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Jalene M. LaMontagne
Assistant Professor
Department of Biological Science
DePaul University
Caribou Conservation Conundrum 

As a Government of Canada biologist, "Rachael Mercer" faces the task of advising the Environment Minister on whether a proposed wolf cull should be carried out to conserve threatened caribou populations in the Northern Alberta oilsands region. The Alberta oilsands are an internationally important economic region, but also contain critical habitat for the woodland caribou. Since caribou are endangered, the government is legally obligated to act. To help Rachel determine whether a wolf cull is wise, students examine four aspects of this problem: (1) caribou biology, (2) wolf biology, (3) the oilsands landscape, and (4) species interactions. Students use a jig-saw method to share and process knowledge gained from readings about these four topics. The implications of the management strategy are then analyzed and discussed. This case provides opportunities for students to evaluate a real-life management plan through integrating their knowledge of ecological concepts with primary research and government reports and discuss alternative ideas for management of an endangered species. The case was developed for use in a sophomore ecology course.