Individual-based modelling for ecology, evolution and conservation: concepts, methods, applications, and challenges

February 27, 2017


When: 16-20 October 2017


What: Science Retreats and InBIO-CIBIO at the University of Évora are jointly organising the 1st edition of the course “Individual-based modelling for ecology, evolution and conservation: concepts, methods, applications, and challenges”. This course will introduce key concepts in individual-based modelling, highlighting both the opportunities that this modelling approach provides as well as discussing the challenges. The course will cover the use of individual-based models for developing novel theory as well as how the approach can be used for a broad range of applied questions.


Examples will be drawn from a range of topics including the use of individual-based models in landscape ecology (e.g. to model functional connectivity), their use in simulating range expansions under alternative potential future scenarios, the evolution of life history strategies (including dispersal and mating system).  During the course, the students will have the opportunity to learn how to use RangeShifter (Bocedi et al. 2014 Methods in Ecology and Evolution), a platform developed by the teaching team for individual-based modelling of ecological and evolutionary processes. There will additionally be the opportunity to develop new code in R or C++, depending upon the participants’ interests and expertise.


The course will be structured with lectures and tutorials during the mornings and project work in the afternoons. Participants will be supported in working individually or in small groups in developing models to address questions related to systems or questions that they work on. They will be guided, where appropriate, in making use of environmental and ecological data from their system.  Training will be provided in effectively dealing with the different sources of uncertainty present within output generated from individual-based models. The course is the first to be run in this format in Evora but it builds upon several successful shorter format courses that have been run to introduce participants to RangeShifter and on an Advanced Modelling for Ecology and Conservation course that is part of a Masters programme at University of Aberdeen.   


Course Objectives

In the end of the course, our aim is that students will be equipped to:

1. Understand the key features of individual-based models for use within ecology, evolution and conservation.

2. Understand the roles that individual-based models can play in developing theory and also in application.

3. Effectively specify a research question and then design an individual-based simulation study to address that question.

4. Get started with stochastic individual based modelling using the software platform RangeShifter, or by developing new code in R.

5. Effectively analyse and communicate the outcomes from individual-based models.


*RangeShifter 2.0 is being developed and at this course we will introduce the participants to the new functionality that is included. Most notably, it includes the capability for simulating neutral and adaptive genetics.


Tags: Ecology, Evolution, Modelling, r

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