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Syllabus: Wildlife Habitat Management

This course provides an in-depth exploration of wildlife-habitat relationships, illustrated through basic field zoology and natural history, evolutionary biology, and ecological theory. We introduce you to quantitative tools used to explain ecological processes and their influence on wildlife and their environment. We will examine the dynamics and management of various habitats in New England, North America, and elsewhere through field visits and use of primary literature. We will place particular emphasis on managing wildlife habitat in an urbanizing world. By one estimate, roughly 9% of the land area of the United States is in a zone of wildland-urban interface, but that figure rises above 60% for southern New England. In wildland-urban interfaces, homes intermingle with undeveloped wildland vegetation, and human activities can have profound impacts on animal species. Perhaps equally important, animals have the potential to affect humans, in both positive and negative ways. Human values, perceptions, and uses of open space become critical aspects of habitat management in wildland-urban interfaces. UMass campus provides us with a useful case study of managing habitat in places where people live and work. The campus is arguably the most ‘urban’ part of Hampshire County, with a residential population density higher than that of Springfield, MA and 6 of the 10 largest US cities. Yet, species like bobcats, fox, and peregrine falcons regularly occupy campus lands. In the lab component, students will work in teams to develop a habitat management plan for the UMass-Amherst campus. We will aim to provide real guidance to the Campus Sustainability Initiative and other long term planning efforts on campus. We will use a Team-Based Learning (TBL) approach in this class. Teamwork is an essential skill to learn in the field of wildlife habitat management. I am regularly asked to comment on former students’ skills at working in a team when I write letters of recommendation. In addition, I have seen that students working in teams perform better on quizzes and other exercises than even the highest performing students do on their own. In order to ensure fairness in grading, we will conduct regular peer evaluations of your team members, and these evaluations will contribute to the calculation of grades on all team-based assignments (see the section below on “Grading”). More information on TBL and the rationale behind this approach can be found at: http://www.umass.edu/ctfd/teaching/team-based.shtml
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