Workshop: Modeling Population Dynamics – Estimating Demographic Parameters for Wildlife Conservation

Lecturer: Dr. Brett K. Sandercock, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research
13–19 January 2020 University of Debrecen, Hungary

The full flyer is here: Demography Workshop Debrecen 2020_details

Registration form:
Registration deadline: 10 November 2019
Workshop / course venue: DAB building, Thomas Mann street 49, Debrecen, Hungary
Capacity: 25 course participants (everybody needs to bring own laptop) + organizers
To assure the fairest possible selection process, every applicant will send a short letter of interest (up to 200 words) including: Why they are the most suitable participants, benefiting from the course the most? * How they are going to use the acquired knowledge? * What is their knowledge of R statistical software? * Which topics they would like to cover during the two last days of the course?
Workshop organizers (Dr. Brett Sandercock, Dr. Vojtěch Kubelka and Dr. Zsolt Végvári) will select 25 qualified participants with research interests in demography from a range of different institutions.
All applicants will be notified about the outcome until 17 November 2019.
Course fee: 50 EUR includes the course venue and coffee breaks for the whole week. See the registration form for more details. Contact for workshop organizers:
Course Dates Tentative Hours
Week 3: January 13–19, 2020
Morning and afternoon sessions
Two sessions per day, each 1 hour lecture and 2 hour lab with R

Brett K. Sandercock, PhD
Norwegian Institute for Nature Research
Trondheim, Norway Contact
Mobile: +47 45216480
Schedule: Modeling Population Dynamics is a graduate workshop that will be taught at the University of Debrecen, Hungary. The course is scheduled for the week of January 13–19, 2020 (week 3). For the first five days, two topics will be presented each day. Each topic will have a one hour lecture and a two hour practical exercise using example scripts in Program R. For the last two days, participants will receive assistance on quantitative analyses for individual projects and will prepare a short presentation on their research project. Participants (students) enrolling in the course should have some background in population biology and have completed upper-level undergraduate courses in wildlife management or similar courses. Course materials and lectures will be held in English.
Workshop description: In this workshop, we will explore applications of demographic methods for conservation and management of plant, fish, and wildlife populations. Quantitative methods for demographic analyses are currently used in three arenas of modern ecology. In evolutionary ecology, researchers use demographic methods to investigate patterns of variation in the life-history traits of organisms. In conservation biology, biologists use demographic tools to devise conservation strategies for threatened species, and to reduce population declines. In wildlife management, the same techniques are applied to questions in developing strategies for control and sustainable harvest. The course will cover the quantitative techniques commonly used for modeling population dynamics, including occupancy models, count-based models, and structured models based on demographic rates. We will consider some of the common drivers of population dynamics including density-dependence, trophic interactions, and sustainable harvest. The course will cover basic concepts and theory of wildlife demography, and will introduce useful packages in Program R that can be used to estimate demographic parameters and model population dynamics.
Learning outcomes: Participants will gain the skills needed to address the following questions:
1. What are the main types of demographic data used for conservation and management of wildlife populations? What are the main statistical paradigms commonly used to analyse population data?
2. What are the different types of mark-recapture models used to estimate demographic parameters or occupancy rates for wildlife populations? How are count-based models and structured models used to determine population status and predict population change (λ)?
3. What are the relationships among life tables, life cycle diagrams, and projection matrices? How can sensitivity and elasticity analyses be used to identify the demographic parameters with the greatest effects on population dynamics that would suitable targets for management?
4. How do negative and positive density-dependence affect population dynamics and what is the role of Allee effects in small populations?
5. How do predation and harvest affect compensatory and additive mortality? What are the main anthropogenic stressors that affect viability of wildlife populations? What are the best harvest strategies to ensure a long-term sustainable harvest?
6. What are the best options for modeling variance in demographic rates? What are the fundamental differences among life-table response experiments (LTRE), life-stage simulation analyses (LSA), and other types of stochastic models?
7. What are the packages in Program R and other open source software that can be used to model the population dynamics of wildlife species for conservation and management?
8. Develop preliminary plans for a research project that would include methods from quantitative ecology and present it as a short oral presentation to the group.

Workshop expectations:
1. Class readings. Preparation for daily classes will require some background reading on review articles and the empirical papers used as model datasets for class exercises.
2. Class lectures. Regular attendance and participation in class discussions.
3. Working with daily problem sets. Population modeling often involves use of unfamiliar computer software and hands-on learning is the best way to learn the steps in different analyses. Problem sets will give students an actual example to try and work through. Participants are encouraged to work in groups to solve the problem sets.
4. Individual projects. Each participant should come prepared with a possible topic that would be suitable for an analysis that is related to wildlife demography. Participants will be asked to give a short presentation that outlines their research question, describes the sources of data that are available, and concludes with the type of population model that could be used for an analysis. All participants and organizers will then discuss and suggest the best approach for the given issue.
Workshop evaluation:
Certificate of the successful participation at the end of the course. To receive the certificate, a participant will attend the class, complete the class exercises, and give a short presentation on an aspect of their research project where quantitative methods could be applied.
Workshop materials:
Students will need to bring a personal laptop computer to participate in the course exercises. It would be helpful to download and install two free software packages beforehand:
1. Program R. R is a programming environment for data processing, statistical analyses, and graphics. The most current versions are available at the CRAN website (
2. R packages. The base version of Program R can be extended with tools and custom functions in different optional R packages. The main packages that we will use in the workshop include unmarked for occupancy models, survival for time-to-event models, gss for hazard rate functions, RMark as an interface to Program Mark for mark-recapture models, and popbio for matrix population models.
3. Program Mark. Mark is a dedicated software program for estimation of demographic parameters from different kinds of mark-recapture data. It is available for download from the phidot website (