News & Resources

Courses That Change Your Life: Conservation Biology (BIOL 471)

Posted by Paul Wiemerslage | Mar 17, 2015

In the late 1970s a new discipline formally emerged from the ranks of older, more established fields like ecology, wildlife management and fisheries biology. The newcomer came to be called Conservation Biology, a study of “the biology of endangerment,” a science that was mission driven and value laden, intended to be employed practically and, if necessary, quickly to learn what steps were required to save endangered and threatened species, to restore small and declining populations, conserve genetic diversity, preserve and restore rare and critical habitats, and manage entire ecosystems to enhance biodiversity.

Few courses so fully and naturally capture Au Sable’s ethic of stewardship and creation care as Conservation Biology, where ethical questions like “Why save an endangered species?” are not inquiries about philosophical abstractions but biological and management realities. Few courses can address so directly the practical value of learning skills like population viability analysis, captive population management, measurement of genetic diversity, or estimations of community species richness. Few courses can so quickly and meaningfully connect the scientific facts and theories of a textbook or classroom to a problem that can be observed directly in the field.

Set at Au Sable’s Great Lakes Campus, Conservation Biology at Au Sable can bring students into direct contact with endangered species like Kirtland’s warbler, piping plover and Pitcher’s thistle, and the biologists who are managing them. Tom Smith, Associate Professor of Biology at Ave Maria University in Florida will be teaching Conservation Biology in 2017 and will provide students with an understanding of real conservation problems in biology and their connection to Christian faith.  As one student noted from the class, “Practicing modeling in the populations of organisms like real conservation biologists do was a good introduction to the real goings on in this field. Interacting with professionals in the areas we studied was interesting and helpful to get a real feel for what careers in these areas actually look like.”

Conservation Biology at Au Sable is a course that fully unites science, ethics and practice toward meaningful and inspirational goals in creation care. Together, that unity, meaning and inspiration creates a course that can change your life.