Modelling and management of wild populations

Semester 1

Semester 2

Semester 3

Semester 4



Living Resources
University of Oviedo


A course for learning introductory principles of ecosystem modelling and how to apply it to the management of wild populations. Half of the course is devoted to practical computer exercises.


Module 1 (3 ECTS): Ecological Modelling.
Mathematical approach to Ecology (a journey from the basic models to the real world systems). Understanding a differential equation. Software for scientific computation, numerical simulation and visualization of results. From mass balance models to dynamical models: an introduction to Ecopath, Ecosim and Ecospace. Toy-models and real-models of marine ecosystems: Ecopath, Ecosym and Ecospace. First steps in the designing of software for model analysis.

Module 2 (3 ECTS): Population Biology Applied to Conservation.
Unstructured population models. Continuous and discrete-time population models. Sensitivity analysis. Estimation of parameters for ecological models. Age and class-structured population models. Construction of the population matrix. Projection of the population. Perturbation analysis. Density dependence in structured models.
Stochastic models. The effect of variability in population parameters. Quantification of the effect of the variability. Implementing variability in simple models: Environmental and demographic stochasticity. Periodicity in structured models. Stochasticity in structured models.
Individual based models (IBMs). Variability among individuals. Description of IBMs.
Statistical inference. Life Table Response Experiments (LTRE). Confidence intervals for vital rates. Comparison of populations. Loglinear analysis.
Spatially structured models. Modelling dispersal. Stage structured populations. Metapopulations. Synchronicity
Population Viability Analysis. Conservation paradigms. Final and practical recommendations


Graduate level in sciences. Basic knowledge in mathematics is welcome. Undergraduate General Ecology course.


To learn how to apply modelling in real-world ecosystems.


Students should be able to understand what is in the backstage regarding existing software for simulations of real ecosystems. They will learn how to use those programs and some basic abilities to be able of designing their own software. The students will learn to identify problems in real populations and evaluate viability.

Key skills acquired

Use of software to simulate live systems, abilities in modelling and designing of software. On completing the course, the student should be able to:
-Identify problems in real populations
-Choose adequate models to make projections
-Extract basic information to feed the models
-Make projections of the populations to evaluate viability
-Evaluate sensitivity of basic models
-Propose action plans


Collection of tutorials about the software being used. Recent publications about real models. Textbooks:
Caswell, H. 2001. Matrix population models. Construction, analysis and interpretation. Sinauer
Hastings, A. 1997. Population biology. Concepts and models. Springer.
McCallum, H. 2000. Population parameters. Estimation for ecological models. Blackwell.


Module 1: Four assignments to be reported at the end of the module.
Module 2: Assignment consisting in the preparation of an Individual Based Model for one marine species with an interest in conservation.

Involved teachers

Julio Arrontes Santiago Ibáñez Mesa Pablo Pérez Riera

Contact hours


Laboratory: 0