ENVB40290 Ecological Modelling

Academic Year 2023/2024

Ecological models are everyday tools in all aspects of the biological sciences. Models are used to predict future ecological scenarios (e.g. global warming effects upon species' distributions), to interpret data (e.g. statistical models) and to simplify our understanding of a system (e.g. cell reaction network models). Their use extends beyond basic research, into areas such as ecological consultancy, resource-management and conservation. In the future it is likely that you will be using some form of model, or working with others who use models. This module will provide you with the fundamental skills to interpret the results from an ecological model, to effectively communicate with expert modellers, to ask the pertinent questions about a model, and to understand the basic steps in constructing a model. The module requires no special mathematical or modelling experience. The module is a mixture of lectures and practical classes. In the practical classes you will work in small groups to apply the ideas presented in the lectures. You will develop your own models and use ecological models which are currently in use for research or consultancy. The module will end with a group project where you will have some freedom to specialise in an area that interests you. The module has no exam. Instead assessment will be primarily reports written during the practicals because the module emphasises group problem solving. This module requires that you have access to a laptop computer.

Show/hide contentOpenClose All

Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

1. Compare and contrast the use of various ecological modeling approaches to problems in the real world.
2. Explain the fundamental steps in building an ecological model.
3. Evaluate the quality of a modeling study by reflecting upon the question being posed, the construction of the model and its validation.
4. Work effectively in a team to create a simple ecological model.
5. Apply sensitivity analyses to simple ecological models.
6. Prepare a professional report of an ecological modeling study.

Indicative Module Content:

1. Why use an ecological model?
2. Conceptual Ecological Models
3. Quantitative Ecological Models
4. Model parameterisation
5. Model validation
6. Model reporting

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Autonomous Student Learning




Computer Aided Lab




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Each week is a mix of face-to-face classes and practicals.
Face-to-face classes have a strong active component, incorporating in-class activities for small groups with verbal feedback to the whole class.
Practicals are computer based using your own laptop to run modelling software which will be made available to you. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations
Learning Recommendations:

Basic computer literacy (e.g. Excel and Word).
Basic knowledge of quantitative methods (e.g. fractions and percentages, equation of a straight line, rearranging an equation).

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Attendance: Contribution to discussion forum Unspecified n/a Graded No


Continuous Assessment: Analysis of a published ecological modelling study Week 2 n/a Graded No


Continuous Assessment: Computer-based practical write-up Unspecified n/a Graded No


Group Project: Final project work Week 4 n/a Graded No



Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Summer No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment
• Self-assessment activities

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Not yet recorded.

Grant E and Swannack TM (2008) Ecological Modelling: A common-sense approach to theory and
practice, Blackwell, Oxford

Owen-Smith N (2007) Introduction to modelling in wildlife and resource management, Blackwell,
Name Role
Ultan Ò'Donnell Tutor