|Title||Vegetation Studies for Conservation: Training Project|
|Department||Department of Geography, School of Geosciences, The Queen's University of Belfast|
|Tel.||+44 (0)1232 273360|
|Fax.||+44 (0)1232 321280|
Background: This final year option module for students interested in wildlife conservation and perhaps seeking a career or further training in this field consists of 8 weeks of lectures and discussion around particular ecosystems. Issues addresses include - What processes have created the particular ecosystems and how do these affect their management for conservation? What criteria are used to evaluate sites for conservation? How have example sites met the criteria and what problems do these sites have? What methods have been used to ameliorate or overcome these problems?
The project: It became apparent that traditional site visits were not enabling students to understand interrelated problems of site management nor to see how to integrate conservation with other demands on the land. There was a need for students to undertake some site evaluation, to propose management techniques for sites, and to produce a strategy for conservation of an area alongside other uses of that area. Such a project requires more time than is available on traditional fieldwork and students make many visits to the area (simultaneously studying other modules). To facilitate these needs, the project runs in the last 4 weeks of a 12 week module and covers the Lagan Valley Regional Park, within 0-5 miles of the university and subject to recreational, housing and agricultural pressures. Students work in groups to produce an 'Information Board' suitable for the general public which explains the conservation strategy they propose for the area (thereby developing group and presentation skills). Detailed site assessments and management techniques are presented as individual reports so as to demonstrate that each can use information gathered as a team member and, most importantly, relate it to lectures and reading from earlier in the module. This last aim is the most difficult to deliver and clearly separates the most able students - lazy students who leave the work to other members of their group are also identified. Presently, the project accounts for 20% of the module mark, but an increase in this percentage is to be discussed by joint staff-student modular review.