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  • Conservation and Biodiversity
    This Course Guide has been taken from the most recent presentation of the course. It would be useful for reference purposes but please note that there may be updates for the following presentation.

    BIOL S301
    Conservation and Biodiversity


    BIOL S301 Conservation and Biodiversity is a new, five-credit, high level compulsory course for both the existing BSc/BSc (Hons) in Environmental Studies Programme and the proposed new BSc in Applied Science, currently in an advanced stage of development.

    Purpose of this Course Guide

    This Course Guide for BIOL S301 provides you with information that explains how the course is organized and how you can best approach it. The guide will cover and review course aims and objectives, the course materials and the IT equipment and skills you'll need to study the course, the course assessment, and the tutorial support you'll receive.

    Course aims

    BIOL S301 aims to:

    • Engender in you a feeling for Hong Kong's unique biodiversity.

    • Introduce you to the concept of conservation as it has been applied internationally in the recent past, and as it is applied in Hong Kong today.

    • Connect global issues, concerns and trends in conservation and biodiversity studies to the Hong Kong SAR.

    • Demonstrate that Hong Kong is uniquely-placed biogeographically.

    • Enhance and develop facts, ideas, and principles of biological science as they may be applied to conservation and biodiversity.

    • Clarify and define the sister concepts of conservation and biodiversity in non-political and scientific terms.

    • Develop your ability to enable you to contribute to conservation and biodiversity activity in Hong Kong and mainland China.

    • Demonstrate that Hong Kong, with 40% of its region designated as country parks, has already shown the world how dense human habitation can co-exist in a sustainable way with natural resources, and how these natural resources can provide positive and much needed ecological services for urbanized, human-made environments.

    Course learning outcomes

    On completion of the course, you should be able to:

    • Analyse the core and related concepts of conservation and biological diversity (biodiversity).

    • Identify the unique features of Hong Kong as part of the biogeographic region of southern China.

    • Analyse the diversity of Hong Kong's ecological habitats and assess how these habitats contribute to both biodiversity and ecological integrity.

    • Distinguish the major categories of biodiversity within Hong Kong.

    • Relate Hong Kong's ecological and taxonomic biodiversity to the major categories of global biodiversity (biomes and taxons).

    • Examine how the classical, cultural models of Chinese fung shui woodlands can contribute to the retention and sustainable management of Hong Kong eco- and bio-diversity in the 21st century.

    • Participate in and contribute to small-scale field trips at important sites of conservation and biodiversity within the HKSAR, thus gaining the experience necessary.

    Course materials

    BIOL S301 will be delivered via a blended approach to learning that tries to combine the best features of traditional distance learning (DL) teaching with the incorporation of video, audio, animated and interactive Web-based components. This blended model is intended to inject more life, more interaction and more variety into the course structure than is possible in a traditional DL mode.

    BIOL S301 will also include opportunities for face-to-face, hands-on field experiences in Hong Kong's many and diverse country parks. Such live activities will help to magnify the realities made available via the course materials.

    Equipment needed (IT resources)

    Since BIOL S301's study units and supplementary readings will be provided in the Online Learning Environment (OLE). You will need to have access to the Internet through a personal computer to take part in the e-learning activities. The following are the minimum requirements:

    • A personal computer with a Pentium IV 1 GHz or more powerful CPU;

    • 128MB RAM or above;

    • 20MB Hard disk or above;

    • a broadband connection to the Internet;

    • Windows XP or a newer version of the MS Windows platform;

    • earphones; and

    • a USB webcam (optional).

    Access to a printer may also be helpful.

    Software configuration

    You should have the following software configuration to support e-learning:

    • Internet browser -- Internet Explorer 6.0 or above (or Firefox). If you use an older version of a browser, parts of webpages may not be displayed normally. Internet Explorer is recommended since there are some restrictions in Firefox, for example, certain e-learning functions may not work, including Rich Text (fonts and paragraph setting formats) in the discussion board. For Macintosh users, other browsers such as Firefox are recommended. The preinstalled browser, Safari, has not been tested thoroughly.

    • Some interactive activities require the plug-in for Flash Player 6.0 or above. If your browser does not have the plug-in, you will see a message indicating the URL where you can install it.

    Anti-virus software

    Computer viruses are a serious problem. In order to protect your computer, you are advised to install suitable anti-virus software. You should also periodically get the updates for your anti-virus software. The University has included a URL on the OLE where free anti-virus software can be downloaded. Please note, however, that this free anti-virus software only offers limited anti-virus functions. Please refer to the main page of the OLE for detailed information on anti-virus measures and the purchase of anti-virus software.

    Study units

    BIOL S301 is arranged as five inter-related study units, each beginning with an overview that outlines the topic content. A list of specific learning outcomes accompanies the topic sequence; these are presented in a way that alerts you to the various learning tasks and opportunities which should become part of the course. The mastery of key concepts rather than the collection of information is the central organizational principle underpinning this course. This principle cuts across the modes of delivery used in the course: you will need to interact with a variety of learning environments and settings: text, video, field work, animations, electronic simulations, Web resources, lab work and face-to-face teaching.

    In other words, to reach the desired learning outcomes, you will need to:

    • read the materials;

    • interact with the read materials;

    • work through the assigned readings, including on-line items;

    • attempt the designed activities and connect these attempts to the feedback given at the end of a unit; and

    • produce and present assignments (Assignments, PDSR) to the tutor / Course Coordinator within the allocated times specified.

    Units Weeks Assessments
    1 Overview, philosophy and introduction to conservation and biodiversity 1–2 Assignment 1
    2 The state of conservation: Worldwide and in Hong Kong 3–4
    3 Biodiversity: Taxonomic and ecological 5–7 Assignment 2
    4 Hong Kong biodiversity: Case studies 8–10
    5 Hong Kong conservation activity and actions 11–14 Assignment 3
    Revision 15–16  

    Course style

    As you begin your study, you will notice that the writing style of BIOL S301 is rather different from a typical textbook. Many years of experience at OUHK with course development have shown us that the most appropriate style (and the one most appreciated by our students) is like a 'tutorial on screen.' By tutorial, we mean like a face-to-face talk or conversation.

    This course will be presented in this style, but with some added dimensions: we will encourage you to interact with the text-based course materials, but also with a variety of other media. These will include, from time to time, items such as video clips, webpages, animations, and other links between reading, online materials, and even field or lab work.
    And here is another important point. All these will be more than a mere mix. They will be a blend or hybrid of many modes of course delivery. The early units (Units 1 and 2) may have more text (readings) than the later units (Units 3-5), but we are sure that you will enjoy this.

    It is therefore of the greatest importance that you are not passive when you take BIOL S301. Please be active -- be interactive. To learn we need to interact with what we see and hear. This same teaching and learning principle applies to video, animations, webpages, labs and field work. Unless we interact with all of these modes of presentation, our learning will be limited.

    In fact, this word 'interact' is a more sophisticated term for a simple term, the term 'doing.' In SCI S122, an old but strongly true Chinese proverb was quoted that beautifully captures this educational concept:

    I hear, and I forget; (我聽見,我忘了)
    I see, and I remember; (我聽見,我記得)
    I do, and I understand. (我做過,我明白)

    You may know these words. Do they sound familiar?

    I would like you to notice the italics used with this quotation: You will have seen some other words appear in italics too, e.g. protected areas, principle, and human disturbance a little earlier. Did you notice these? The italics are used to help you notice these key words. To pause. To let the words echo inside your mind. This is a quiet form of helping you, the reader, to interact a bit with these words. It's almost like a voice that has an emphasis in its tone. Maybe you could translate these words from English into Cantonese with your classmates. Many OUHK students sit together and go over their course materials. In our experience the best students do this. They have fun and learn too. So can you!

    Outdoor field encounters

    In addition to study units, you will be required to attend one of three available outdoor field encounters (OFEs) provided within the diverse and extensive HKSAR country park system. It is planned that the large and environmentally diverse Sai Kung East Country Park will be the principal outdoor location, with Hoi Ha Wan Marine Park in the northeastern corner of Sai Kung West Country Park an option and a possibility for you to visit independently. These three OFEs will be organized as day schools on either Saturdays or Sundays that will involve you in terms of both you attendance and the creation of a personal day school report (i.e. Assignment 3; see the Assessment section below for more details).

    Printed materials

    Although you will be provided with printed copies of the Course Guide and the five study units, all course materials including reading and activities will be provided online on the OLE.

    Set textbook

    There is no set text book or reference book for BIOL S301.

    Supplementary readings

    Excerpts from the several sources will be integrated into the BIOL S301 course materials as core readings. You will be able to gain access to these readings on the OLE as they will not be available to you in printed form.

    Course assessment

    The assessment for BIOL S301 comprises both a series of continuous assessment, and an exam.

    Continuous assessment

    The continuous assessment for BIOL S301 takes two forms:

    • The first two course assignments emphasize your interactions with your course materials and experiences (readings, video, field, multi-media and Web resources) and are designed to help you internalize the total range of content in a Hong Kong context.

    • Assignment 3 combines two elements. The first is a personal day school report (PDSR), which will be a creative reflection of the blended or hybrid nature of BIOL S301: ideally, your PDSR will contain a blend of written text, audio, digital photographs and videos -- or even animations (if you have the technology, willingness, time and motivation). The second is a day school overall performance score. This assessment is based on your participation at one of the course’s scheduled day schools.

    More details on the assignments can be found in the Assignment File section of the course materials.


    The final examination will be course-wide in scope and cover all dimensions of BIOL S301. Over this three-hour examination session, you will have the opportunity to display your understanding areas of conservation and biodiversity as you tackle a balanced mixture of short answer (paragraph length); short essay; and data-, photographic- and/or graphical-interpretative questions. There will be no multiple-choice questions.

    Assessment summary

    The assessment items are outlined in the following table.

    Assessments Course areas covered Weighting
    Assignment 1 Units 1-2 25%
    Assignment 2 Units 3-4
    Assignment 3 Unit 5 focus + day school 25%
    Exam Entire course 50%
    Total 100%

    Note: You can choose your best result from Assignment 1 and Assignment 2. Although this means that you have an option, and that only one of these two assignments counts for assessment, you are strongly encouraged to complete both assignments.

    It is hoped that you will look upon your assignments, day schools, and examination as instruments that both facilitate and reward your learning. This philosophy of assessment as part of teaching and learning will be present, too, in the design and conduct of student support in tutorials and day schools, and through online services.

    Tutors and online support

    Student support for BIOL S301 will include:

    • Tutorials and related direct personal contact opportunities (DPCOs) in the form of tutorials (10 hours), telephone access to tutors (variable) and surgeries, which consist of two-hour face-to-face help sessions, spread approximately every two weeks throughout the duration of this one-semester course.

    • Electronic contact will include email and telephone consultations.

    • Course Web presence: BIOL S301 will maintain an OLE presence comprising webpages with downloadable and interactive materials, course notices and discussion board, and other resources to facilitate the course's 'e' dimension.


    Your tutor will mark and comment on your assignments, keep a close watch on your progress, provide advice on any difficulties you might encounter, and generally assist you during the course.

    You will be notified of the name and contact details of your tutor as soon as you are allocated to a tutorial group (shortly after the start of the course).

    Do not hesitate to contact your tutor by telephone or email if you need help. The following might be some typical circumstances in which you would find help necessary. Contact your tutor if:

    • you do not understand any part of the study units or the assigned readings;

    • you have any difficulty with the self-tests; or

    • you have a question or problem with assignments, or with your tutor's comments on or grading of an assignment.

    It is a good idea to keep copies of all assignments you submit for reference during any telephone conversations with your tutor. Remember that assignments should be submitted in accordance with the due dates indicated. Your tutor will mark and return them to you as soon as possible.

    Online support

    In this course, you have the opportunity to interact with tutors and fellow students via the Online Learning Environment (OLE). You will at times be referred to the course discussion board to exchange views with other students on particular issues, or you may like to post your own questions and invite feedback from others. It is strongly recommended that you make use of the course discussion as it will improve your chances of earning higher marks on your assignments, and bring you into contact with other students who are studying through the OUHK. Experience shows that students who form study groups to exchange ideas tend to perform better.


    BIOL S301 Conservation and Biodiversity addresses topics that are of great current importance -- not only because of their inherent interest, but because they affect the very future of our world. We hope this course will offer you the opportunity to explore this fascinating area in ways that both help you learn, and that you find enjoyable.

    Good luck with your studies!

    Developer profile

    Professor Gordon S Maxwell, World Medal of Freedom (US, American Biographical Institute, Washington DC), FLS, FABI has degrees in Botany, Ecology, Philosophy and Education earned from four universities, two in New Zealand, Auckland and Massey, one in the UK and the University of Hong Kong, where Prof. Maxwell obtained his PhD with a thesis embracing an ecogeographic study of two mangrove trees in three countries: Brunei, Hong Kong and Thailand. Prof. Maxwell has been an Assistant/Associate Professor at OUHK, Visiting Professor at Universities in Japan (The Tokyo University of Agriculture (TUA), University of Ryukyus), Thailand (Kasetsart and Srinakharinwirot) and China (SCAU). He is the author of books on EIA, ecology, earth science and mangrove vegetation. From time to time, he joins UNESCO consultancies to China (e.g. Guizhou in November 2007) and other countries in Southeast Asia such as Laos (Lao PDR) in 2005 and Vietnam 1994-1995. He owns a farm and a forest in New Zealand, both of which are managed with ecoagroscience and sustainability in mind. In Hong Kong, he has served on the EIA Appeal Board for a decade (1996-2006) and has joined Professor K C Ho, BBS on a number of splendid international conferences relating to harmful algal blooms (HABs) in the South China Sea. His most pleasing and rewarding achievement is that so many of his existing and former students of OUHK have the drive, desire and ambition to further their studies in matters environmental: these are the people we need in the 21st century!

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