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Outline: What is Conservation Biology?. Philosophy and Origins of Conservation Biology Conservation Biology Defined Contrast with Traditional Biology Conservation Biology as a Crisis-Oriented Science Conservation Biology as “Value Laden” Course Philosophy. Conservation vs. Preservation .

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outline what is conservation biology
Outline: What isConservation Biology?
  • Philosophy and Origins of Conservation Biology
  • Conservation Biology Defined
    • Contrast with Traditional Biology
    • Conservation Biology as a Crisis-Oriented Science
    • Conservation Biology as “Value Laden”
  • Course Philosophy
conservation vs preservation
Conservation vs. Preservation



sustainable use of natural resources





  • “Nature is the incarnation of thought. The world is the mind precipitated.”
  • “What is a farm but a mute gospel?”
  • “The greatest delight which the fields and woods minister is the suggestion of an occult relation.”
  • Argued for removal of technology from natural areas - hands off pristine wilderness
  • Enjoy nature for intrinsic value; leave it untouched.
  • “Environmentalists” of today – John Muir founded “The Sierra Club”.
  • “The first principle of conservation is development, the use of the natural resources now existing on this continent for the benefit of the people who live here now”
  • Utilitarian conservation ethic
the land ethic
The Land Ethic
  • “In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such.”
  • Not based on economics
historical conservation
Historical Conservation
  • Only the “utilitarian” ethic has been persuasive to those not already committed to conservation.
  • Most conservation efforts prior to 1960 were concerned with:
    • Land conservation – setting aside parcels of land for protection and public enjoyment.
    • Wildlife management of game animal populations to provide opportunities for hunting, fishing, and observation.

“Conservation biology seeks to integrate

evolutionary theory with environmental reality

to predict how an animal/population/species

will react to future/current changes, usually

human caused, in its environment/density/

distribution. Most importantly, whether it will

survive and what to do to prevent extinction.”

- Michael Soule, 1978

modern conservation biology
Modern Conservation Biology
  • Conserving endangered species
    • Demographic and genetic consequences of small population size, PVA, biology of small populations, manipulative techniques that enhance survival probability and design of nature reserves for particular species.
  • Conserving functional and structural aspects of important ecosystems
    • Diversity and stability of ecological communities, habitat fragmentation, landscape ecology, island biogeography, and restoration ecology
basic biology
Basic Biology
  • To what extent does mutualism structure ecological communities?
  • Is inbreeding depression due primarily to the expression of recessive deleterious alleles or to loss of heterozygosity?
  • What are phylogenetic constraints and to what extent do they determine the form of animals and plants?
conservation biology12
Conservation Biology
  • Basic biology
    • Identify a problem of interest, then select methods of investigation.
  • Conservation biology
    • Problems are chosen for us, must select methods of response (management) and identify what we need to know to select those methods.
spotted owls
Spotted Owls
  • How much forest is required to prevent extinction of the spotted owl?
type i vs type ii error
Type I vs. Type II Error
  • Null Hypothesis (H0): We do not need 1000+ acres to prevent extinction of the spotted owl.
  • Type I Error: Reject H0 when true.
  • Type II Error: Accept H0 when false.
crisis discipline
Crisis Discipline
  • Up to ½ of the Earth’s biodiversity will be lost in the next several decades.
  • We don’t have time to collect all the relevant information for all species.
  • Deciding to recommend further study is a decision. It is a decision that if there is a problem, we can still correct it later.
conservation biology value laden
Conservation Biology:“Value Laden”
  • Mission: Develop new guiding principles and technologies to allow society to preserve biological diversity before that biodiversity disappears forever.
  • Traditional scientific disciplines do not have missions
  • Is this a detriment to conservation biology?
    • Reading assignment on web.

Basic Biology

Population Genetics

Population Biology










Planning, Education

Law, Communication

Public Health,Engineering

Veterinary Science

Physical Environment


Geology, Physics


Social Environment

Economics, Sociology

Political Science

Anthropology, Philosophy

course philosophy
Course Philosophy
  • NOT tree-hugging 101
  • Objective: to apply principles of population genetics, population ecology, community ecology, and systematics to the conservation of biological diversity.
special role of biology in conservation
Special Role of Biology in Conservation
  • Provide rough and ready guidelines for decisions made with little data.
  • Identify what data will be most useful for future decisions.
  • Develop adaptive strategies that begin with information already available and build on it in a way to increase the chances of success.