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2023/24 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

BLGY5230M Conservation Decision Science

15 creditsClass Size: 15

Module manager: Dr Maria Beger

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2023/24

Pre-requisite qualifications

Knowledge in GIS or R from S1 modules or evidenced from previous experience to the MM.
Mathematical skills/ thinking will be an advantage.
Social or economics skills/ thinking will be an advantage.

This module is not approved as an Elective

Module summary

The module introduces conservation decision science in an interdisciplinary context that integrates mathematical approaches, ecology, and socio-economic considerations. It will develop skills in objective-driven decision making for environmental management problems, in social decision making in group-based negotiation, in mathematical approaches to decision making, and in spatial conservation planning. The focus of this module is on critical thinking, integrating across fields, and challenging oneself to combine common sense with appropriate decision-making tools.


This module aims to introduce decision science for conservation and environmental management. Using an interdisciplinary approach that combines mathematics, social science, ecology, and operations research, it will meet four main objectives:
1. Impart comprehensive knowledge in decision making for environmental management problems, ranging from ecological to social to economical factors;
2. Develop knowledge and skills in group-based negotiation/ decision-making, with focus on different roles that people can play in the process;
3. Develop knowledge and skills in mathematical approaches to decision-making, with particular focus on concepts and principals, not math
4. Develop knowledge and skills in spatial planning.

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module, students will be:
1. Familiar with the background in principles of objective-based decision making in conservation;
2. Have problem solving skills pertaining to setting conservation objectives and evaluating conservation problems;
3. Capable of basic mathematical thinking to understand principles of decision making, optimisations, and solving of decision problems;
4. Familiar with and skilled in group-based decision making and the different roles typically encountered when dealing with these situations;
5. Skilled in spatial conservation planning, both conceptually, and with a spatial planning tools;
6. Familiar with engaging in critical thinking and objective-based inter-disciplinary approaches when dealing with conservation and management.

Skills outcomes
Critical thinking;
Mathematical tools in decision making, including quantifiable objectives, optimisations, and algorithms
Social/ qualitative decision making and group negotiation;
Conservation problems and objectives;
Management goals and thinking of quantifiable conservation outcomes.


L1. Decision science basics – with objective setting prac
(Guided homework: what are models, algorithms, and equations)
L2. Stakeholders, costs, and social implications to make decisions: workshopping and negotiations
P1. Role play prac: groups of 8 doing role play to get to a decisions --> A1. Role play script (describe their role), process, and problem resolution
L3. Tools to make decisions: quantifiable objectives, adaptive management cycle, and monitoring
(Guided math homework: optimisations)
L4. Tools to make decisions: cost-benefit analysis
L5. Conversations: behaviour and decisions
L6. Structured decision-making processes
L7. Conversations: e.g. sharing vs sparing
L8. Spatial conservation planning: what is it, decision support tool Marxan
(Guided Marxan homework: Micronesia prac as prep for those who haven’t done it yet (will be expected knowledge))
L9. Spatial planning: corridors and connectivity
L10. Conversations: connectivity background: good vs bad
P2. Connectivity matrices: how do we make them and introducing decision support tool MarxanConnect (Guided homework: read and internalise background on graph-theoretic metrics)
P3. Objectives for connectivity
P4. Run example with spatial dependencies
A2. Scenario planning with Marxan and MarxanConnect – with focus on objectives and problem solving: report
Glossary: L = lecture, P = practical, A = Assessment

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Drop-in Session53.0015.00
Private study hours110.00
Total Contact hours40.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)150.00

Private study

Background study in conservation science, reading papers, working on assessment pieces.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Group ProjectGroup negotiation report of outcomes, combined with individual appraisal of each students’ role in the role play, abstract, and introduction session.40.00
Practical ReportIndividual practical report. Evaluation of Marxan Connect objectives and scenarios60.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 28/04/2023 14:48:04


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