Course Information

CONS 101: Introduction to Conservation Science

Thursdays, 1:00 to 1:50 pm                                         

Rm 1005, Forest Science Centre



Dr. Jeanine Rhemtulla, Rm 3609, Forest Sciences Centre, e-mail: “jeanine.rhemtulla ‘at’”; Ph: 604.827.1785
          Office hours: Thursdays 2pm-3pm, or by appointment

Mr. Romain Belvas, Rm 3219, Forest Sciences Centre, e-mail: “rbelvas ‘at’”
          Office hours: by appointment

Ms. Lauren Nerfa, Rm 3612, Forest Sciences Centre, e-mail: “lnerfa ‘at’”
          Office hours: by appointment



Welcome to the Natural Resources Conservation Program and Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences!  We offer this 1-credit course to familiarize you with the field of Conservation Science, some of the faculty that will interact with you in the coming years, and some of the many pressing issues in our field.  We hope the lectures interest you, help you decide if the NRC program or a career in conservation is right for you, help you to become comfortable with faculty in the program, and encourage you to immediately look for experiences in your area of interest.

Those of you not registered in the Faculty of Forestry may find some of the activities in the course somewhat unrelated to your own studies. We hope your decision to take the class is rewarded by gaining an appreciation of what Conservation Scientists do and how the principles of conservation might be applied in your own field of interest. Because human social and economic systems are key drivers of environmental change, opportunities to enhance global and local conservation goals via economic, political and social policy are often close at hand.

Our course has several specific objectives, including:

1)      Introduction to several general concepts in conservation science;

2)      Exposure to faculty members and graduate students working in conservation science;

3)      Exposure to research opportunities in and outside of the Faculty of Forestry;

4)      Putting a “human face” on issues in conservation science and practitioners in the field;

5)      Provision of guidance on how you might organize your time as an undergrad to maximize your chances of obtaining interesting work in conservation.


This course is intended to provide you with an early exposure to some of the issues in conservation and the people that work on them daily, rather than to teach specific concepts or techniques in detail.  Testing and evaluation are de-emphasized, and rewards are provided for those seeking exposure to conservation-related issues by undertaking self-guided activities. Final marks are based on two short exams (30% each), a short assignment (35%), a guided field trip (5%), and then augmented by extra-credit points.  Self-guided activities (field trips. conservation-related volunteer work, etc.) have the potential to add substantially (10%) to your final mark.  Late assignments will be penalized 5% per day, unless discussed in advance with Jeanine or Romain, and assignments will not be accepted once graded assignments have been returned in class.

Assignment (35%)

The greatest driver of many of our conservation problems is unsustainable human use and consumption of natural resources. In this assignment, you will calculate your personal ‘ecological footprint’, assess its sustainability, compare it to footprints around the world, and find ways of reducing it. You will be asked to answer a series of questions about your findings, limited to about 1 page of single-spaced text. Detailed instructions will be handed out in class on September 29th.

Any papers that you cite in your assignment should be formatted in standard scientific format – consult the citation guide provided under the “Handouts” tab for examples. Your writing should also be professional and scientific in tone, as outlined in the guide to scientific writing.

Due date for the assignment is Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016.  Reports should be submitted as hard copies to Romain.

*** Materials for the assignment have now been posted on the Handouts page ***

Guided field trip to Pacific Spirit Park (5%)

We are fortunate at UBC to have an amazing forest park at our doorstep. Join Romain for a guided walk through this ecosystem to hear about the beaver ponds, forest stands from young to old, natural disturbance and succession, ecosystem services, invasive species, and First Nations history. This is a great opportunity to examine and discuss conservation issues in the field with an experienced ecologist. All students are required to sign up for and attend one trip, electronic sign-up will be done through Connect. Meet in the lobby of the Forest Sciences Building outside Room 1003, please arrive 10 minutes early as the group will depart right on time. Wear warm layers, hiking footwear (or good running-type shoes) and a rain jacket (consider mittens and a tuque if it’s cool and rainy). Bring water and a snack.

Electronic signup is available on Connect. Spots will be filled on a first-come-first-served basis. If you must cancel, please do so at least 24 hours in advance to allow someone else to take your spot. If you sign up but do not show up, you will lose your credit for the activity.

Self-guided ‘extra-credit’ activities

Self-guided activities related to conservation science can generate up to an additional 10% to be added to your grade.  These activities include hiking and camping, tours/lectures by groups such as the Stanley Park Ecological Society, Vancouver Natural History Society, Western Canada Wilderness Committee, Capilano Salmon Hatchery, or volunteer activities with conservation-related organizations.

To receive extra credit for these activities you will be required to write a brief report (1 pg, double-spaced) detailing your destination, topics discussed and one or two key ‘lessons’ that you’ve learned.  You must also provide positive documentation of your involvement in the activity (e.g. a picture of you on the trip with the group/guide, in front of a sign or other identifiable object, etc.) embedded in your 1-pg write-up.  In general, public lectures or half-day activities count as 2.5%, full-day activities 5%, and weekends 10%, depending on the potential for learning.  For those interested in learning about activism, environmental law or social aspects of conservation, which are important topics not emphasized in this course, consider approaching a group like Sierra Legal, Suzuki Foundation, Western Canada Wilderness Committee, World Wildlife Fund or other group about volunteer opportunities.

An extensive list of suggested self-guided activities and issues to consider while undertaking them is provided on this website. If you choose an activity that is not listed, please check in advance with Jeanine or Romain to (i) ensure that the goals of the trip match those of the course, (ii) determine how to document your trip and what you learned, and (iii) how much extra-credit might apply.

Please hand in a hard copy of your report(s) in class, anytime during the semester