Course Syllabus

FiW 2234 Fish, Fishing, and Conservation

Course Description: Sensory perception, behavior, and consciousness in fish. Principles, as related to fish and why they matter, fish conservation ethics, food security, recreational fishing, and responsible fishing practices. Ethical reasoning applied to the contemporary issues of conservation and use of fish, such as subsistence fishing, fish farming, marine protected areas, highly migratory fishes, shark tourism, and ornamental fishes.  (3H, 3C)


        Donald J. Orth, PhD, Thomas H. Jones Professor

         106D Cheatham Hall, 540-231-5919,  @donaldorth on twitter

          Hours for students[1]:   Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 1-3 pm  Join via Zoom link. 

[1] These hours are reserved as a forum to raise questions beyond the course (e.g. interest in fish and related disciplines, similar courses, careers, internships, and opportunities).   My office is a safe space to explore any confusions about a topic or assignment.   Send an email to to request an alternative time or day. 

Graduate Teaching Assistant:  Alissa Ganser  LinkedIn profile

This term we will be using Piazza for class discussion. The system is highly catered to getting you help fast and efficiently from classmates, the TA, and myself. Rather than emailing questions, I encourage you to post your questions on Piazza. If you have any problems or feedback for the developers, email

Find our class signup link at:

Find our class page at:

For more about me, watch this video.     

Read How I Got Where I Am. 

ZOOM Meeting Times:   Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:00-3:15pm Zoom Meeting link 

Zoom meetings will be recorded and archived in the Media Gallery. 

Learning Objectives:

Having successfully completed this course, the student will be able to:

  1. Apply knowledge of biology and sensory capabilities of fish to the practice of fish welfare, fish farming, and use and development of fisheries (Pathways RNS – SLO 1,2,3,4)
  2. Evaluate the credibility of scientific information regarding trends in fishing or other fish-human interactions (e.g., shark attacks) or conservation status of species (Pathways RNS – SLO 3,4)
  3. Analyze relationships between commercial, recreational, educational, and subsistence uses of fish by human society and prevailing approaches to conserve and protect fish, fishing access, or healthy habitats (Pathways RSS – SLO 1,2,3)
  4. Identify and evaluate claims and arguments about contemporary ethical issues related to responsible codes of conduct for experimentation, fishing, and conservation (Pathways ER – SLO 1,2)
  5. Apply ethical reasoning to critique contemporary practices such as live reef fish trade, marine protected areas, catch-and-release fishing, shark finning, and fish farming. (Pathways ER SLO 3)

Class Mission

Together we will examine numerous examples of the use of fish and will examine the multiple perspectives on the values and practices for which we use or depend on fish.  Many of our personal experiences with fish, such as buying a can of tuna, ordering seafood from a restaurant menu, taking your kid fishing, or visiting a foreign country, mean that we should consider alternative actions based on a reasoned, thoughtful approach to our lives. Furthermore, our role as citizens in a democracy require that we participate in social activities, debate, and dialogue with others with varying views on values and uses of fish, responsible fishing, and conservation of the diversity of fishes. A democratic, pluralistic society depends on our ability to conduct civil discourse.  To fulfill this class mission, you should pledge to: (1) review your notes on the assigned reading, answers on questions to ponder,  and be prepared to summarize and ask a question, and (2)  actively participate in class discussions and   schedule office conferences to develop relationships with the instructor and to receive feedback on improving written arguments. 

This course satisfies Pathways General Education requirements in Social Science Reasoning, Natural Resources Reasoning, and Ethical Reasoning.

How Pathways Learning Outcomes are Fulfilled in this Course 


“The capacity to learn is a gift;

The ability to learn is a skill;

The willingness to learn is a choice.”

—— Brian Herbert



Course Evaluation and Assignments

% of Grade

 Final Exam 


 Written Assignments

    Values and Beliefs (wks 1&15)

    Mindfulness Exercise

    Myths and Fake News

    Fish as Art  

    Issue Analysis  (multiple steps and options)


In-class Quizzes and Participation

Attendance matters!  Includes one-minute papers, responses to discussion questions, cold calls, muddiest points, arguments, counterarguments, and one quiz on each module.




Letter Grades
100 %
to 93.0%
< 93.0 %
to 90.0%
< 90.0 %
to 87.0%
< 87.0 %
to 83.0%
< 83.0 %
to 80.0%
< 80.0 %
to 77.0%
< 77.0 %
to 73.0%
< 73.0 %
to 70.0%
< 70.0 %
to 67.0%
< 67.0 %
to 63.0%
< 63.0 %
to 60.0%
< 60.0 %
to 0.0%

Class Policies 

Honor Code

The Undergraduate Honor Code pledge that each member of the university community agrees to abide by states:

“As a Hokie, I will conduct myself with honor and integrity at all times.  I will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor will I accept the actions of those who do.”

Students enrolled in this course are responsible for abiding by the Honor Code. A student who has doubts about how the Honor Code applies to any assignment is responsible for obtaining specific guidance from the course instructor before submitting the assignment for evaluation. Ignorance of the rules does not exclude any member of the University community from the requirements and expectations of the Honor Code.  Academic integrity expectations are the same for online classes as they are for in person classes.  All university policies and procedures apply in any Virginia Tech academic environment.

For additional information about the Honor Code, please visit:

Honor Code Pledge for Assignments: The Virginia Tech honor code pledge for assignments is as follows:   

“I have neither given nor received unauthorized assistance on this assignment.”

The pledge is to be written out on all graded assignments at the university and signed by the student.  The honor pledge represents both an expression of the student’s support of the honor All Undergraduate course syllabi shall contain a section that states and refers the student to the Honor Code Procedures on the University website. The minimum required statement is listed below. Additional information about the expectation of academic integrity in a particular course may be appropriate.

  1. All assignments submitted shall be considered “graded work” and all aspects of your coursework are covered by the Honor Code. All projects and homework assignments are to be completed individually unless otherwise specified.
  2. The Academic Integrity expectations for Hokies are the same in an online class as they are in an in-person class. Hokies are expected to meet the academic integrity standards at Virginia Tech at all times.
  3. Commission of any of the following acts shall constitute academic misconduct. This listing is not, however, exclusive of other acts that may reasonably be said to constitute academic misconduct. Clarification is provided for each definition with some examples of prohibited behaviors in the Undergraduate Honor Code Manual located at
    • CHEATING: Cheating includes the intentional use of unauthorized materials, information, notes, study aids or other devices or materials in any academic exercise, or attempts thereof.
    • PLAGIARISM: Plagiarism includes the copying of the language, structure, programming, computer code, ideas, and/or thoughts of another and passing off the same as one's own original work, or attempts thereof.
    • FALSIFICATION: Falsification includes the statement of any untruth, either verbally or in writing, with respect to any element of one's academic work, or attempts thereof.
    • FABRICATION: Fabrication includes making up data and results, and recording or reporting them, or submitting fabricated documents, or attempts thereof.
    • MULTIPLE SUBMISSION: Multiple submission involves the submission for credit – without authorization from the instructor receiving the work – of substantial portions of any work (including oral reports) previously submitted for credit at any academic institution of attempts thereof.
    • COMPLICITY: Complicity includes intentionally helping another to engage in an act of academic misconduct, or attempts thereof.
    • VIOLATION OF UNIVERSITY, COLLEGE, DEPARTMENTAL, PROGRAM, COURSE, OR FACULTY RULES: The violation of any University, College, Departmental, Program, Course, or Faculty Rules relating to academic matters that may lead to an unfair academic advantage by the student violating the rule(s).

Services for Students with Disabilities—If you have any kind of disability, whether apparent or non-apparent, learning, emotional, physical, or cognitive, and you need accommodations or alternatives to lectures, assignments, or exams, please feel free to contact me to discuss reasonable accommodations for your access needs.  If, at any point in the term, you find yourself not able to fully access the space, content, and experience of this course you are welcome (and not required) to contact me by email, phone, or during office hours to discuss your specific needs. If you are in need of special accommodations due to a disability, as recognized by Americans with Disabilities Act, please contact Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD; 310 Lavery Hall, 430 Old Turner St, Blacksburg, VA 24061 | 540-231-3788 | ). By making a plan through SSD you can ensure appropriate accommodations without disclosing your condition or diagnosis to course instructors. If you have an SSD accommodation letter, please meet with me privately during office hours as early in the semester as possible to deliver your letter and discuss your accommodations. You must give me reasonable notice to implement your accommodations, which is generally 5 business days and 10 business days for final exams.

If you take good notes and would like to provide a community service, please consider being a volunteer note taker for this class. Volunteer note takers take a few minutes after each class to scan and upload their notes to a secure Scholar site. The student needing the notes understands the notes are for his/her personal use, to break down a barrier caused by a disability, and that class attendance is mandatory. Students interested in serving as note takers in this class should contact the professor. The Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) office will communicate with volunteers throughout the semester.  Contact as soon as feasible if you are interested.  In recognition of this service (Ut Prosim), I will provide the volunteer note taker with a letter of appreciation after consultation with the Services for Students with Disabilities. 

Religious and Cultural Observations—Persons who have religious or cultural observances that coincide with this class should let the instructor know in writing by e-mail by September 3rd. I strongly encourage you to honor your cultural and religious holidays! However, if I do not hear from you by September 3rd, I will assume that you plan to attend all class meetings.

Mobile Technologies—Cell phones, handheld computers, PDA’s, and laptop/tablet computers may only be used in class for class-related purposes. Please respect your fellow students and the professor by turning off cell phones before entering class and refraining from using computers and PDAs during class for non-class related purposes. If your phone rings during class, I will answer it for you.  If my phone rings during class, I will ask one of you to answer it for me.  

Veterans and active duty military personnel with special circumstances (e.g., upcoming deployments, drill requirements, disabilities) are welcome and encouraged to communicate these, in advance if possible, to the instructor

Discussion Etiquette—Your classmates deserve your respect and support. Others may have ideas and opinions that differ from yours, or they may struggle to understand information as quickly as their peers.  A democratic, pluralistic society depends on our ability to conduct civil discourse. Take responsibility for your education. Complete assigned readings before class time.  Whether you learn depends on your willingness to listen, ask appropriate questions and do the work necessary to pass the course.  Arrive to class on time. Students who walk into the classroom (online or inperson) late distract other students in the learning environment.  Take notes on discussion so you are prepared to share most salient points of your discussion.  I will ask assign a student (or two) at beginning of a discussion that they will review the main points.  I will use a variety of discussion techniques, from whole class discussion, pairs, small groups, panel, debate, and role playing over the semester, depending on the topic.  

Late Assignments – Assignments will be reduced 10 % per day, unless permission has been granted prior to the assignment due date or you received excused absences. OUCH! That hurts.  See excused absences below. 

Attendance and Participation—All students are expected to attend class regularly and to arrive promptly. Class attendance and participation are essential to developing the depth of knowledge and skills necessary for you to succeed in this class.   In addition, this course is based on the development of skills that require students to observe and provide feedback to peers. Quizzes may be given at beginning, middle, or end of class periods.

Wellness Principles — Virginia Tech is committed to protecting the health and safety of all members of its community. By participating in this class, all students agree to abide by the Virginia Tech Wellness principles.
If you are exhibiting even the slightest sign of illness, you must not attend an in-person class. Notify me by email of any illness-related absences. Follow  instructions posted at

Why you should use social media to enhance learning—Some students are reluctant to respond in class, but after time for reflection may have insightful comments to share. Participating online may include commenting on blog posts, sharing relevant news and information on Twitter #FiW2234 #VT_FFC. A quick Twitter mention to @donaldorth account may get a response faster than using email to communicate with me. And sharing means others may answer and may learn too!

I will follow students on twitter.  I’m not your friend, I’m not your colleague. I’m your professor. We can be part of a larger network of learners, if you care to join in.

My assignments encourage public writing. It’s the student’s choice when they choose to make anything public beyond the class.  

Read more: Will Social Media Empower Fisheries Students Via Learning Networks? By Don Orth

Inclement weather policy— University cancels class: VT campus closings due to inclement weather may be obtained by calling the weather hotline, (540) 231-6668, tuning to WVTF-FM89.1 or 91.9, or viewing the VT home page. If the university is closed, then we do not have class and I’ll send the class an email to that effect.

Basic Student Needs— (1) Any student who faces challenges securing their food or housing and believes this may affect their performance in the course is urged to contact the Dean of Students  (109 New Hall West (0428), 190 West Campus Drive, Blacksburg, VA 24061 | 540-231-3787 | ) for support. Furthermore, please notify me if you are comfortable in doing so.  (2) Any student who has difficulty affording groceries or accessing sufficient food to eat every day, or who lacks a safe and stable place to live, and believes this may affect their performance in the course, is urged to contact the Dean of Students for support. Furthermore, please notify me if you are comfortable in doing so. 

Virginia Tech Principles of Community— we adopt and practice the following principles as fundamental to our on-going efforts to increase access and inclusion and to create a community that nurtures learning and growth for all. 

  • We affirm the inherent dignity and value of every person and strive to maintain a climate for work and learning based on mutual respect and understanding.
  • We affirm the right of each person to express thoughts and opinions freely. We encourage open expression within a climate of civility, sensitivity, and mutual respect.
  • We affirm the value of human diversity because it enriches our lives and the University. We acknowledge and respect our differences while affirming our common humanity.
  • We reject all forms of prejudice and discrimination, including those based on age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, and veteran status. We take individual and collective responsibility for helping to eliminate bias and discrimination and for increasing our own understanding of these issues through education, training, and interaction with others.
  • We pledge our collective commitment to these principles in the spirit of the Virginia Tech motto of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve).



Congratulate yourself! You have reached the end of the syllabus.  Boring reading to be certain.  It will get better, I promise. 

Course Summary:

Date Details Due