ESRM 350: Wildlife Biology and Conservation

This course is sponsored by the UW School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS) and the College of the Environment.

Quarter: Autumn 2016

Times: MWF 11:30-12:20 (lecture), M 12:30-2:20 (discussion section AA), T 1:30-3:20 (discussion section AB)

Locations: Winkenwerder (WFS) 201 (lecture); Winkenwerder 107 (discussion sections)

Course website:

Course listserve:




Aaron Wirsing (AW), School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (, Winkenwerder 101, (206) 543-1585,

Office hours: Wednesday 1:30-3:30 or by appointment


Teaching Assistant


Laurel Peelle, School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, Winkenwerder 110a,

Office hours: by appointment only


Course goal


This course is designed to provide a foundation of understanding in wildlife science for undergraduates in natural science disciplines (including Environmental and Forest Sciences, Biology, and Environmental Studies). I assume that you have a solid background in basic biology and at least some exposure to ecology and analytical methods.


Course objectives


My specific objectives for this course are to 1) introduce you to the science of wildlife biology; 2) increase your understanding of local, regional, and global wildlife conservation issues; 3) expose you to the primary wildlife biology and conservation literature; 4) improve your research and public speaking skills; and 5) prepare you for upper division wildlife science courses (e.g., ESRM 450, 458).


Teaching approach


The course will be lecture based, but will also include in-class discussions and exercises to promote learning via interaction between students and instructors.




There is no required text for this course. Notes for each lecture are available for download on the course website (see above).  I encourage you to download the notes before class and then embellish them during lecture.


“Five-minute” papers


Near the end of one randomly selected lecture per week, I will ask you to take a few minutes to reflect on the week’s topics and jot down an observation or follow-up question. These mini-papers will not be graded, but I will expect them to be thoughtful and will use them as the basis for your course participation grade.




There will be three in-class exams, each covering one-third of the course material (i.e., exams will be non-cumulative). All in-class exams will feature a short answer format and ask you to synthesize and critically evaluate course concepts. There will be no cumulative final exam.


Discussion sections


Students in each discussion section will be placed into groups, each of which will research and present a wildlife conservation story. The first discussion meetings (Oct 3 and 4) will detail the assignment, and I will also present an example conservation story. Subsequent meetings will be devoted to group formation and topic selection (Oct 10 and 11), research and preparation, a review of draft presentations (Oct 31 and Nov 1), and finally the talks themselves. Each group will be expected to give a 30-min PowerPoint presentation to the rest of the section with the following components: 1) introduction of the speakers; 2) introduction of the animal (natural history); 3) explanation of the conservation issue (what is the conservation problem/threat, and what parties are involved?); 4) synthesis of pertinent research on the issue (i.e., what does existing science have to say about the severity of the threat/problem, likely outcomes if the issue is left alone, possible solutions, and future research needs); 5) recommendation (what should be done next?). The presentations will be worth 100 points, and students will receive up to an additional 50 points for participation based on peer evaluation. Note, the TA (LP) and I will be available to assist with these conservation stories only during the discussion section meetings. Thus, though work on the stories outside of the discussion meetings is also encouraged, all students will be expected to be present for the full duration of all discussion meetings to work with their groups on the stories. Accordingly, all students will be expected to bring laptops to each discussion meeting; laptop rentals are available through the Odegaard Undergraduate Library (




Your final grade will be determined by the quality of your course participation (i.e., submission of insights/questions at end of each lecture and contribution to lab discussion), the three exams, and the group presentation.  Excused absences and prior notification are required to receive make-up exams. It is your responsibility to let me know that you will be unable to take an exam. If you fail to do so, you will not receive credit for the missed test.  Points will be assigned as follows:


Course participation: 100 points (50 for five-minute papers, 50 for group participation in discussion sections)

Exams: 100 points each (300 points total)

Group presentation: 100 points

Total: 500 points


Final grades will be assigned according to the following scale:


A = 3.5-4.0, 90-95+%, 450-475+ points

B = 2.5-3.4, 80-89%, 400-449 points

C = 1.5-2.4, 70-79%, 350-399 points

D = 0.7-1.4, 60-69%, 310-349 points

F < 0.7, < 60%, 0-309 points


Academic integrity

Plagiarism, cheating, and other misconduct are serious violations of your contract as a student. We expect that you will know and follow the University's policies on cheating and plagiarism. Any suspected cases of academic misconduct will be handled according to University regulations. More information, including definitions and examples, can be found at: <>
Disability accommodations

To request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact Disabled Student Services, 448 Schmitz, (206) 543-8924 (V/TTY). If you have a letter from Disabled Student Services indicating that you have a disability that requires academic accommodations, please present the letter to the instructor so we can discuss the accommodations needed for this class.


This course is offered in accordance with UW College of the Environment ( privacy ( and terms ( policies.

Lecture schedule





Course overview and introduction (AW)


Evolution: a brief review (LP)


Temperature regulation (LP)


Food and feeding (AW)


Habitat use (AW)


Habitat use (AW)


Animal movement (AW)


Exam 1 review (AW, LP)




Population characteristics (AW)


Demography and population growth (AW)


Demography and population growth (AW)


Reproduction and mating systems (AW)


Competition (AW)


Predation (AW)


Parasitism and disease (AW)


Wildlife communities (AW)


Exam 2 review (AW, LP)






Wildlife conservation: a brief history (AW)


Habitat loss and Fragmentation (AW)


Urbanization (AW)


Consumptive and non-consumptive exploitation of wildlife (AW)


Invasive species (AW)




Insularity (AW)


Global climate change (AW)


Exam 3 review (AW, LP)





Discussion schedule



Discussion Activity

10/3 (AA)

10/4 (AB)

Introduction; Formation of groups (WA species of concern lists); selection of case studies (LP)

10/10 (AA)

10/11 (AB)

Example conservation story, “The dingo: baby stealing pest or keystone species?” (AW)

10/17 (AA)

10/18 (AB)

Preparation for presentations

10/24 (AA)

10/25 (AB)

Preparation for presentations

10/31 (AA)

11/1 (AB)

Preparation for presentations; Presentation outlines ready for review by AW and LP

11/7 (AA)

11/8 (AB)

Preparation for presentations

11/14 (AA)

11/15 (AB)

Presentations (2)

Section AA: Gray Wolf; Fisher

Section AB: Western Pond Turtle; Grizzly Bear

11/21 (AA)

11/22 (AB)

Presentations (2)

Section AA: Sage Grouse; Marbled Murrelet

Section AB: Tufted Puffin; Burrowing Owl

11/28 (AA)

11/29 (AB)

Presentations (2)

Section AA: Cascades frog; Leatherback sea turtle

Section AB: Larch Mountain Salamander; Keen’s Myotis