BIOL378-20S1 (C) Semester One 2020

Population Ecology and Conservation

15 points

Start Date: Monday, 17 February 2020
End Date: Sunday, 21 June 2020
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Friday, 28 February 2020
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Friday, 29 May 2020


Advanced concepts in population ecology, especially those most relevant to the New Zealand region and to the conservation of the New Zealand biota. Topics include life history tradeoffs, dispersal and metapopulations, species interactions, population regulation, population modelling, management of populations, and issues for species conservation in New Zealand.

To teach advanced principles of population ecology and practical ecology skills in a New Zealand context.

This course covers population ecology (i.e. the study of single species, including their interactions with other species). We cover a range of current key topics, using NZ examples where possible, including:

• What controls life history?
• What limits spatial distribution?
• What controls abundance, and are populations regulated?
• How important are metapopulation dynamics?
• How does ecological knowledge help in conserving rare species?

We also emphasise practical skills with the field trip and in-term assessment focused on this. Additional reading of recent books and scientific papers is an essential complement to the lectures. Background in basic ecological principles is assumed. If at any stage you feel that you are missing some assumed background, see the reference materials listed below or talk to the lecturers.

Note: BIOL371 (Evolutionary Ecology) is highly recommended as a complimentary 15 point course.

Learning Outcomes

  • As a student in this course, I will develop the ability to:
  • Understand current topics in population ecology and their application to conservation (assessment: final exam)
  • Develop practical skills including species identification, experimental design, data analysis (assessment: field trip lab test; field trip short report)
  • Improve scientific communication skills, especially report writing and use of the literature (assessment: field trip short report)
  • Conduct field work safely (field trip preparation and conduct).

    Transferable Skills Register
    As a student in this course, I will develop the following skills:
  • Discovery, synthesis and interpretation of information. (Combining information from lectures, course readings, the literature, and field trip in discussions on the field trip and in all course assessment.)
  • Formation of hypotheses and explanations. (The field trip will include discussions of results as they come in, to develop hypotheses that can be expanded on in your short field trip report.)
  • Conducting safe field work in hazardous outdoor environments. (You will be given forms before the field trip which you will use to identify, eliminate, mitigate or minimize hazards.)
  • Knowledge of field sampling protocols for terrestrial ecology, and identification methods for plant and animal species.  (We will carry out a range of exercises to illustrate useful field methods; the field trip lab test will assess identification skills.)
  • Data analysis and interpretation. (Initial analysis of field trip data will be run on the trip, and appropriate further analysis methods discussed on site for you to use in your short reports.)
  • Writing a report in scientific format using text and graphs. (Initial graphs will be discussed on the field trip, and you will be given information about style, good graph design etc for use in your short reports.)


Timetable Note

Please note, the timetable above only indicates the three days of field trip. Students must attend the field trip 15-17 April. This includes an overnight trip to Kaikoura 15-16 April and a day on Campus on the 17th April.

Course Coordinator / Lecturer

Dave Kelly


Angus McIntosh


Assessment Due Date Percentage 
Final Exam 60%
Short practical test 10%
Short online lecture test 01 Apr 2020 10%
Short field trip report 10 May 2020 20%

Textbooks / Resources

Instead of a textbook, we will make specific research articles available through Learn.
For background, we recommend the current BIOL 270 text: Smith & Smith (2015) Elements of Ecology
(9th edition) or the 2019 text for BIOL270, Begon, Howarth & Townsend (2014) Essentials of
ecology 4th edition (copies in the UC libraries).


Feedback from previous Course Surveys
The last course survey was in 2017. Here are some points raised in it, with our responses.

There should be an option to sit the exam soon after the course work finishes as you forget most of the stuff by the time of midyear exams.
Response: This is not as simple as it seems. Only the lectures finish in Term 1. The field trip is in the April break, which produces data for the field trip writeup (20% of the assessment) with tutorials in the first two weeks of term 2 and the project handed in two weeks into Term 2. So the gap between finishing course work and the start of the exam break in June is only three weeks. Since there would be timetabling problems about finding a time to run an exam towards the end of Term 2, we have left the final exam in the June break. But we have introduced an online lecture test at end of Term 1 to get some of the lecture assessment out of the way while the material is still fresh.

Fantastic field trip and array of investigations was very beneficial. The short report was a good test for writing skills in comparison to some other longer report writing in other courses.
Response: Thanks for the comment, which we list here to stress that the short report is very concise (900 words). That is done to keep the workload suitable for a 15 point course, but note that you have to edit it carefully to fit your arguments into that short space. Allow some time for editing.

Tutorial sessions were really helpful for the report writing. In particular I found this particularly
useful for help with the statistics.
Response: Again, thanks, and we list that comment here to call attention to the tutorials in term 2, as help with stats is one of the key reasons we run those.

Additional Course Outline Information

Academic integrity

It is essential that you are aware that plagiarism is considered a very serious offence by the Academic community, the University and the School of Biological Sciences. Plagiarism is defined as taking content from another work or author and presenting it, without attribution, as if it is your own work. Content here includes text (sentences or major parts of sentences), display items (graphs and tables), and overall structure (the detailed sequence of ideas). Plagiarism includes:
• re-use of previous assignments (even if each individual sentence has been rephrased to say the same thing in different words, if the overall structure is re-used)  
• copying of another student’s work (with or without their consent)
• the unreferenced use of published material or material from the internet e.g. cutting and pasting of paragraphs or pages into an essay.
For most pieces of in-term assessment you will be given information concerning the use of direct and indirect quotes from previously published work. If you are in any doubt about appropriate use of published material, please speak with a member of academic staff. If you are still unsure what plagiarism is, then seek advice.

It is a School policy that courses may request you submit work electronically for subsequent analysis of originality using Turnitin. Students agree that by taking courses in BIOL, required papers may be subject to submission for textual similarity review to for the detection of plagiarism.  All submitted papers will be included as source documents in the reference database solely for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of such papers.  Use of the service is subject to the Terms and Conditions of Use posted on the site.

Assessment and grading system

A+ 90% or above
A 85 – 90
A- 80 – 84
B+ 75 – 79
B 70 – 74
B- 65 – 69
C+ 60 – 64
C 55 – 59
C- 50 – 54

A restricted pass (R) may be awarded to those who are close to a pass (i.e. an overall score of 48-49.9%) AND who have achieved at least a 40% overall score in both in-course assessment and tests/exams. If an R grade is awarded you gain credit for the course but cannot continue into papers that require this course as a pre-requisite. NB. The R grade is only available at 100 and 200 level - it cannot be awarded for third year papers.

Failing grades:   D   40-49             E  0–39


What if I have written more than the word or page limit?

If there is a word limit on an assignment, it is usually there to stop you doing too much work and to encourage you to write succinctly.  It also makes things easier to assess.  You can be up to 10% over without too much worry, but if the length increases beyond that your mark may suffer due to failure to follow the requirements.  If you find yourself way over the word limit have a chat to the lecturer concerned about how to trim your assignment to an acceptable length.

Requests for extensions

Reports and assignments should be handed in on time. Extensions may be granted if you have a valid reason. If you require an extension, you should request one from the course co-ordinator (or the lecturer responsible for marking the work), with as much notice as possible.  Please do this BEFORE the deadline for the assignment. If you have been given an extension you should hand the work DIRECTLY to the course coordinator (do not put it in the drop box as it may not be cleared after the due date).
If an extension has not been granted:
• work must be handed in by the due date to gain full credit
• work handed in up to 7 days after the deadline will be marked, but the marks will be discounted 25% before they are recorded to the student's credit
• any work handed in more than 7 days after the deadline date will not be marked or earn credit.

What do I do if I’m sick?

What do I do if I have to miss something or if my performance was impaired?
If you feel that illness, injury, bereavement or other extenuating circumstances beyond your control have prevented you from completing an item of assessment worth 10% or more of total course assessment or if these circumstances affected your performance in such assessments, you should apply for Special Consideration. Applications for Special Consideration should be submitted via the Examinations Office website and notify the course co-ordinator within five days of the assessment or its due date. If this is for medical reasons you should visit a doctor within 24 hours of the assessment (application form available on-line or from the Student Health Centre). The Special Consideration provisions are intended to assist students who have covered the work of a course but have been prevented by illness or other critical circumstances from demonstrating their mastery of the material or skills at the time of assessment – they do not excuse you from doing the assessment within a reasonable time agreed with the course co-ordinator. You should expect to be required to submit additional work if you miss a major assignment (e.g. a field trip for which a major write-up is required).

In rare cases you may not be able to complete an assessment or attend a field trip, because of involvement in international or national representative sport or cultural groups. In such cases you should also apply for Special Consideration. Please review the Special Considerations policy because very few kinds of activities will be eligible for consideration (e.g. holiday trips, birthday parties etc. are not given special status in the University policy).

Students prevented by extenuating circumstances from completing the course after the final date for withdrawing, may apply for Special Consideration for late discontinuation of the course. Applications must be submitted to the Examinations Office within five days of the end of the main examination period for the semester.

For further details on Special Consideration applications, please refer to the Examinations Office website

What if I fail part of the course?

In BIOL, we require a satisfactory level of achievement in both the theoretical aspects of the discipline and in practical activities. This means you must attend all class activities and submit all items of assessment unless you have a very good reason not to (e.g. medical reasons). A student must attain an average score of at least 40% for in-course assessments (e.g. assignments, reports) and an average score of at least 40% in the exam and/or test, AND score at least 50% overall for the course, to be awarded a passing grade. See course outline for clarification of the assessment items included in each category and ask the coordinator if you are still unsure.

What’s the best way to give feedback?

We welcome constructive feedback at all times – help us to make this a valuable course for you.  We endeavour to remain approachable at all times.  If you would rather give feedback anonymously, please use the on-line course survey or talk to lab demonstrators, or your class rep (who will all report back to the staff-student liaison committee that includes a representative from each of the undergraduate classes). Class representatives will be selected from each class at the start of course.

What’s the best way to complain?

If you feel you have not been fairly treated during this course, please raise the issue with the lecturer or course co-ordinator in the first instance.  Other avenues include your class rep., who can raise issues anonymously, or the UCSA education coordinator.

Where to submit and collect work

All assignments should be placed in the designated collection box in the foyer of the 2nd floor of the School of Biological Sciences (near the main office), unless directed otherwise by the course co-ordinator. All assignments must be accompanied by a cover sheet signed by you stating that the submitted work is not plagiarised. Cover sheets are available on top of the collection boxes, or you can download one from the Biology website (under Undergraduate). In addition, you may also be asked to submit your work electronically (via Learn) for analysis in Turnitin. You will be given instructions on how to do this in the assignment handout.

Marked assignments can be collected from the Secretaries' Office, unless directed otherwise by the course co-ordinator. Teaching staff will endeavour to return work as soon as possible, and should contact you if there are likely to be any delays that will prevent return within the maximum 4-week timeframe.

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $1,042.00

International fee $4,907.00

* All fees are inclusive of NZ GST or any equivalent overseas tax, and do not include any programme level discount or additional course-related expenses.

For further information see School of Biological Sciences .

All BIOL378 Occurrences

  • BIOL378-20S1 (C) Semester One 2020