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Course - MSc./PgDip. in Biodiversity and Conservation

Field work at the Lugduff stream, Wicklow Mountain National ParkThe course will be taught through a variety of methods: lectures, practicals, field-based learning, guided reading and discussion groups and web-based methods. A variety of assessment procedures will also be adopted - essay writing, oral presentations, web-based tests, examinations and assessment of dissertations. The approach will be to develop, progressively, a high degree of independent thinking and academic excellence in students completing the course, providing a smooth transition for those entering both directly from undergraduate degrees, and for those entering the course from industry.

Students studying invertebrate collections in South AfricaStudents will undertake individual research projects, both desk-based studies and experimental projects. A highlight of the course will be the residential spring field course based in South Africa, focusing on practical aspects of biodiversity conservation (the cost of this course is not included in the course fees).



Course Modules

Theoretical modules

Introduction to biodiversity

This module will act as an introduction to the whole MSc programme, and provide grounding in some of the key concepts. Topics covered will include the definition and measurement of biodiversity, the biodiversity hierarchy - communities, species, genetic diversity - biomes and eco-regions of the world, global biodiversity hotspots, and introduce the dynamics of biodiversity. Students will also be introduced to the critical evaluation of relevant scientific literature, developing key skills that will be required for all other modules.

5 credits

Introduction to conservation biology

This module will introduce the broad topic of conservation biology.  The main aims are to provide further basic theory to support modules which will follow, in particular focusing on the main principles underlying community and population ecology, conservation genetics and population dynamics and determine how they relate to the persistence of biodiversity. Threats to biodiversity and how these are assessed will be covered in general terms, though these will be further developed in later modules. The module will consider conservation options, including in situ and ex situ approaches.

5 credits

Practical environmental assessment

The application of successful management strategies requires a wide knowledge of the environment and the pressures on it. The overall aim of the module is to introduce students to environmental assessment legislation, processes and practical implementation through lectures, workshops, set readings and research activities. Specifically, the module will focus on Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Appropriate Assessment (AA), as well as other relevant associated legislation (e.g. Water Framework Directive, Flood Risk Directive).

5 credits

Human interactions with biodiversity

This module will explore how human activity can positively and negatively affect global biodiversity and the value of biodiversity to humans. Case-studies will be used to investigate biological impacts of habitat destruction and fragmentation, invasions by non-native species, pollution and climate change (the main current drivers of biodiversity loss).  The political ecology of human-biodiversity interactions will be explored, and mitigation strategies for reducing negative impacts considered.

5 credits

Impacts of environmental change on biodiversity

This module covers the scientific basis necessary to understand environmental (including climate) change from first principles. Topics include the biogeochemistry of carbon and nitrogen, ocean circulation, heat and mass transfer fundamentals, as well as the tools to read and comprehend the scientific literature providing evidence of changes occurring through time. Lectures on specific topics (e.g. paleoecology, ecosystem dynamics or biotic responses to climate change) and their wider significance will be developed through whole class discussions on their practical significance.

5 credits

Practical skills modules

Data handling and analysis

This module outlines the principles of data collection, coding and analysis within the context of research design, and provides a firm quantitative base with particular relevance to the research project. It includes an introduction to types of data, how data can be described statistically, and a series of methods used for extracting information from complex datasets. It also includes practical examples and illustrations of statistical applications to real-world research projects.  Introduction to modern, cutting edge analyses will be included in this course: e.g. Bayesian statistics, mixing models and multivariate approaches.

5 credits

Taxonomy, systematics and ID skills

This module will provide an introduction to the principles of systematics, the classification of biological diversity. Various species concepts and their application will be described, and the application of classical morphological approaches and modern molecular approaches will be compared. Part of the course will involve practical plan and invertebrate identification, as well as an individual project on the systematics of a particular group of organisms.

5 credits

Practical conservation skills

This module will present practical approaches to the study of biodiversity and its conservation.  The first part of the module will cover various practical aspects of biodiversity conservation, including practical habitat mapping using GPS, monitoring and various practical interventions, and will involve numerous site visits. The second part will involve training in GIS techniques. 

5 credits

Overseas field course

This will be a 13-day residential field course based in Welgevonden Game Reserve, Limpopo Province, South Africa.  The trip will be based out of the Wildlife Ecological Investments (WEI) camp located between the Main Gate and the WEI field coordinators house. The module will provide hands-on experience of wildlife ecology and conservation management.

5 credits

Project modules

Individual desk study

An independent, desk-based review of literature relating to a current topic of relevance to biodiversity and its conservation. A list of proposed topics will be circulated; however, there is also an opportunity for students to select a study of their choice in negotiation with the Course Director and a member of staff.

10 credits

Project planning

During this module you will select a research project title.  Workshops will be held to guide the development of key project management skills, and to initiate the process of literature review and development of methods in relation to the project. This will all be placed in the context of a grant application submission, related to the project title. The module will involve discussions with members of staff supervising project work.

5 credits

Individual research project

The research project provides students with an opportunity to pursue a topic in their chosen area of biodiversity and conservation biology in depth, to employ relevant skills (including research planning, literature review, experimental design, and statistical analysis) and to apply and develop their knowledge of research methods.  The nature of the project work may vary, with varying amounts of experimental work included.  There will be opportunities to carry out project work with collaborative institutions, including local authorities, the National Botanic Garden, National Parks & Wildlife Service, etc. 

30 credits

* Students may omit the individual research project to be awarded a Post-graduate Diploma, those wishing to obtain the degree of Master in Science must complete a four month individual research project.


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Last updated 18 December 2014 Natural Sciences (Email).