Skip to main content


Biodiversity and Conservation

Module titleBiodiversity and Conservation
Module codeBIOM4049
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Ilya Maclean (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

The module takes you from the ecological theory behind biodiversity and conservation, through real examples of the challenges faced by those putting conservation into practice, with opportunities to put yourselves in conservationists' shoes during class discussion and presentations to the class  We also have visiting speakers covering issues such as adapting conservation to climate change, marine over-exploitation, and rewilding. In addition, you can choose two areas of interest, for a literature review, and for your own presentation to the class, giving you the opportunity to really get to grips with key topics in conservation and biodiversity, and helping you develop the skills that you will use later on, during employment or future research. Whatever your background, by the end of the module you should be thinking like a scientifically-informed conservation practitioner.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module deals with the key Biodiversity and Conservation issues and will contribute to an understanding of the scientific processes that underpin much of conservation and ecology. The module particularly focuses on global biodiversity, measuring biodiversity, threats to biodiversity and how biodiversity can be conserved.


This module will ensure that regardless of academic background you will have the appropriate understanding of the principles guiding conservation, and material covered in other master’s level modules, including the research project. However, the module will be delivered in such a way as to ensure that students who already have some background in the topics above will be provided with new ways of looking at the same material. Learning will be facilitated by field visits, discussion groups, seminars and allocated reading.


Researchers and the general public are increasingly aware of the serious decline in biodiversity which is now occurring and that this may have unforeseen consequences. However, conservation workers are frequently unaware of the general underpinnings of their disciplines or of the general principles and information that can be found elsewhere. This module aims to school you in these general principles and provide you with a sound understanding of them and how applicable they are to other disciplines. For example, you will be given an overview of the latest research informing climate change adaptation strategies for biodiversity conservation, and will critically consider how these can be applied in real-world contexts.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Discuss and evaluate key concepts in biodiversity
  • 2. Critically and independently assess literature related to a conservation issue and write a critical analysis

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Analyse and evaluate critically essential facts and theory across a sub-discipline of biosciences
  • 4. Analyse and evaluate critically and independently a range of literature relating to current research and advanced scholarship in the discipline and embed research-informed examples from the literature in written work
  • 5. Identify and apply, autonomously and with originality, appropriate methodologies and theories for solving a range of complex and demanding problems in biosciences
  • 6. Deploy autonomously established techniques of analysis, practical investigation, and enquiry within biosciences
  • 7. Evaluate in detail and critique approaches to our understanding of biosciences with reference to primary literature, reviews and research articles

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 8. Devise and sustain independently a logical and reasoned argument with sound, convincing conclusions
  • 9. Communicate very effectively arguments, evidence and conclusions in a range of complex and specialised contexts using a variety of formats to specialist and non-specialist audiences
  • 10. Analyse and evaluate appropriate information and complete a range of research tasks independently
  • 11. Evaluate own strengths and weaknesses in relation to graduate-level professional and practical skills, and act autonomously to develop new areas of skills as necessary demonstrating the skills and attitudes needed to advance own knowledge and understanding
  • 12. Reflect effectively and independently on learning experiences and evaluate critically personal achievements

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

The module will be delivered with face-to-face lectures, discussion sessions and field activities. Though the module’s precise content will vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover the following themes:

  • Global biodiversity, including an overview of where biodiversity is found and why it matters, extinction, and impacts and loss of biodiversity. Additional reading for discussion will be highlighted.
  • UK conservation, involving 3-4 sessions of interaction with UK conservation professionals, followed by discussion based on real conservation problems and solutions.
  • Global conservation, involving 2-3 sessions delivered by guest lecturers with subject-area expertise, followed by discussion that consolidates ideas presented in the lectures.
  • Day trips to local field sites to explore and discuss issues around nature recovery,  
  • Study week for preparation of assignments (presentation and literature review)
  • Global conservation mini-symposia. Through student led seminars and associated discussion a range of topics will be covered in relation to their threats to biodiversity and the consequences for conservation programmes, including:
    • Habitat loss and fragmentation
    • Climate change, Invasive species
    • Over-exploitation
    • Pollution: conservation priority setting (Red Lists and Hot Spots)
    • Extinction and extinction debt
    • Ecosystem services and sustainable use of biological diversity
    • Approaches to in-situ and ex-situ conservation
    • Stakeholders in the conservation of biodiversity

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching3Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching18Case studies – seminars given by guest speakers from a variety of organisations
Scheduled Learning and Teaching12Mini-symposia on global biodiversity and conservation
Scheduled Learning and Teaching14Field activities
Guided Independent Study103Additional reading, research and preparation for module assignments


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short answer questions during lectures, field visit, seminar and discussions groupsOngoing throughout the module1-12Oral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Critical synthetic report502000 words1-10Written
Oral Presentation5010 minutes + 2 minutes questions1-12Written


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Critical synthetic report (2000 words)Critical synthetic report (2000 words)1-10During an appropriate specified time period before the end of July
Oral presentation (10 minutes + 2 minutes questions)Oral presentation (10 minutes + 2 minutes questions)1-12During an appropriate specified time period before the end of July

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.


Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 50%) you will be required to submit a further critical synthetic report. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will count for 100% of the mark and will be capped at 50%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Sodhi N.J. & Erlich, Conservation Biology for all. Oxford University Press, 2010
  • K.J. Gaston and J.I. Spicer, Biodiversity: An Introduction, Blackwells, 2004.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Conservation, biodiversity, ecological theory, climate change, farmland ecology, overfishing, restoration ecology, protected area networks, ecosystem service provision, red lists, habitat loss, deforestation, pollution, habitat fragmentation, invasive species

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date