Final projects for NRES 470

Students will work in groups of ~3-4 people to perform a population viability analysis (PVA) to rank conservation or management actions for a species of conservation concern (species of your choice!). Grading will be based on finished products (written and oral presentations) as well as participation and peer evaluations.

Overview

  • Select a species and management question of interest.

  • Perform a thorough literature review on your species of interest- collect all information you can about life history, key vital rates and their variability.

  • Construct a PVA model, parameterized using the best available information from the literature (free PVA software platforms: InsightMaker, Vortex, R).

  • Use your PVA model to address a conservation or management question and write up the results.

  • Present your results to the class!

Timeline

  • PROPOSAL: Due Mon March 9!
  • INITIAL PVA Due Fri April 10: description of how your PVA model works and where the parameter estimates come from.
  • SEND DRAFT FOR PEER REVIEW Due April 21 by midnight (for peer review on April 24)
  • DRAFT FINAL PAPER: Due Mon April 27
  • FINAL FINAL PAPER: Due Wed May 13
  • FINAL PRESENTATIONS: Fri Apr 24 and May 1 in lab!

Remember that the semester will get crazy at the end (including for your instructors). Plan ahead!

Final paper peer review/feedback session

In lab on Fri Apr 24 we will have a “peer review” session where we will have a chance to give each other feedback on draft manuscripts.

The way it will work is as follows:

  1. By mid-day on April 22 (Wed), you will receive another group’s draft manuscript via WebCampus (see list below).

  2. Before lab, please throroughly read the manuscript you have been assigned, and make comments, paying particular attention to the grading rubric.

  3. During the lab period, you will first get together with the other students that were also assigned to review the same manuscript. You will have 30 minutes to compare notes and prepare a written “peer review” of the manuscript that highlights both the strengths and the weaknesses. Please make your comments as specific and constructive as possible. The goal is to give your classmates feedback that will be useful to them as they prepare their final drafts! Please hand in your peer-review to the group that wrote the draft AND your instuctor/TA

  4. After that, we will break up into new groups. One representative from each peer-review group will meet with the project group that wrote the draft manuscript, to give the feedback in person (and on paper).

  5. For any remaining time in lab, you will have a chance to work on yourwrite-ups and presentations!

In-class peer review: manuscript drafts

Here are the peer review assignments:

Bring your laptops to lab as usual so you can write, save and share your peer-review electronically with your classmates/instructors.

Peer review: presentations

During the final project presentations, please provide feedback to your classmates using this form (these will be handed out in class on the day of the final project presentations)

Tips for a great presentation!

Here are some general notes about how to prepare and deliver a great presentation:
- For all slides: Less words, more pictures! Wordy slides often cause people to stop paying attention! All of you are working with charismatic species, so you shouldn’t have trouble finding nice pictures that capture people’s attention. As for words, 3-5 bullet points maximum! Complete sentences are NOT needed in a presentation. Use a large, sans-serif font to improve readability.

Note: make sure you give proper credit for all pictures (e.g., what website did it come from?)

  • Excitement is infectious- make sure you convey your excitement about the project. You all worked very hard, and you should be proud of what you were able to do. Now you can share this excitement with your colleagues! Many inexperienced presenters make the mistake of highlighting only what they were not able to accomplish. Try to avoid this pitfall- shortcomings should be limited to a single slide in the discussion section of the presentation.

  • A good presentation should tell a story. It has a beginning, middle and an end. Every slide flows logically from what came before.

  • Keep it simple- don’t use excess jargon, acronyms etc. Good communication skills means getting your points across in the simplest and clearest way possible.

  • Every presentation is a performance. Performance requires practice!! The real work comes before the performance- putting together the slides and practicing the delivery. When the time comes to actually give the performance, relax and have fun- the hard work is over!

Note: please don’t use fancy backgrounds- keep your slides as clean as possible. Animations can be useful, but excessive animation is just a distraction!

Title slide

  • Make a catchy title!
  • Include the names and affiliations of all co-authors

Introduction

  • Tell your audience why they should care!! All of you are working with interesting species, and all of you are asking interesting questions. All of your audience is interested in wildlife conservation and management. There is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t be able to convince your audience to care about what you have to say!!

  • Cite previous research as you set up your research question. Convince us that your research fills a key knowledge gap. What is the overall context of your research?

  • After you have framed the problem, clearly state your research questions!

Methods

  • Provide a very abbreviated summary of your PVA model. You don’t have time to provide all the details that are in your written Methods section! So try to distill the key elements of your methods. Be careful you don’t spend too much time on this section! The details you provide here must be clearly relevant to your research questions. All you need to do is convince your peers that your methods were appropriate for addressing your questions.

  • You can include supplemental slides that provide more details on your methods (after the last “real” slide). It can be helpful to refer to supplemental slides if someone asks a question about your methods!

Results

  • Include key figures that relate to the main questions.

  • For all graphs, make sure you explain what the axes represent! Also, make sure the axis labels are large enough to be readable from the back of the room!

Discussion

  • Summarize your key findings- what did you learn?

  • Management implications- how could wildlife managers act upon your findings??

  • Just one slide discussing shortcomings of your project and how you would improve your model and design if you had additional time.

  • Describe what you or other researchers could do to expand upon your findings- what are the next steps?

Acknoweldgements

  • Your final slide should acknowledge people who helped you with your project but who are not listed as a co-author.