BIOL378-22S1 (C) Semester One 2022

Population Ecology and Conservation

15 points

Start Date: Monday, 21 February 2022
End Date: Sunday, 26 June 2022
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Sunday, 6 March 2022
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Sunday, 15 May 2022


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.)


BIOL209 and either (1) BIOL270 or
(2) BIOL274 and BIOL275

Timetable 2022

Students must attend one activity from each section.

Lecture A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Monday 13:00 - 14:00 Psychology - Sociology 252 Lecture Theatre
21 Feb - 3 Apr
Lecture B
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Tuesday 10:00 - 11:00 Ernest Rutherford 140
21 Feb - 3 Apr
Lecture C
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Wednesday 13:00 - 14:00 Beatrice Tinsley 111
21 Feb - 3 Apr
Field Trip A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Sunday 18:00 - 00:00 Kaikoura
4 Apr - 10 Apr
Tutorial A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Wednesday 13:00 - 14:00 Beatrice Tinsley 111
2 May - 15 May
Workshop A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Wednesday 09:00 - 17:00 Rehua 528
11 Apr - 17 Apr

Timetable Note

The course has lectures in only Term 1. There are no laboratories, instead there is a compulsory
field trip in the mid-semester break, which leads to two tutorials in Term 2 then the field trip report
is due. Check the UC timetables for timetable and room allocations.

The three-day field trip will teach practical skills in including identification, sampling, analysis and
writing. We will provide transport from Christchurch leaving 6:00 pm on Tues 6 April for two
days in the field in Kaikoura, returning to Christchurch evening of 8 April, with 9 April being
analysis on the UC campus 9am-5pm. More details will be given in Term 1.

Feedback from Course Surveys
The last course survey was in 2017.
Standard questions 2017
(n = 28, 88%)
Q1 - The materials provided helped me to understand what was required to
succeed in this course. 4.5
Q2 - The organisation of this course helped me learn. 4.4
Q3 - I found the workload was appropriate to the level of the course. 4.5
Q4 - I found the assessments appropriate for the course. 4.6
Q5 - Where I sought feedback on my assessments, I found it helpful. 4.3

Here are some detailed points raised in it, with our responses.
1. 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.
R: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 due in the third week of 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.
2. 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.
R:Thanks for the comment. The short report is very concise (900 words), to keep the workload
appropriate for a 15 point course, but note that you have to edit the text carefully to fit your
arguments into that short space. Allow some time for editing, and use the tutorials (see next
3. Tutorial sessions were really helpful for the report writing. In particular I found this particularly useful for help with the statistics.
R:Glad that worked out, we put those tutorials in place (in response to earlier feedback), specifically to help with stats and writing in the report.

Course Coordinator / Lecturer

Dave Kelly


Angus McIntosh


Assessment Due Date Percentage  Description
Final Exam 60%
Short practical test 10% During field trip
Short online lecture test 31 Mar 2021 10%
Short field trip report 10 May 2021 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).

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $1,071.00

International fee $5,173.00

* 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

  • BIOL378-22S1 (C) Semester One 2022