Unique Island Wildlife and the Threats Facing It


Islands host a large number of unique species ranging from marine iguanas on the Galapagos and tool-using crows on New Caledonia to giant spiders on Madeira and the extinct Dodo from Mauritius. However, less exotic islands closer to home can also offer unique sub species such as the Lundy cabbage and the Jersey bank vole.  

The factors behind the rich flora and fauna on islands include geological factors such as their isolation, remoteness and varied topology, evolutionary factors such as small founder populations and limited gene flow with mainland species and ecological factors such as reduced competition and predation. However, these factors combined with smaller overall distributions and population sizes also make them less able to respond to rapid human-induced changes to their environment arising from climate change, invasive species and habitat loss.

During the day you will get a comprehensive overview of these factors starting in the morning with an introduction to the formation, diversity and evolutionary processes acting on islands demonstrating why islands are considered to be natural laboratories for ecological and evolutionary studies. This will be followed by a focus on the ecological and behavioural adaptations on island species including unique pollination and seed dispersal, dwarfism or gigantism, loss of dispersal ability and fear of predators.

In the afternoon we will look at the many threats that are facing islands, especially remote oceanic islands and the reasons why island species are particular vulnerable to introduced invasive alien species as well as climate change and habitat loss from urban developments or tourism-related activities. However, it is not all doom and gloom as we will also look into some of the many successful reintroduction and restoration projects that have been carried out on islands worldwide. We will finish the day with a fascinating case study on the remote island of Bermuda, where long-thought extinct snails have made a recurrence and where threats from invasive species and human developments on vegetation and bird life are rivalled by the devasting impact of hurricanes.   

Programme details


Why do islands have so many unique species?
Thomas Hesselberg


Ecological and behavioural adaptations on islands
Thomas Hesselberg

Lunch break

Extinctions and conservation on islands
Alison Copeland


Case study: ecology and conservation on Bermuda
Alison Copeland

Course disperses


Description Costs
Tuition fee (includes tea/coffee) £85.00
Baguette £6.10
Hot lunch (three courses) £16.50


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit or are a full-time student in the UK you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

Concessionary fees for short courses


Miss Alison Copeland


Alison is a Bermudian who spent 14 years working for the Bermuda Government as the Biodiversity Officer in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. In that role she was involved in preparing and implementing invasive species control plans and endangered species recovery plans; as well as working with visiting scientists and students on research projects and liaising with NGOs on habitat management projects in nature reserves.

She has a Master of Science degree in Geography from Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada, where she worked on various projects mapping the seafloor habitats of sub-Arctic fjords. 

Dr Thomas Hesselberg

Speaker and Director of Studies

Thomas is a zoologist who has studied spiders, insects and worms for more than 15 years in both temperate and tropical climates. In addition to his teaching for the Department for Continuing Education, he is a lecturer in biological sciences at St. Anne's College.


Accommodation is not included in the price, but if you wish to stay with us the night before the course, then please contact our Residential Centre.

Accommodation in Rewley House - all bedrooms are modern, comfortably furnished and each room has tea and coffee making facilities, Freeview television, and Free WiFi and private bath or shower rooms.  Please contact our Residential Centre on +44 (0) 1865 270362 or email res-ctr@conted.ox.ac.uk for details of availability and discounted prices.