W4195 Marine Conservation Ecology



A figure from David Starr Jordan’s seminal work on Pacific fishes. Understanding the distribution of fishes is just one of the ways conservation biologists prioritize areas for conservation

In this class we will take a deeper look at some of the complexities of doing conservation biology work in the marine realm.  We will first examine the properties of water, both physical and societal, which make doing marine conservation special. We will then explore the challenges and threats facing both specific habitats and those that are more general to all marine realms. This class will draw from all marine ecosystems but we will have a special emphasis placed on coral reefs as they are the most diverse marine ecosystem, and my area of specialty. This course will be complementary to #G6905 Conservation Biology, and while there may be some overlap, this course will be fundamentally different, and it is therefore appropriate for students to take them both.



Joshua Drew, Instructor

[email protected]

(212) 854-7807



Tuesdays and Thursdays 10:10-11:30


Course Goal:

Working within a marine setting provides unique challenges to conservation biologists. Some of these challenges are physical owing to the properties of water, some are biological due to the differences in dispersal, connectivity and biotic spatial scales covered by marine organisms, and some are social, due to the myriad of legal and non-governmental entities having some sway over how people act on the ocean. This class will provide students with a strong foundation in the complexities of marine conservation biology.


Course Requirements:

Classes each week will consist of lectures on selected topics followed by discussion. The course will incorporate both student presentations and debates. Because of the interactive nature of the class, student participation is a critical component of the grade. This class does not fall on any Columbia recognized holidays and there will be no makeups. You will be responsible for all content covered in class.


Student participation:

Everyone in this class should feel comfortable to express an idea, even if the idea is not a popular one. We encourage intellectual controversy and believe it is how we learn best. We expect all students to abide by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences’ code of academic integrity ( or the Columbia College’s code of academic integrity ( Breaches of the student code such as cheating and plagiarism (that is, taking credit for the work of others) will not be tolerated, and any violation of the student code will be referred to the Dean’s Office.


Title IX makes it clear that violence and harassment based on sex and gender are Civil Rights offenses subject to the same kinds of accountability and the same kinds of support applied to offenses against other protected categories such as race, national origin, etc. If you or someone you know has been harassed or assaulted, you can find the appropriate resources at We also provide accommodations for students with documented disabilities; please check with to ensure I get notified if this is applicable. Lastly, I want to maintain a respectful atmosphere where students are free to discuss topics in a safe and collegial atmosphere. We will be covering some potentially contentious topics in class, discussion is encouraged, disrespect is not.


Course Evaluation:

This course will consist of lectures, discussions and active learning opportunities, thus class participation and readings are going to factor heavily in the grade. You will have six evaluations.

1) Students will participate in two debates. The first will be on the topic “Are species or ecosystems the best target of conservation?” while the second will ask “How (or even should) will we conserve present biodiversity in the light of climate change?” Students will be expected to state their feelings and defend those opinions in an intelligent manner when asked questions by other students and instructors

2 & 3) There will be two tests. They will consist of a combination of short answer and longer form answer

4) We will be assessing environmental documentaries as an exercise. Each Monday, one pair of students will present on a documentary they have watched that dealt with some aspect of coastal and estuarine ecology. The pair must provide the title of the documentary at least one week in advance so that the class as a whole can watch the video before the presentation on Monday (choosing videos that are available online, or on Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. will help facilitate the class’ viewing and discussion). Each pair will present the documentary to the class, explaining 1) the positive qualities of the documentary (ex. strategies they used to engage the audience, truthfulness of their message, etc.), 2) where it needed improvement, and 3) if any biases were introduced by the directors. Each student in the pair should think about these points independently: this will allow you to discuss differences in opinions, bringing multiple views to strengthen your presentation. Presentations will be capped at 10 minutes (strictly enforced).

In addition to presenting your chosen documentary, each student is additionally required to write a reflection on one video chosen by another pair. This assignment, which should be approximately 1500 words, should be a critical viewing of a video presentation. For this assignment choose at least two documentaries and compare and contrast their presentation styles, the hypotheses put forward (if any) and what evidence is used to support the main points. Importantly, use what you have learned in class to assess the quality, biases and kinds of science presented within the documentary. What was included, and as critically, what was omitted? Why do you think these choices were made? Lastly, did it change your views?

For those who are not familiar with critical viewing the following resources may be of some help

5 & 6) You will have a midterm and a final. These will be offset from the standard Columbia University calendar so that the assignments evaluate the information you have retained, not your ability to simultaneously study for multiple exams. Mental health is important.

Debate 1                                           15%

Debate 2                                            15%

Test 1                                                15%

Test 2                                                 15%

Class participation                             15%

Class project                                       25%


Course outline:

January 16th 2018

Introduction, the liquid environment, physical properties of water.


January 18th 2018

History of marine conservation. Royal fish, Beaverton and Holt, EEZs marine conservation in other cultures


January 23rd 2018

Marine biodiversity- scale, distribution, evolution.


January 25th 2018

Quantifying Biodiversity


January 30th 2018

Marine Protected Areas


February 1st, 2018

No Class


February 6th 2018



February 8th 2018

NGO Policy


February 13th 2018

Invasive Species


February 15th 2018

No Class


February 20th 2018



February 22nd 2018

Special Lecture by Jim Porter


February 27th 2018

Test 1


March 1st, 2018

Ridge to Reef


March 6th 2018

Gender in Fisheries


March 8th 2018



March 13th 2018

Spring Break


March 15th, 2018

Spring Break


March 20th, 2018

No Class


March 22nd, 2018

No Class


March 27th, 2018

Invertebrate ecology and conservation


March 29th, 2018

Zonation and invertebrate community biology


April 3rd 2018

Coral Reef Ecology


April 5th, 2018



April 10th 2018

Traditional Ecological Knowledge


April 12th 2018

Test 2


April 17th 2018

Debate 1


April 19th 2018

Debate 2


April 24th 2018

Final Presentations


April 26th 2018

Final Presentations


May 7th 2018

Final Paper Due



Final Exam



January 18th 2018

Barrett, James H., Alison M. Locker, and Callum M. Roberts. “The origins of intensive marine fishing in medieval Europe: the English evidence.” Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 271.1556 (2004): 2417-2421.

 Roberts, Callum M., et al. “Marine biodiversity hotspots and conservation priorities for tropical reefs.Science 295.5558 (2002): 1280-1284.



January 25th 2018

Mora, Camilo, et al. “How many species are there on Earth and in the ocean?.” PLoS biology 9.8 (2011): e1001127.

Drew, Joshua A., Kathryn L. Amatangelo, and Ruth A. Hufbauer. “Quantifying the Human Impacts on Papua New Guinea Reef Fish Communities across Space and Time.” PLOS One 10.10 (2015): e0140682.



February 8th 2018

Rose, Naomi A., and E. C. M. Parsons. ““Back off, man, I’m a scientist!” When marine conservation science meets policy.Ocean & Coastal Management 115 (2015): 71-76.

Gaines, Steven D., et al. “Designing marine reserve networks for both conservation and fisheries management.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107.43 (2010): 18286-18293.



February 11th 2018

Anderson, Lee G. “The application of basic economic principles to real-world fisheries management and regulation.” Marine Resource Economics 30.3 (2015): 235-249.

Melnychuk, Michael C., et al. “Can catch share fisheries better track management targets?Fish and Fisheries 13.3 (2012): 267-290.


February 22nd 2018

No class


March 1st 2018

Bergseth, Brock J., et al. “A social–ecological approach to assessing and managing poaching by recreational fishers.Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 15.2 (2017): 67-73.

Davis, Aaron M., et al. “Review and conceptual models of agricultural impacts and water quality in waterways of the Great Barrier Reef catchment area.Marine and Freshwater Research 68.1 (2017): 1-19.


March 8th 2018

Heymans, Johanna Jacomina, et al. “Global patterns in ecological indicators of marine food webs: a modelling approach.PLOS One 9.4 (2014): e95845.

Flynn, Kevin J., et al. “Ocean acidification with (de) eutrophication will alter future phytoplankton growth and succession.” Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 282.1804 (2015): 20142604.


March 15th, 2018

No class: Spring Break


March 22nd, 2018

No class


March 29th, 2014

Brown, Christopher J., and Rowan Trebilco. “Unintended cultivation, shifting baselines, and conflict between objectives for fisheries and conservation.” Conservation Biology 28.3 (2014): 677-688.

Bao, KJ* and Drew, JA (2017) Traditional Ecological Knowledge, Shifting Baselines, and Conservation of Fijian Mollusks. Pacific Conservation Biology 23(1) 81-87.



April 5th, 2018

Büscher, Bram, and Robert Fletcher. “Destructive creation: Capital accumulation and the structural violence of tourism.” Journal of Sustainable Tourism 25.5: ( 2017) 651-667.

Gallagher, Austin J., et al. “Biological effects, conservation potential, and research priorities of shark diving tourism.” Biological Conservation 184 (2015): 365-379.



April 12th 2018

Test 2



April 17th 2018

Debate 2


April 26th 2018

Final Presentations







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