions on the Weblog with "Peer-reviewed" scientific material with at least THREE scientific research papers cited and obtained electronically, I will show you how to upload your references to our FTP server and to create links to these. In addition for the first exercise I will ask you to generate a quiz on the Human Journey based on the video material and at least three peer-reviewed publications. You will be using Articulate Quiz maker for this exercise wich you will have to download from their website.

Allocation of Marks

10% Genetics Test

30% General Tests and Exams

60% Weblog Contribution in the form of essays submitted, I would like essentially weekly contributions very roughly based on the following video presentations.

Week 1

Mitochondrial Eve and Y Chromosal Adam (just summaries, three pier-reviewed articles and a quiz on either on of these two approaches, finally a contribution showing differences and similarities of the two techniques.

Week 2

Human Impact on the Ecosystems of Australia, North America and the Island of New Zealand. Select one and review how the humans had a major impact on the biodiversity (including extinctions) and changing the landscape.

Week 3

Agriculture and Iron/Bronze Age - settlements started to develop, domestication and cultivation start and the first mining for ores was undertaken. Evidence from Outze Man through to the Fabled City of Troy suggest that fabrication of goods and their trade was already well established. We exam the first cities, the first cultivation including breweries and the first wars which all started in Mesopotania.

Week 4

Growth of Civilization (Romans, Greeks, Indians) - all these cultures all built immense cities and Infrastructure.

Week 5

Exploration - colonization that started with the Colubus. Review of the impact this had on Native American Ecosystes both pre- and post-Columbian

Week 6

The Industrial Revolution through to the Biotechnology and Nanotechnology Revolution currently taking place.