Biodiversity and Conservation
This interdisciplinary course is offered jointly by the departments of Botany and Environmental Science at Rhodes University and is housed in the Botany Department. The course was developed in response to the increasing number of career opportunities in biodiversity conservation in South Africa and worldwide, and the accompanying demand for graduates with relevant training. The Biodiversity and Conservation Honours is an academically rigorous degree that may lead on to postgraduate study in conservation biology, environmental science or ecology. While the course is designed to address the requirements of the job market it can also form the basis of an academic career.
The Biodiversity and Conservation Honours course comprises a field trip, a statistics course, three core modules, one optional module and a research project. The coursework in different modules includes field work, practical exercises, discussions, seminars and essays. The emphasis is on linking theory to practice and building strong research and communication skills.
The core modules listed below are compulsory and in addition students choose one of the optional modules listed. Students can also discuss taking other optional modules offered by the Environmental Science and Botany departments. Some of the optional modules may be unavailable in a particular year.
Geographical Information Systems
Urban Forestry (ES)
Systematic conservation planning
Diversity, rarity and endemism: theory and tools
Molecular ecology and conservation genetics (Botany)
Climate Change (Botany)
Biodiversity and rural livelihoods (ES)
Ecological modelling (ES)
Pollination biology (Botany)
Community-based natural resource management (ES)
Restoration ecology (Botany)
The research project should be on a topic relevant to biodiversity conservation and will be carried out under the supervision of a staff member from the Botany or Environmental Science department. A wide range of projects, from ethnobotany through plant ecology and conservation genetics to community based resource management is available and projects can have an ecological or more social focus. Projects in collaboration with other departments, for example Zoology or Entomology, may also be possible.
Applicants must have a Bachelor of Science degree with a major subject in a biological or environmental discipline (e.g. Botany, Zoology, Entomology, Environmental Science, Grassland Science). Applicants must have achieved at least 60% in the relevant major subjects but it is important to note that this minimum does not guarantee acceptance. The subjects and their suitability will be considered, and because places on the course are limited preference will be given to applicants with good marks in the most relevant subjects. A major in a biological and/or ecological subject is strongly recommended as some of the core modules assume a background in university-level (though not necessarily 3rd year) biology. Given that degrees from different universities differ considerably in their content and structure, each applicant’s academic background will be assessed on a case-by-case basis when applications are received.
Applicants who meet the above criteria should submit the completed application form (available on-line at http://www2.ru.ac.za/studentzone/future_students/ along with other information) with academic transcripts and degree certificates before 1 November 2008.
Course content and workload
This is a full-time Honours course which starts in early February. Modules and projects are completed by the end of October and examinations are written in June and November. The course commences with a one-week introductory course, a field trip and a statistics course. In addition students take four 5-week theory modules (one optional and three core), produce a review paper and seminar on a conservation-related topic of their choice and carry out an independent research project which is presented as a project report on late October and a final project seminar in late November.
Bursaries and funding
There are some bursaries available for full-time Honours students at Rhodes University. Information can be found at http://www.ru.ac.za/research/postgrad.html.
A selection of Honours projects which are funded through the departments or project supervisors will be made available at the beginning of the year. Students are also encouraged to suggest projects that are of particular interest to them. Funding to cover such projects, especially if they involve substantial costs (e.g. field work travel and subsistence, laboratory analyses) will be considered but cannot be guaranteed. For all projects, budgeting is part of the proposal process and it is essential that students agree on the costs and funding with their supervisor before proceeding.
People who are employed and unable to register full-time for the year may apply to do the Honours course part-time over two years. It is, however, important to note that part-time students must be able to spend a total of 4-5 months each year in Grahamstown, which includes modules, courses and project work. Students must be present for the June and November examinations each year. As the coursework involves discussions, seminars and practical components, students need to be in Grahamstown during the modules. It is not possible to take modules long-distance.
For more information
If you are interested in the Biodiversity and Conservation Honours course and would like to learn more about this degree, please contact the head of department Prof. Brad Ripley (B.Ripley@ru.ac.za).