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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Biological Sciences : Postgraduate

Postgraduate Course: Biodiversity Under Pressure (ECLG11004)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Biological Sciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryIn this course, the students will examine how global change impacts populations, species and communities and be equipped with empirical and modelling tools to quantify, forecast, and explore solutions to mitigate these changes.

Each week will consist of a lecture that teaches the theoretical foundations of population, species and community ecology, with an emphasis on quantitative methods and using a wide array of global change examples. We will also have practicals each week where the students will explore how to apply these methods to concrete, resource management, conservation and environmental change examples.
Course description Anthropogenic pressure on ecosystems and biodiversity has greatly accelerated over the past 50 years, with climate change, land use change, overexploitation, biological invasions and pollution being the main threats to biodiversity. Current trajectories and conservation goals are insufficient to achieve a sustainable use of nature, highlighting the need for transformative changes. Designing transformative changes requires a sound understanding of the mechanisms underlying population, community and ecosystem dynamics, and their response to these five main anthropogenic pressures. This course will provide students with the required theoretical and conceptual background in population and community ecology, to explore future global environmental responses to anthropogenic pressures and use models to test alternative management options to mitigate their consequences. Through modelling practicals and paper discussions, students will learn how to apply this knowledge acquired during the lectures to investigate population and community dynamics, and to research questions in the context of global change.

Topics covered in the course will include population demography, species distribution models, multi-species dynamics and interactions, community ecology (including community assembly models, network analyses and the quantification of community patterns), and ecosystem functioning. Practicals will be used to apply these concepts to understand the impacts of major anthropogenic changes on biodiversity at the population, species and community level. The capacity of students to synthesise this knowledge and apply the skills acquired through practicals will be assessed through a research grant proposal.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  30
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 20, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 40, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 136 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Grant proposal (100%)
Feedback Students will receive written and verbal formative feedback on their grant pitches.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Explain how anthropogenic environmental changes impact biological populations, species and communities at the local, regional and global scale.
  2. Design an empirical or theoretical study to quantify the impacts of environmental change on any level of biodiversity, and to explore management and mitigation options.
  3. Account for the complex links between drivers and impacts in the face of uncertainty in their research projects.
  4. Write and present scientific material to a specialist audience.
  5. Identify a research question that is pertinent to core aspects of this course and design a scientific methodology to answer it.
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills 1) Enquiry and lifelong learning: The students will be taught state-of-the-art approaches to address environmental change issues at the population, community and ecosystem level. Environmental change is one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century. This course will therefore provide the students the skills needed to conserve and restore nature, and move towards more sustainable use.

2) Aspiration and personal development: The combination of theoretical and conceptual lectures with practicals based on real-life examples will enable the students to develop their potential for applying quantitative approaches to evidence-based conservation. By writing, presenting and peer-reviewing grant proposals, this assessment will encourage the students to develop critical thinking while offering them the freedom to pursue their goals and opportunities to grow.

3) Outlook and engagement: The skills acquired during this course, including paper discussions and constructive criticisms on research grant pitches, will give the student the scientific foundation to engage with other scientists, communities and the world around them. These engagement skills will be further complemented by another course from the MSc programme, Professional Skills for Ecology and Evolution.

4) Research and enquiry: This course will combine theoretical lectures with practicals enabling the students to apply the learned theory and concepts, based on real data and published approaches, to apply state-of-the-art scientific methods to tackle concrete ecological issues resulting from environmental change. Their research and enquiry skills will be showcased through the mock research grant proposal.

5) Personal and intellectual autonomy: The formal course assessment will be a grant proposal, providing opportunity to both foster and assess the personal and intellectual autonomy to critically evaluate ideas, evidence and experiences from an open-minded and reasoned perspective. This will be reinforced through the pitching session, during which students will provide constructive criticisms to each other.

6) Personal effectiveness: Each week a new topic will be introduced, through both lectures and complementary practicals that provide opportunities for training in a diversity of skills, therefore enabling the students to develop their adaptive skill to new topics.

7) Communication: The course will include a formative assessment in the form of a grant pitch presentation to the class, to improve their communication skills while giving them the opportunity to interact in a productive fashion with each other by critically discussing their projects.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Guillaume Latombe
Course secretaryMr Alex Ramsay
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