Ecosystem Modelling

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Ecosystem Modelling

  • Host University

    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  • Location

    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  • Area of Study

    Computer Science, Environmental Science

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Course Level Recommendations


    ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.

    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    Students will be able to:

    • Write, run and validate a simple computer program
    • Select whether a modelling-approach is valid for answering the ecological or environmental research question at hand
    • Critically investigate and evaluate the assumptions underlying numerical models -
    • Apply different techniques used in numerical modelling for answering ecological and environmental questions.

    Where science unravels more and more physiological, physical and ecological processes, models can help to synthesise this knowledge in a consistent numerical framework. Also, when field experiments are impossible, unethical or excessively expensive, simulation experiments can be used to forecast the outcome of different treatments or climate scenarios. This course will introduce the different usages of numerical models. The basic tools of the trade will be introduced and implemented during computer-based exercises. Moreover, two challenging models will be built; one simulating carbon allocation in trees, the other simulating growth of coral reefs, self-organisation of vegetation in arid regions or flocking of birds and fish. The course builds on ecological, physical and mathematical knowledge and skills obtained during the BSc years to construct new skills: basic computer programming, numerical modelling and critical thinking in the context of numerical models.

    Lecture, Computer Lab

    The lectures address:

    • Measure or model – Overview of the main ecosystem models (week 1)
    • Tools of the trade – Basics of computer programming (week 1)
    • Tools of the trade – Developing a carbon allocation model for forests (week 2 – 4)
    • Measure or model – Numerical issues in ecological models (week 5)
    • Tools of the trade – Developing a spatially explicit ecological model (week 5-8)

    During the course, three individual exercises and a presentation will be graded to make up the final grade:

    • Exercise 1: The basics of computer programming (1 point)
    • Exercise 2: A carbon allocation model (3 points)
    • Exercise 3: A spatially explicit ecological model, i.e., self-organisation of vegetation in drylands OR flocking of birds and fish OR growth of coral reefs (5 points).
    • Presentation of the model and results (1 point).

    Ecology, People, and Nature I (AB_1001); Ecology, People, and Nature II (AB_1002); Life Communities and Ecosystems (AB_1208)

    MSc Third year BSc students in Biology and Minor Evolutionary Biology and Ecology with an interest in quantitative (large-scale) ecology

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Some courses may require additional fees.


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