NERC Advanced Training Short Course: Stage-based demographic models in ecology, evolution and conservation

Jones, O. (Participant)

Activity: Attending an eventOrganisation or participation in workshops, courses or seminars


The survival and reproduction of individuals within a population are, at the most fundamental level, universal processes among all organisms, from bacteria, to humans, and sequoias. Consequently, understanding what factors shape such components of organismal fitness and what consequences they have for population dynamics and overall performance are central to all of ecology, conservation biology and evolutionary biology.

Stage-structured models have emerged as powerful tools to adequately describe a population’s trends, regulatory mechanisms and projections into the future. Both matrix population models (MPMs), where individuals are categorized according to some discrete variable (e.g. age, ontogenetic stages), or integral projection models (IPMs), where an individual’s survival and reproduction are modelled using a continuous attribute of the individual (e.g. size), have become the most widely used tools in population ecology for animals and plants.

This weeklong workshop will be instructed by a mix of early and senior career leaders of MPMs and IPMs. The first half of the first day (before 12.30pm on Monday) is not mandatory to course participants, but highly encouraged regardless of background. In it, we will provide a refresher on matrix algebra, linear models, generalised linear models, linear mixed models, model selection, and other pertinent topics that will greatly aid in the learning experience of this course. We will devote the afternoon of day 1 to cover the fundaments of matrix population models, transient dynamics and life history traits (e.g. mean life expectancy, age at first reproduction. From day 2 until day 5, the participants will construct IPMs based on mini-lectures and guided exercises provided by the instructors with various applications to ecology, evolution and conservation science. Participants are welcome to bring their own data to address the exercises using those when appropriate. The weeklong workshop will be structured around mini-lectures (30 mins each) followed by fully commented exercises using R that the instructors have already developed.

By the end of the workshop the participants will be familiar with the parameterisation, analyses and interpretation of outputs from MPMs and IPMs. Special emphasis will be given to applications of MPMs and IPMs to questions in ecological research, evolutionary biology and conservation science through the teaching of how to quantify selection gradients, implement population viability analyses, and derive life history traits from these models. Advanced users will learn state-of-the-art applications of eco-evolutionary IPMs to cross-classify individuals according to size and evolving traits.
Period7. Jan 201911. Jan 2019
Event typeWorkshop
LocationOxford, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • population biology
  • demography
  • life history