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WageningenX: Animal Behaviour in Conservation

How can we coexist with wildlife in our rapidly changing human-dominated world? The instructors behind Wageningen University & Research’s high ranking ‘Introduction to Animal Behaviour’ have created a sequel. Equip yourself with the skills to assess human-caused impact on diverse species. Learn to apply behavioural principles to design more effective conservation actions. Enrol now.

5 weeks
4–6 hours per week
Progress at your own speed
Optional upgrade available

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Starts Feb 21
Starts May 7
Ends Oct 22

About this course

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Biodiversity in crisis
Climate change. Habitat destruction. Overexploitation. Wild animals face anthropogenic threats from the growing human population and our increasing consumption rate. Biodiversity is declining, with over 40,000 species threatened with extinction - over a quarter of the species assessed. At the same time, some species have learnt to exploit new opportunities in human-dominated landscapes, leading to human-wildlife conflicts. We live in a shared world, and the only way forward is sustainable coexistence with wildlife. For this we vitally need the animal perspective.

Take the animal perspective
Developed by the makers of the popular MOOC ‘Introduction to Animal Behaviour’, this course helps you take the ‘conservation behaviour’ perspective in major conservation challenges, such as environmental change, human-wildlife conflict and wildlife reintroductions.

Design innovative conservation interventions
We will explore key concepts from animal behaviour and apply them to practical wildlife conservation issues. Such behaviour-sensitive management has led to successful conservation interventions:

  • A wind farm with technology warning for migrating birds decreased soaring bird mortality to zero with a shutdown period of only 0.2–1.2%.
  • A livestock grazing strategy avoiding cheetah communication hubs reduced livestock losses with 86%.
  • A mammal translocation program taking neighbour relations into account led to 24 times more offspring for translocated individuals.

Through informative knowledge clips, case studies, interviews, and practical assignments, you’ll learn how you can use animal behaviour in conservation to effectively monitor threats, increase your understanding of the diverse responses to environmental change, and design innovative interventions.

For whom?
For professionals working with wildlife, this course will build understanding of how animal behaviour mediates the impact of anthropogenic threats on animal populations. It will become clear how behavioural principles can be used to make behaviour-based management decisions.
Students of wildlife conservation or animal behaviour will be able to expand their knowledge into a complementary field. Learn how to integrate academic knowledge of behaviour with threatened species conservation planning.

So, whether you are a wildlife conservation practitioner, a student in environmental or animal sciences, or simply someone with a general interest in animal behaviour or conservation, join us!

At a glance

  • Institution: WageningenX
  • Subject: Biology & Life Sciences
  • Level: Introductory
  • Prerequisites:

    To get the most out of this course, you should hold an undergraduate degree in a field related to biology, or a minimum of one year of academic or professional experience in wildlife conservation.

  • Language: English
  • Video Transcript: English
  • Associated programs:
  • Associated skills:Animal Science, Research, Conservation Planning, Innovation, Wildlife Conservation, Management, Communications

What you'll learn

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  • Connect key behavioural concepts to relevant conservation challenges
  • Understand how animals use behaviour to mitigate anthropogenic threats
  • Recognize which behavioural traits can serve as threat and management indicators
  • Identify successful examples of behaviour-based conservation management
  • Use relevant resources to find species-specific information on biology and conservation challenges
  • Design a basic species action plan incorporating a behaviour-based conservation action

Module 1. Introduction to Conservation Behaviour
In this module we welcome you to the course and introduce you to the field of Conservation Behaviour: the application of animal behaviour to conservation. Moreover, we will set the foundation for more advanced topics. You will first learn about the diversity of threats facing animals, and the challenges that the following modules will focus on. You will become acquainted with key animal behaviour concepts such as learning and movement that are relevant to conservation challenges throughout the course. We'll introduce you to a conceptual framework for thinking about animal behaviour in conservation. You will also learn how to search for species-specific information relevant to conservation.

Module 2. Human-Induced Rapid Environmental Change (HIREC)
Humans have rapidly modified the environment. In this module you will learn about how this affects animals. We will introduce the various behavioural responses to change and the mechanisms underlying them. Then we'll explain the IUCN conservation planning cycle and how the course assignments relate to it. You will then begin your conservation action plan assignment by identifying the key stakeholders.

Module 3. Human-Wildlife Conflict (HWC)
In this module we will discuss the implications of conflict between humans and wildlife for conservation. We will focus on how behavioural differences between species can explain why some are more likely to end up in conflict then others. Through examples it will become clear how practitioners are trying to modify animal behaviour to reduce the conflicts to benefit both animals and people. You will continue your assignment by identifying a measurable conservation objective and planning a behaviour-based action that could reach the objective.

Module 4. Reintroductions and Translocations
Reintroductions and translocations are one field of conservation in which behavioural knowledge is indisputably crucial. How do you prepare animals to be moved to a new location? Will they stay where they are released? Will they respond appropriately to new threats, and know how to find safe food? This module will explore how to answer these questions using a behavioural perspective. You will continue with your conservation assignment by evaluating your planned behaviour-based action. This includes reflecting on its expected suitability, feasibility and social acceptability.

Module 5. Advanced Topics & Closure
In this last module, we will recap the course topics, and explore how behavioural diversity within and across species generates further insights for wildlife conservation. You will also finish your conservation action plan by determining how you will monitor progress and quantify the success of your approach. For your final verified assignment you will submit your full action plan along with a critical reflection on how it could contribute to your focal species’ conservation. We will also provide you with resources to further build on the material in the course.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Do you have questions about the MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and/or related online programmes of Wageningen University & Research? To help you find answers to your questions, we created a list with frequently asked questions about enrolling, participating in- and finishing a MOOC.

This course is part ofAnimal Behaviour in Science and Conservation Professional Certificate Program

Learn more 
Expert instruction
2 skill-building courses
Progress at your own speed
3 months
4 - 6 hours per week

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