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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Ecological Science

Undergraduate Course: Modelling Ecosystem Processes (ECSC10040)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
Summary¿Modelling ecosystem processes¿ introduces the key approaches to modelling in the ecological and environmental sciences. It provides a conceptual understanding of how to represent complex ecosystems within a model framework and practical experience in model design, construction, sensitivity analysis, calibration, validation/evaluation and analysis to address specific objectives. The course demonstrates how models can provide real-world, actionable evidence for sustainable ecosystem interventions against global environmental change. You will learn how models can help test and generate new hypotheses to understand ecosystem functions. You will be challenged to formulate testable hypotheses, and design suitable models of differing complexity, including both discrete (i.e. individual-based) and continuous (i.e. pool-based) approaches. Existing real-world applicable terrestrial ecosystem models (e.g. DALEC) will be used to test student-created hypotheses of ecosystem function in response to external factors (i.e. climate and disturbance).
The course will consist of 10 three-hour sessions. These sessions include lectures and practical exercises that offer hands-on experience and reinforce the concepts introduced in the lectures.
Course description The course is divided into four modules, each consisting of weekly one-hour lectures to provide contextual information on models and the stages in their creation, calibration, evaluation and use. Examples will be from published datasets for context. These lectures provide the foundation for the weekly two-hour practical sessions involving individual and group-working opportunities. Sessions will be based on published models and datasets, where possible, to place the activities in context.

Course modules:
1. Modelling in ecological and environmental sciences
2. Individual-based models in Ecology
3. Forest biomass dynamics
4. Dynamic data and complex systems
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2022/23, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 8, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 6, Supervised Practical/Workshop/Studio Hours 16, Online Activities 5, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 3, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 158 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Assessment is 100% coursework divided between four assignments.

Assignment list:
1. Graphical model design. This summative assessment covers learning outcomes 1 and 2. Assessment submission is electronic via Learn.
2. Model development assignment. This assessment covers learning outcomes 1 and 2 and counts for 30% of your final mark. Assessment submission is electronic via Learn.
3. Individual-based modelling case study. This assessment covers learning outcomes 3 and 4 and counts for 30% of your final mark. Assessment submission is electronic via Learn.
4. Individual project. This assessment covers learning outcomes 2, 3 and 4 and counts for 40% of your final mark. Assessment submission is electronic via Learn.

Assessment deadlines
Graphical model design. Monday, week 3, 12 noon.
Model development assignment. Monday, week 6, 12 noon.
Individual-based modelling case study. Monday, week 8, 12 noon.
Individual project. Wednesday, week 11, 12 noon.
Feedback Students will receive formative feedback from teaching staff for assignment 1 ¿ Design and create a simple model. The teaching staff will provide timely and consistent summative, individual feedback, including a grade or mark for assignments 2 ¿ 4. Feedback from demonstrators and teaching staff will be given during practical sessions throughout the course.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Recognise the role and nature of modelling ecological and environmental systems using different modelling approaches (e.g. empirical and process-orientated)
  2. Interpret the basic principles of model building to generate hypotheses, outline new model structures and analyse and decipher model outputs
  3. Review the strengths and limitations of different types of model approaches
  4. Identify the challenges and decisions associated with calibration, evaluation, validation and implementation of models used in ecological and environmental sciences
Reading List
Grimm, V., Berger, U., Bastiansen, F., Eliassen, S., Ginot, V., Giske, J., Goss-Custard, J., Grand, T., Heinz, S.K., Huse, G. and Huth, A., 2006. A standard protocol for describing individual-based and agent-based models. Ecological modelling, 198(1-2), pp.115-126.

Soetaert, K. and Herman, P.M., 2009. A practical guide to ecological modelling: using R as a simulation platform (Vol. 7, No. 7). New York: Springer.

Bloom, A.A. and Williams, M., 2015. Constraining ecosystem carbon dynamics in a data-limited world: integrating ecological" common sense" in a model¿data fusion framework. Biogeosciences, 12(5), pp.1299-1315.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Special Arrangements
All details related to extensions procedures and late penalties can be found in the School of GeoSciences General Information Handbook
KeywordsEcological modelling,environmental modelling,empirical models; individual/agent-based models
Course organiserDr Stacey Fairhurst
Course secretaryMiss Francesca Nadal Finnegan
Tel: (0131 6)50 4842
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