Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology

Jun 14, 2013 Debra Cheung

Mission

To extend knowledge by addressing the ecology and science-based management of wildlife and fish and their habitats, communities and ecosystems. Ecology and conservation biology provides the intellectual foundation for these activities. Interactions of wild animals with humans, domestic animals, and agriculture are of concern. As our global environment continues to change, new management challenges are created and research needs identified.

Faculty

The Department has 15.3 State-funded FTE (5.36 I&R, 5.99 OR, 3.95 CE), one professional researcher, and one associate adjunct professor WOS. By 2006, three faculty (1.1 I&R, 0.9 OR, 1.0 CE) will reach age 65.

Major Programmatic Thrusts of the Department (current)

  • Conservation biology
  • Basic biology and ecology of vertebrates
  • Physiological ecology
  • Behavioral ecology
  • Population dynamics
  • Community ecology
  • Biogeography
  • Ecosystems and their management

Major Programmatic Thrusts of the Department (5-10 years)

Continued growth in conservation biology, which has been identified as one of four areas of excellence for the campus under the Environment Initiative. Our academic plan and future FTE are strongly tied the areas of excellence in Conservation Biology, Integrated Watershed Science, and The Health Continuum from Ecosystems to Humans.

Program Impact/Ranking

Our WFCB undergraduate degree program is unique within the University of California system. According to the Gourman Report (1993), our program was ranked #1 in wildlife and fisheries management and #3 in wildlife ecology in the nation. Conservation biology involves the application of biological science concepts, principles and theories to real or potential threats to the maintenance of biodiversity on Earth. The discipline has arisen over the last 10-15 years in response to the ongoing loss of species and habitats as the result of human activities. As a science, conservation biology also has strong ties to the agricultural sciences, especially in regard to genetic diversity, agroecosystems, and biotic interactions (between native species but more importantly exotic and native species) at the agricultural-wildland-urban interface.

Extramural Grants and Gifts

Annual direct expenditures on extramural grants are approximately $1 million per year but increasing, with current total extramural funds this year approximately $5 million. Fund sources include NSF, EPA, USDA, NRI, USDI, NOAA, DANR, CalFed, California Resources Agency, and others. Gifts exceed $85,000 per year. The department has one endowed professorship (Dennis G. Raveling Endowed Professor), with another under negotiation.

Teaching Programs of the Department

The department offers the B.S. degrees in wildlife and fisheries biology (old program) and wildlife, fish and conservation biology (new program), with eight areas of specialization; undergraduate majors number from 150-250. Student credit hours are approximately 4,000 to 4,700 per year, with course offerings varying odd to even years. Students in Bio Sci, EVE, NPB, Nature and Culture, EBM, ERS, EPAP, soil science, hydrology, geology, and other majors regularly take our courses, especially our vertebrate biology, ecology, and field methods courses that also function as service courses for these other majors. Most of our courses are four or five units, with lecture, laboratory and field sections. Teaching of field courses extends into the summer. The faculty also contribute to the teaching of the animal biology major, the nature and culture major, and the Science and Society Program.

The department houses 40-70 graduate students in the Animal Behavior, Applied Mathematics, Ecology, Geography, Hydrological Sciences, Physiology, and Population Biology Graduate Groups. The faculty contribute to many sole or team-taught graduate courses, especially in the Animal Behavior, Ecology, and Geography Graduate Groups. Conservation biology is a field with almost unlimited demand by students; we can accept only a very small proportion of the well-qualified students for our courses and programs, and as such more faculty are needed. We also envision further teaching through the Bodega Marine Laboratory Spring Quarter program (with two new courses under development).

Outreach/Extension Roles

The department has exceptional strength in the ecology of wild vertebrates and in their habitat-community-ecosystem relationships. This expertise is focused on conservation biology and management of urban, agricultural and wildland areas in our outreach and extension programs, especially in the following areas:

  • Wildlife Damage Management (vertebrate pest control)
  • Waterfowl and Seabird Ecology and Management
  • Ecology and Management of Endangered Species, Island Biota, and California Ecosystems
  • Fisheries Ecology and Management, Especially of the California Current Region, the Bay-Delta, California Rivers and their Watersheds, and the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

Potential for Collaborative Links to Other Units to Develop Clusters of Excellence

We are well linked to the various animal biology departments. Opportunity to develop programs in conservation biology, restoration ecology, watershed science, and affiliated disciplines exists with the Departments of Environmental Horticulture, Environmental Science and Policy, Landscape Architecture, Environmental Toxicology, LAWR, the Section of Evolution and Ecology, Geology, and the School of Veterinary Medicine.

Positions Needed to Improve Research, Teaching and Extension Goals

  1. A position in watershed ecology; to sustain our core strength in fisheries ecology, as a retirement replacement for Don Erman (retired in 1998), and to help build watershed sciences.
  2. A position in conservation genetics; a new area with research and teaching needs and also identified through the Genomics and Genetics and Development Initiatives.
  3. A position in physiological ecology of wild, terrestrial vertebrates; to sustain our physiological ecology core as a retirement replacement for Nadine Jacobsen (retired in 1997).
  4. A position in marine conservation biology; an emerging need, with a focus on California coast.
  5. A position in disease (population) ecology; an emerging area and also identified in the Environment Initiative.
  6. A position in wetland ecology; a Cooperative Extension position identified over the last several years due to State waterfowl and wildlife management needs.

Priorities

Position #1 in watershed ecology is our highest priority under a "no-growth" or "minimal growth" scenario; this position is the #1 FTE (integrated watershed science) listed under the Environment Initiative. Positions #2 and #3 could be filled with a slight redirection of retirements, as could position #6.

Projected Resource Needs and Strategies for Achieving

Space is a limiting factor for both our current programs and our growth. An expanded or second teaching laboratory is severely needed, as is additional room for our WFB Museum. Faculty research laboratory space is severely limited.

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