International Nature Conservation - summer course – University of Copenhagen

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International Nature Conservation - Summer Course

M.Sc. / PhD level ECTS points: 7,5

Schedule: Week 31-33. Information for 2016 look here
Each day of the first two weeks involves approximately 7 hours of teaching. The teaching will be a mix between lectures, guest lectures, theoretical exercises, computer based exercises, role plays and discussion sessions. In addition there will be a one day symposium. After the third week the student will hand in an independent 5-page essay based on a predetermined exam title. 

Reading: A compendium of up to date primary research papers and the following free online text book: Sodhi, N. S. & Ehrlich, P. R. (2010). Conservation Biology for All. Oxford university Press. Pp. 344.

Admission requirements: One or more relevant courses in biology, conservation, human geography, biodiversity, international politics, or community based conservation.

Teaching language: English

Note that this is a three weeks intensive course and that long working hours is expected from the students

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Guest lecturers: As many of the conservation challenges are social, human, economic and political in nature the course will reflect this and will include lecturers from IFRO, Ministry of Environment, etc. Niels Strange, Hans-Henrik Bruun, Katharine Richardson, Finn Danielsen, Bjørn Hermansen, Jonas Geldmann.


Objectives: This intensive course aims to build on the bachelors' level course on conservation and will develop further understanding of international conservation and policy orientated science. The course provides the student with a solid understanding of the status of nature around the world, the diverse array of factors that influence conservation on the ground, and some of the responses that are being undertaken to reduce the loss of biodiversity, in particular through the use of international conventions and agreements. Guest lecturers will present material to show how the conservation of nature works in the real world, and where science fits into that process. Biology and biodiversity theory as presented in the Conservation course will underpin this advanced course, but it will also address the main conservation challenges of the day, such as climate change, biofuels, energy policy, the role of international conventions etc.

The course aims to provide a solid platform and set of ideas and issues for students to develop into a Masters in International Nature Conservation, or potentially continue onto a PhD or a career in conservation related work.


Structure and Content: This course will help students understand some of the key debates going on in conservation science at the present time. The themes to be addressed broadly follow the highest ranked on the responses in the paper '100 most important questions in conservation science' by Professor William Sutherland and others. This paper in Conservation Biology represents the collective wisdom of more than 700 active conservation scientists and conservation practitioners. As such it is regarded as a good basis for planning the elements of an International Nature Conservation Masters Course.

The module structure of the course follows the general framework of

  1. State of biodiversity, habitats and ecosystem services
  2. Pressures on species, habitats and ecosystem services 
  3. Human Responses to conserve species, habitats and ecosystem services

Much use will be made of papers and examples from around the world. Detailed themes follow issues such as:

  • Why should we measure trends in Biodiversity and how does this help us achieve conservation?
  • How do we balance conservation with the need to extract natural resources to support peoples livelihood and national economies?
  • How is general biological theory used in conservation?
  • Do we know which are the best ways to save nature?
  • How does biology interface with social science and politics to achieve conservation goals?
  • Are conservationists winning or losing the battle to save wild nature?

The course will contain examples from different geographical scales; from Denmark, the European Union and globally. Guest lectures will be invited to illustrate particular themes, and more especially to link the scientific base within the formal lectures to the real world situations on the ground and within national and international policy.



Knowledge, skills and competences: After taking the course, the student will gain an understanding of the state of the art in conservation science, focusing on the challenges that affect the planet and its biodiversity today, and what the world is doing about these challenges. The student will be able to distinguish between factors altering communities (climate change, nitrogen deposition, acidification, and shifts in grazing regimes), destroying habitats (cutting down forests, cultivating grasslands, trawling) or affecting species directly without necessarily destroying the habitat (bush meat hunting, fishing, wildlife trade). They will also be able to understand how different approaches (species protection, habitat management and nature reserves) differ, how they address other value-laden considerations (for example, are gorillas more important than worms) and their cost/benefit considerations (i.e. is it more important to have a costly program to secure the survival of a single charismatic species or is it better to focus on protection of habitats in general?).

By completing the course the student can: 

  • describe the status of wild nature on the planet 
  • describe the way that biodiversity and ecosystem services are changing, explain why this matters, and describe what the world is doing to try and address the declines that are seen
  • analyze the main scientific questions that conservation scientists are working with and the interface between biology and biodiversity, and social and political science and economics 
  • explain how economics and a consideration of ecological services may improve prospects for the conservation of biodiversity 
  • explain how climate change will impact the world's habitats, species, and ecological services 
  • evaluate how protected areas work in terms of conserving biodiversity 
  • analyze the real impacts of global development of the world's biodiversity 
  • evaluate the possibilities to manage or restore habitats to maintain their biodiversity 
  • evaluate the possibilities to manage species to prevent them becoming extinct 
  • evaluate the effects of conservation actions (field based, policy based) and the
  • evidence for the effects evaluate the political tools we have to assist conservation efforts and explain how they work


Exam: The course will be completed with each student handing in an individual 5 page essay based on a predetermined essay title relating to one of the overall topics. The titles will be handed out on the last day of teaching and the student will have a week to write the exam essay. The essay will be evaluated using the 7-grade scale and this will make up the final course mark. It is a requirement for passing the course that the students participate actively in the lectures and exercises. Internal censorship. Students will receive a grade according to the standard grading system within Copenhagen University, and will receive oral feedback from teachers on their course work during the teaching period and written feedback on their final essay.