BIOU9PO: Population Ecology and Conservation Applications

CO-ORDINATOR: Dr Nils Bunnefeld


Population ecology focuses on the dynamics of populations, the drivers of these dynamics and the effect of interactions with the environment. With the impact of humans on populations growing and an increasing pressure on wildlife populations it is essential to acquire knowledge and skills on the concepts and techniques necessary for the analysis, management and conservation of populations under pressure to halt the loss of biodiversity that is currently happening at an unprecedented rate. Together with the module on community ecology, this module will equip students with the technical skills necessary for the analysis and conservation of populations and how to make management decisions in a complex world. Better understanding the ecological processes that affect biodiversity and the provision of ecosystem services to humans is an important training for graduates in biological and environmental sciences.

Acquired Skills and course content

The Population Ecology half-module will be taught jointly by Nils Bunnefeld and Timothy Paine. The module proceeds from conceptual underpinnings to practical applications, and investigate the effectiveness of varied conservation practices.

The module will provide opportunities for students to develop the following specific areas of knowledge:

  • To understand population dynamics and what regulates them
  • To understand structured populations and develop matrix models
  • To explore populations in space and the rapidly evolving field of movement ecology
  • To build and predict metapopulation models and dynamics
  • To be able to understand and develop management strategies and tools for decision making in conservation


Autumn, Years 3 or 4, first half of semester


ENVU3EC: Introduction to Ecology

Teaching programme

Over the course of five taught weeks, there will be five one-hour lectures, five three-hour lab-based practical sessions, and five one-hour discussion sessions. The lectures will present the underlying ecological theory for one of five broad topics in population ecology. These will be concretized and made practical in the computer lab using the free R language environment. Finally, in the discussion sessions, students will read and contrast a few papers that synthesize the topic.


There will be weekly assessments based on the content of the practical and discussion sessions. At the end of the half-semester, a final exam will require the students to synthesize their understanding of the conceptual material with the practical applications.

Reading list

It is expected that students will familiarise themselves with the primary scientific literature. This will be facilitated during the course with ample reference to original research articles published in peer-reviewed scientific journals that will be discussed during lectures. Reference lists and PDFs of papers (where available) will be made available ahead of lectures.

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