Caribou Conservation Conundrum
Department of Biological Sciences
University of Calgary
Department of Biological Science
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.
- Synthesize diverse biological information related to a conservation topic.
- Apply ecological principles to a current conservation issue.
- Assess a proposed management strategy based on evidence.
- Determine the pros and cons of culling a wolf population in Alberta to protect a declining caribou population.
- Discuss potential challenges of implementing biologically-based management decisions.
KeywordsCaribou; oilsands; conservation; landscape ecology; wolves; Alberta; Canada
Topical AreasEthics, Policy issues, Social issues
Educational LevelHigh school, Undergraduate lower division
Type / MethodsDilemma/Decision, Jig-Saw
Subject HeadingsEcology | Wildlife Management | Environmental Science | Biology (General) |
Background information and the context for this case are introduced in class using the attached PowerPoint presentation.