BIOSCI 394 : Terrestrial Ecology and Conservation


2024 Semester One (1243) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Explores theoretical ecology from populations to ecosystems. Applies ecological theory to conservation management through a cross-disciplinary lens in the context of social and cultural values. Students will test theoretical hypotheses in the field, conduct an ecological site assessment for conservation management and learn to use population viability analysis to assess risks to threatened populations.

Course Overview

This course spans both theoretical and applied terrestrial ecology, emphasising that theory underpins conservation management. The course explores the front lines of experimental and theoretical population and community ecology, focusing on the interactions and environmental forces controlling the distribution, diversity and abundance of terrestrial populations of plants and animals. We explore conservation in relation to theoretical ecology, management, social science, economics and Te Ao Māori. Throughout the course, international and New Zealand examples are used to explore the fundamental processes shaping ecological systems and illustrate the practical realities of applying ecological knowledge to conservation problems.

The course has a focus on skill development for careers in ecology. Students should be prepared to participate in discussions and activities during the lectures. We have two one-day field trips in which we undertake fieldwork to 1) test theoretical hypotheses as researchers, and 2) conduct an ecological site assessment for a forest reserve, in the same way ecological consultancies might undertake such a survey. We also undertake a population viability modelling lab to understand the application of theoretical population biology in a simulation of how managers assess risk to threatened species.

This course is an excellent basis for progressing into the MSc in Ecology,  MSc in Biological Sciences, and in particular, MSc in Biosecurity & Conservation  

Postgraduates students completing this programme have been employed in a range of jobs in Dept. of Conservation, regional councils, museums, MPI, research institutes, ecological consultancies, or have progressed further into PhDs.

Course Requirements

Prerequisite: BIOSCI 206, 220

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: People and Place
Capability 2: Sustainability
Capability 3: Knowledge and Practice
Capability 4: Critical Thinking
Capability 5: Solution Seeking
Capability 6: Communication
Capability 7: Collaboration
Capability 8: Ethics and Professionalism
Graduate Profile: Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Explain how biotic and abiotic factors drive the distribution, diversity and abundance of terrestrial populations of plants and animals, and how ecosystems function at range of scales. (Capability 3, 4 and 6)
  2. Explain how theoretical ecological knowledge can be applied to conservation problems, and how disciplines other than ecology are critical for solving these problems. (Capability 1, 2, 5, 6 and 7)
  3. Develop and demonstrate skills in framing ecologically relevant questions and hypotheses and explain how these skills can be applied to conservation problems. (Capability 4 and 5)
  4. Critically evaluate evaluate primary ecological literature and assess the robustness of information from non-peer reviewed sources. (Capability 3, 4 and 8)
  5. Working effectively in a team in a team apply scientific methods to a research question in the field: develop research skills, including the ability to collect, synthesise and interpret data using numeracy skills. (Capability 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7)
  6. Communicate ecological concepts and ideas clearly and logically using language and formats appropriate for a scientific audience. (Capability 3, 6 and 8)
  7. Develop and communicate data and evidenced-based conservation management recommendations to stakeholders, taking into account cultural and social values and community context. (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8)
  8. Develop an understanding of compliance and health and safety issues, conservation ethics, and critically self-assess both academic performance and integrity. (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4 and 8)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Theoretical research field report 25% Individual Coursework
Research proposal seminar & compliance forms 20% Group Coursework
Population Viability Analysis lab report 10% Individual Coursework
Ecological site assessment report 25% Individual Coursework
Lecture Quizzes 20% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Theoretical research field report
Research proposal seminar & compliance forms
Population Viability Analysis lab report
Ecological site assessment report
Lecture Quizzes


Tuākana Science is a multi-faceted programme for Māori and Pacific students providing topic specific tutorials, one-on-one sessions, test and exam preparation and more. Explore your options at

For more information and to find contact details for the School of Biological Science Tuākana coordinator, please see 

SBS has specific Tuākana spaces for our students in the Old Biology Building opposite the Student Resource Centre. They are set up as a space where you can hang out, study without disruption, or connect with others. Our Tuākana coordinators are frequently nearby to answer questions you may have. 

Key Topics

Conservation and Indigenous people
Population ecology
Species diversity
Species interactions (herbivory, predation, competition, mutualisms)
Community assembly
Ecosystem ecology and function
Landscape ecology
Biodiversity loss
Managing small populations
Conservation ethics
Global climate change
Invasive species
Conservation management goals & outcomes
Ecological Restoration
Pest management strategies
Conservation in production landscapes
Conservation in urban landscapes
Landscape scale conservation
Systematic conservation planning

Special Requirements

  • Students will be expected to participate in two,  one-day field trips (approx. 830am-430pm) to reserves in the Auckland region. This is essential to being able to write the reports for assessment. Transport (bus) will be provided - for those with medical/accessibility requirements for self-driving, please contact the course coordinator to discuss options as parking is limited.
  •  Port-a-loo toilets are available at the fieldsite, but there are no shops so students must bring their lunch and adequate water. 
  • Fieldwork involves approximately 6 hours of outdoor research recording a number of ecological variables within forest. Fairly minimal walking is required (~1km) but the ground is uneven and could be slippery. This fieldtrip CANNOT be made suitable for wheelchairs – please discuss any accessibility issues with the course coordinator Margaret Stanley (, we are able to adjust for student needs. 
  • Some gear can be borrowed from the department (e.g. raincoats and gumboots) and accompanying persons and service/guide dogs may be able to attend – please contact course coordinator Margaret Stanley ( for more information about these or to discuss other access requirements. 

Workload Expectations

This course is designed so that a minimum (for a pass) of 150 hours should be spent on this course by students.

 Contact hours (56):

  •  35 lectures/tutorials
  • 16 hours field trip (2x 1 day) + 3 hour PVA lab
  • 4h group oral presentations

Highly recommended (for assessment support) but optional (12): 

  •  4h drop-in lab for statistical analysis
  • 8h group discussions (drop-in rather than entire time)

Non-contact hours: We expect you to spend reasonable amounts of time on internal coursework, ie. to make up to 150 hours on the course (these estimates include library/reading time). 

Coursework (82): 

  • Theoretical research field report = 20
  • Research proposal seminar & compliance forms = 15
  • Population Viability Analysis lab report =10
  • Ecological site assessment report = 20

 The remainder of the time should be spent reading and preparing for lecture quizzes. 

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is required in the lab and field to be able to complete the assessment for the course.
Lectures will be available as recordings but in-class activities to reinforce learning take place in lectures and may not be captured by the recording. Other learning activities including labs, fieldtrips, group discussions will not be available as recordings.

Please contact the coordinator Margaret Stanley ( if you have queries about attendance or wish to discuss accessibility issues.

Learning Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.

A course guide will be available on Canvas before the beginning of semester. 
Your main source of reading should be material published in the peer reviewed scientific literature. 

Health & Safety


Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

In response to student feedback, we now offer drop-in Zoom sessions throughout the semester to answer questions about assignments.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed for potential plagiarism or other forms of academic misconduct, using computerised detection mechanisms.

Class Representatives

Class representatives are students tasked with representing student issues to departments, faculties, and the wider university. If you have a complaint about this course, please contact your class rep who will know how to raise it in the right channels. See your departmental noticeboard for contact details for your class reps.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption, we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and course assessment continues to meet the principles of the University’s assessment policy. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator/director, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the university website for information about how to proceed.

The delivery mode may change depending on COVID restrictions. Any changes will be communicated through Canvas.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course students may be asked to submit coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. In exceptional circumstances changes to elements of this course may be necessary at short notice. Students enrolled in this course will be informed of any such changes and the reasons for them, as soon as possible, through Canvas.

Published on 31/10/2023 10:50 a.m.