FHL 568 | Summer B 2020

Marine Conservation Ecology

Credits: 9

Instructor(s): Dr. Jon D. Allen , Dr. Matthias Leu


Coastal communities are under increasing stress and new approaches are needed to train scientists to deal with current problems in marine ecology, conservation biology and the smart development of shorelines. The unusual density and diversity of marine protected areas on San Juan Island make this an ideal ‘natural laboratory’ for a field course exploring the consequences of protecting nearshore habitats for ecological interactions across trophic levels.

Our course bridges traditional divisions between taxonomic (vertebrate and invertebrate) and habitat specializations (terrestrial and marine) by giving students intensive training in four subdisciplines of biology: marine ecology, invertebrate biology, conservation biology and avian biology. This training is accompanied by a 3-week period of research projects testing the effects of marine protected areas on marine/terrestrial subsidies. Students will develop a spatially explicit index of near-shore development intensity and design and conduct cutting-edge experiments exploring the relationships between humans, birds, mesopredators, and marine invertebrates in exploiting and protecting shared coastal resources.

As an example of the type of field experiments that could be conducted, students might manipulate the landscape of fear by broadcasting predator vocalizations of bald eagles and dogs to deter gulls, foxes and raccoons from preying on marine invertebrates. During this type of field manipulation (or any number of others), we plan to make use of Raspberry Pi video cameras modified for field use, to simultaneously monitor human and wildlife activity along shore lines, on the water below the shore and on the land above the shore.

By the end of the course, students will have a working knowledge of fundamental principles of marine ecology and conservation biology, marine invertebrate and avian identification skills, experimental design and data analysis skills in R, an introduction to GIS, and significant experience in field data collection and manuscript preparation. All of this will occur in the context of human development on the island and with explicit testing of reciprocal interactions between marine and terrestrial ecosystems.

Photos by Jonathan Allen