Avian Biology and Conservation
This unit deals with the evolution, biology, and biogeography of birds and how evidence from these different research themes is utilised for avian conservation management. The unit will involve: an introduction to avian taxonomy and phylogeny; examination of the evolution of avian communication and life-history strategies; an introduction to avian biogeography and possible impacts of climate change and habitat modification; quantifying anthropogenic threats and avian extinction risk; human-avian population conflicts; and exploring possible solutions for applied avian conservation management such as habitat restoration schemes, agri-environment schemes and ecosystem services.
This unit provides an overview of the contemporary study of animal behaviour and applied animal behaviour, together with detailed case studies. The unit prepares you for further study or employment in animal behaviour and related fields by providing experience of research design and scientific communication. The unit is underpinned by evolutionary thinking and the four levels of analysis Niko Tinbergen put forward for the study of Animal Behaviour, namely development (learning), mechanism (neurological and hormonal underpinnings), function (how does it help an individual survive and reproduce?) and evolution (how did it evolve?).
You will undertake a novel research project and develop your skills in research design, analysis and scientific communication. We will provide an extensive list of projects in the field, laboratory and in the UK and overseas; or if you have your own project idea, we can help you develop it.
Practical Techniques and Analysis
The unit will provide an introduction to the techniques of data collection and analysis which are appropriate to the different MSc courses which we offer. They will be a mix of standard but essential methods and the more modern approaches based on new technology and bespoke methods of analysis. Students will be assessed in one of these techniques but can attend others, subject to space and timetabling.
Statistics and Research Design
This unit instructs students how to design specific studies and correctly interpret research output. the unit introduces a broad range of the statistical tools used by scientists, from formulating hypotheses, choosing the appropriate statistical test and carrying it out and presenting the data ready for publication. In this series of lectures and computer practicals, we will discuss approaches to experimental design and analysis using the modern statistical software R.
The field courses are the flagship components of our programmes where students will apply theoretical knowledge acquired in the taught units. Students will develop, execute, analysis and report on a small research project in the field. Currently you can choose between field courses to Ecuador (cloud and rainforest), Tanzania (Savannah and Highland forest) and Poland (Primeval forest).
This unit focuses on conservation actions that aim to reverse declines in threatened species. These include reintroductions of endangered or extinction species, ex-situ conservation breeding, post-release monitoring, habitat manipulation and biological control, and research underpinning knowledge of the causes decline and recovery priorities. The unit will draw on case studies from the tropics, and from species recovery efforts for UK and European plants and animals.
Likely Optional Units
Topics in Conservation and Sustainability
The unit will examine biological theory and environmental policy underlying the sustainable use of resources to maintain their productive capacity and protective function. Example topics covered include: harvesting; soil management; tourism; genetic modification; tragedy of the commons.
Topics in Organismal Genetics
Within the context of modern population genetics, this unit will introduce the application of molecular genetics tools to a range of problems in conversation biology and evolution. Equal emphasis will be placed on background theory, data handling and generation and surveying modern applied genetics through case studies and primary literature.
Earth Observation and GIS
This unit provides students with an introduction to the principles of Earth Observation and explores its role in data gathering (including recent sensor developments) and information extraction for GIS applications.