International Nature Conservation

Course content

This course will help students understand some of the key debates going on in conservation science at the present time. The themes to be addressed broadly follow the highest ranked on the responses in the paper '100 most important questions in conservation science' by Professor William Sutherland and others. This paper in Conservation Biology represents the collective wisdom of more than 700 active conservation scientists and conservation practitioners. As such it is regarded as a good basis for planning the elements of an International Nature Conservation Masters Course.
The module structure of the course follows the general framework of a) State of biodiversity, habitats and ecosystem services; 2) Pressures on species, habitats and ecosystem services and 3) human Responses to conserve species, habitats and ecosystem services. Much use will be made of papers and examples from around the world. Detailed themes follow issues such as: 1) Why should we measure trends in Biodiversity and how does this help us achieve conservation?; 2) How do we balance conservation with the need to extract natural resources to support peoples livelihood and national economies?; 3) How is general biological theory used in conservation?; 4) Do we know which are the best ways to save nature?; 5) How does biology interface with social science and politics to achieve conservation goals? 6) Are conservationists winning or losing the battle to save wild nature? The course will contain examples from different geographical scales; from Denmark, the European Union, and globally. Guest lectures will be invited to illustrate particular themes, and more especially to link the scientific base within the formal lectures to the real world situations on the ground and within national and international policy.


MSc Programme in Nature Management

Learning outcome

This intensive course aims to build on the bachelors level course on conservation and will develop further understanding of international conservation and policy orientated science. The aim of the course is to provide the student with a solid understating of the status of nature around the world, the diverse array of factors that influence conservation on the ground, and some of the responses that are being undertaken to reduce the loss of biodiversity, in particular through the use of international conventions and agreements. Guest lecturers will present material to show how the conservation of nature works in the real world, and where science fits into that process. Biology and biodiversity theory as presented in the Conservation Course will underpin this new course, but it will also address the main conservation challenges of the day, such as climate change, biofuels, energy policy, the role of international conventions etc. Many of the conservation challenges are social, human, economic and political in nature and the course will reflect this and will include teachers from LIFE. The course aims to provide a solid platform and set of ideas and issues for students to develop into a Masters in International Nature Conservation, or potentially continue onto a PhD or a career in conservation related work.

After taking the course, the student will gain an understanding of the state of the art in conservation science, focusing on the challenges that affect the planet and its biodiversity today, and what the world is doing about these challenges. The student will be able to distinguish between factors altering communities (climate change, nitrogen deposition, acidification, and shifts in grazing regimes), destroying habitats (cutting down forests, cultivating grasslands, trawling) or affecting species directly without necessarily destroying the habitat (bushmeat hunting, fishing, wildlife trade). They will also be able to understand how different approaches (species protection, habitat management and nature reserves) differ, how they address other value-laden considerations (for example, are gorillas more important than worms) and their cost/benefit considerations (i.e. is it more important to have a costly program to secure the survival of a single charismatic species or is it better to focus on protection of habitats in general?).




By completing the course the student can:

  • describe the status of wild nature on the planet
  • describe the way that biodiversity and ecosystem services are changing, explain why this matters, and describe what the world is doing to try and address the declines that are seen



By completing the course the student can:

  • analyze the main scientific questions that conservation scientists are working with and the interface between biology and biodiversity, and social and political science and economics
  • explain how economics and a consideration of ecological services may improve prospects for the conservation of biodiversity
  • explain how climate change will impact the world’s habitats, species, and ecological services



By completing the course the student can:

  • evaluate how protected areas work in terms of conserving biodiversity
  • analyze the real impacts of global development of the world’s biodiversity
  • evaluate the possibilities to manage or restore habitats to maintain their biodiversity
  • evaluate the possibilities to manage species to prevent them becoming extinct
  • evaluate the effects of conservation actions (field based, policy based) and the evidence for the effects
  • evaluate the political tools we have to assist conservation efforts and explain how they work.

Lectures, exericises, seminars. The lectures take 2 weeks. Each day of the two weeks involves approximately 6 hours of teaching. The teaching will be a mix between lectures, guest lectures, theoretical exercises, computer based exercises, role plays, and discussion sessions. In addition there will be a one day symposium. At the end of the course, the student hands in a 5-page essay based on a predetermined exam title. Note that this is a three weeks intensive course and that long working hours is expected from the students.

See Absalon.

One or more relevant courses in biology, conservation, human geography, biodiversity, international politics, or community based conservation.

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.

Students will receive a grade according to the standard grading system within Copenhagen University, and will receive oral feedback from teachers on their course work during the teaching period and written feedback on their final essay.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
The examination consists of two parts: (1) active participation and an oral presentation during the two first weeks of the course, which together weight 50 % of the final grade; and (2) an individual 5 page essay based on a predetermined essay title relating to one of the overall topics. The titles will be handed out on the last day of teaching and the student will have a week to write the exam essay (40 hours). The essay weighs 50 % of the final grade. Both subpart 1 and 2 have to be passed individually in other to pass the course.
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several internal examiners
Criteria for exam assessment

In order to obtain the grade 12 the student should convincingly and accurately demonstrate the knowledge, skills and competences described under Learning Outcome.

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 35
  • Exercises
  • 7
  • E-Learning
  • 117
  • Project work
  • 2
  • Exam Preparation
  • 5
  • Exam
  • 40
  • English
  • 206