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Student Projects

The Agony of Choice

The Agony of Choice

Experience the choices involved in defining an area for conservation.

You are set a task to define the smallest possible area that will best conserve and represent the butterflies, snakes, frogs, mammals or lizards in a large area. For example, if you were given an area like the North-West Mallee of Victoria, or Central Victoria or East Gippsland, define an area within these large ecosystems that will act as the biological reservoir for the entire area.

The processes required are: (Theory / Practice / Application)


  • Set the Goal(s)
  • Assess the contribution of your data to the goal(s)
  • Assess how well you have achieved your goal(s)


  • Acquire a biological checklist for the entire area.
  • Create a species matrix showing the occurrence of each species in each square of the large area.
  • Define which subset square(s) provide 'Maximum Species Composition'.
  • List the included species and excluded species.
  • Comment on the value of the excluded species.
  • Examine the full distributions of each species.
  • Is your 'Maximum Species Composition' square in the 'core' distribution range of a species or on the periphery?
  • If on the periphery, how common is the species in that area.
  • When was it last sighted (collected) in that area? Does it still occur there?
  • Make a recommendation on the pros and cons of your decision and be able to defend it.


  • Discuss what information you have acquired.
  • How best can you use this information?
  • What is the value of this information?
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