Skip to main content


Planning and Leading Conservation Projects

Module titlePlanning and Leading Conservation Projects
Module codeBIOM4030
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Jamie Copsey (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

The module is designed to strengthen the project planning and leadership skills of current and future conservation and natural resource professionals who will be managing staff and projects, often under challenging conditions. It is also appropriate for researchers responsible for the planning and leadership of scientific projects involving diverse research teams. The module draws on the theory and practice of planning and leadership and applies it to the context of species conservation projects through the use of case studies, facilitated scenarios, guest lectures from leading conservation planners and professionals and practical tools to improve your work.

The module begins with a review of relevant leadership theory emphasising the value of a ‘systems thinking’ approach within the context of wildlife conservation. We reflect on what motivates us and how conservation leaders can utilise this understanding to encourage individual performance as well as team function within what are often highly challenging and uncertain working environments. In particular we dig into the topic of conservation project planning, with an emphasis on threatened species conservation, and equip you with a suite of facilitation skills that can help both with the process of developing effective plans and implementing them within the ‘messy’ context of multi-stakeholder partnerships.

Throughout the module we encourage a high degree of self-reflection and, through the use of group scenarios, provide multiple opportunities for you to apply the leadership and facilitation skills developed during the module. These group scenarios will be mixed with lectures from experts in the field of wildlife conservation and ‘virtual’ discussions with conservation leaders and facilitators of conservation planning worldwide.

Module aims - intentions of the module

Within the peer-reviewed conservation literature there is good evidence that the development of ‘soft skills’ is severely lacking within current postgraduate training provision. It is exactly these skills that conservation organisations are looking for within their workforce. The module aims to develop exactly these skill-sets, equipping you with the core leadership and facilitation skills you will require to be most effective within the conservation profession. It is hoped that this focus will also make you more ‘attractive’ to future employers within what is a highly competitive conservation job market.

The module is designed in particular to provide you with the ability to influence others around you and be most effective in managing and leading people through the process of conservation project planning and into implementation. The module is appropriate for students who have not received any prior leadership or facilitation skills training and will also provide an opportunity for those who are coming with experience in these areas to be able to share this experience and benefit the collective group.

By encouraging you to reflect on the learning and practice the skills the module is designed to go beyond knowledge acquisition towards being able to ‘do the work’.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Discuss and evaluate dominant leadership theories and conservation planning practice
  • 2. Critically and independently assess the literature related to conservation planning and leadership and undertake a reflective analysis, with case studies to evidence key arguments

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Analyse and evaluate critically essential theory and practice across a sub-discipline of biosciences
  • 4. Analyse and evaluate critically and independently a range of literature relating to current research and advanced scholarship in the discipline and embed research-informed examples from the literature in written work
  • 5. Identify and apply, autonomously and with originality, appropriate solutions to conservation planning and leadership problems, supported by relevant theoretical understanding in this complex and emerging field of conservation science
  • 6. Reflect on personal planning and leadership experience and, through analysis of the peer-reviewed literature and recourse to relevant theory, propose new ways of thinking and modifications of personal practice to improve effectiveness
  • 7. Evaluate in detail and critique approaches to our understanding of conservation planning and leadership with reference to primary literature, reviews and research articles

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 8. Develop a suite of facilitation skills to increase your ability to guide others through the process of conservation planning and improved team performance
  • 9. Enhance communication skills through self-reflection and improvements in listening skills and conflict resolution
  • 10. Improve personal ability to lead others and facilitate planning processes
  • 11. Evaluate own strengths and weaknesses in relation to graduate-level professional and practical skills, and act autonomously to develop new areas of skills as necessary demonstrating the skills and attitudes needed to advance own knowledge and understanding
  • 12. Reflect effectively and independently on learning experiences and evaluate critically personal achievements

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content will vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover the following themes:

  • Leadership theory and practice, with a focus on systems thinking as an effective means to plan for projects within an uncertain environment. Additional reading for discussion will be highlighted.
  • Species conservation planning with a focus on the application of international guidelines as developed by the Conservation Planning Specialist Group (CPSG) of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission. As part of the process you will have the opportunity to interact with multiple experts in the field of species conservation planning
  • The facilitation of multi-stakeholder planning workshops, with multiple opportunities for you to practice your facilitation skills within working groups based on pre-determined role-playing exercises
  • How to respond effectively to interpersonal conflict situations, involving role-playing activities and self-reflective assessments
  • Self-study time to develop individual species conservation planning workshop proposals to be presented towards the end of the module, which should focus on the process by which the planning could take place

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Category Scheduled Learning and Teaching15Lectures
Category Scheduled Learning and Teaching2Case studies – seminars given by guest speakers from a variety of organisations
Category Scheduled Learning and Teaching7Group facilitation scenarios (‘role-playing’ and problem-solving activities)
Guided independent study126Additional reading, research and preparation for module assignments, listening to online lectures


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Responses to questions during lectures, feedback to students on facilitation skills during role-playing activitiesOngoing throughout the moduleAllOral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Reflective statement on leadership502000 words1-7, 10-12Written
Short answer question examination on leadership and planning501.5 hours8-12Written


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Reflective statement on leadershipReflective statement on leadership1-7, 10-12During an appropriate specified time period before the end of July
Short answer examinationShort answer examination8-12During an appropriate specified time period before the end of March

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 50%) you will be required to redo the relevant assessment(s). The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will be capped at 50%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Conservation leadership:

  • Black, S.A., 2015. A clear purpose is the start point for conservation leadership. Conservation Letters, 8(5), pp.383-384.
  • Black S. A. 2018. Leading species recovery: influencing effective conservation. In: Copsey, J.A., Black, S.A., Groombridge, J.J. and Jones, C.G. eds., 2018. Species Conservation: Lessons from Islands. Cambridge University Press
  • Black, S.A. and Copsey, J.A., 2014. Does Deming’s “System of Profound Knowledge” Apply to Leaders of Biodiversity Conservation?. Open Journal of Leadership3(02), p.53.
  • Black, S.A. and Copsey, J.A., 2014. Purpose, process, knowledge, and dignity in interdisciplinary projects. Conservation Biology, 28(5), pp.1139-1141.
  • Black, S.A., Groombridge, J.J. and Jones, C.G., 2011. Leadership and conservation effectiveness: finding a better way to lead. Conservation Letters, 4(5), pp.329-339.
  • Goleman, D., 2004. What makes a leader?. harvard business review, 82(1), pp.82-91.
  • Holling, C.S. and Meffe, G.K., 1996. Command and control and the pathology of natural resource management. Conservation biology, 10(2), pp.328-337.
  • Maslow, A., 2000. Classics in the History of Psychology: AH Maslow (1943) A Theory of Human Motivation. Classics in the History of Psychology.
  • Newstrom, J.W. and Rubenfeld, S.A., 1983, March. The Johari Window: A Reconceptualization. In Developments in Business Simulation and Experiential Learning: Proceedings of the Annual ABSEL conference (Vol. 10).
  • Raue, S., Tang, S.H., Weiland, C. and Wenzlik, C., 2013. The GRPI model–an approach for team development. White Paper Draft, SE Group.
  • Ryan, R.M. and Deci, E.L., 2000. Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: Classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary educational psychology, 25(1), pp.54-67.
  • Clark, T.W. and Westrum, R., 1989. High-performance teams in wildlife conservation: a species reintroduction and recovery example. Environmental Management, 13(6), pp.663-670.

Conservation planning:

  • Black S. A. 2018. Species Conservation: Lessons from Islands. Cambridge University Press.
  • Brockman, J. (Ed.) 2013. Thinking: the new science of decision-making, problem solving, and prediction. Harper Perennial.
  • Byers, O., and U.S. Seal. 2003. The Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG): Activities, core competencies and vision for the future. International Zoo Yearbook 38:43-52.
  • Catalano, A.S., Redford, K., Margoluis, R. and Knight, A.T., 2018. Black swans, cognition, and the power of learning from failure. Conservation Biology, 32(3), pp.584-596.
  • Gregory, R., Failing, L., Hastone, M., Long, G., McDaniels, T., Ohlson, D. 2012. Structured Decision-Making: A Practical Guide to Environmental Management Choices. Wiley-Blackwell
  • Harvard Business School Press. 2006. Harvard Business Essentials, Decision Making: 5 Steps to Better Results. Harvard Business Review Press
  • IUCN – SSC Species Conservation Planning Sub-Committee. (2017). Guidelines for Species
  • Conservation Planning. Version 1.0. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. xiv + 114 pp.
  • Kaner, S. Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Guide to Decision-Making. 2007. Jossey-Bass Business and Management.
  • Mann, T. 2007. Facilitation- An Art, Science, Skill or All Three? Build your own expertise in Facilitation. Resource Productions Bradford, England
  • Margoluis, R., Stem, C., Salafsky, N. and Brown, M., 2009. Design alternatives for evaluating the impact of conservation projects. New Directions for Evaluation, 2009(122), pp.85-96.
  • Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation Version 3.0 2013.
  • Westley, F. & Miller, P.S. 2003. Experiments in Consilience: Integrating Social And Scientific Responses To Save Endangered Species. Island Press.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

species, conservation, leadership, planning, facilitation, conflict resolution, systems thinking, listening, IUCN, planning cycles

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date