Theoretical Ecology Seminar

Type of instruction




Part of degree program


Recommended in

Semesters 1-4

Typically offered in

Autumn/Spring semester

Course description

1. Introduction Strategic vs. tactical models. Representation of space, time, and state. Model types. A review of seminar topics, and recommended literature for individual talks. Choice of individual mini-projects.

2. Models and empirical studies Simplifying assumptions - be careful! Strategies for measurements and observation. From the field to the computer - and . Interpretation of the results. Holistic vs. reductionist approaches: advantages, disadvantages, and unsolved problems. Emergent phenomena. Crossing boundaries between sciences.

3. Tools for modelling /1 Choosing a model type: questions to answer before the start. A danger: confounding assumptions with results! Facts and artefacts. Some examples.  

4. Tools for modelling /2  An inventory. Some tools of particular importance in Ecology: dynamic models in population and community studies. Variation in space and over time.

5. Tools for modelling /3 Non-spatial and spatially implicit models. The growth of populations and metapopulations. Interactions and Lotka-Volterra dynamics.

6. Tools for modelling /4 Spatially explicit models. Distance-dependence and other spatial effects. Mass-based models: reactiondiffusion and patch abundance systems. Object-based models: individual-based and site-based approaches. Neighborhood definitions and tiling.

7. Population growth and spreading in space Unlimited and limited growth. Limiting factors. Population regulation. The dynamics of spatial spreading.

8. Landscapes and metapopulations Methods for characterizing landscape structure. The effect of landscape structure on population dynamics and survival. Fragmentation and isolation. Habitat patches and metapopulation dynamics.

9. Interactions between populations Networks of interaction. Coexistence, and some mechanisms of exclusion. The paradox of the plankton. Some candidates for solving the paradox.

10. Community organization Assembly rules in ecological communities. Interactions between species and environment. Feed mechanisms. Successional trends.

11. Biodiversity Approaches for characterizing biodiversity. Some diversity measures. Scale-dependence of diversity. Bioindication and predictions based on diveristy measures. Species extinctions.

12. Patterns in space and time: an information theoretical approach Some basic questions about patterns. Some tools for answering: a family of models proposed by Pál Juhász-Nagy. Interpretation of the results, and applications in conservation biology.

13. Pattern-formation and self-organization Growth and morphogenesis. Some examples from developmental biology and ecology. Feed mechanisms. The origin of pattern: Turing models and some related approaches. The robustness vs. fragility of structures. Implications in conservation biology. 

14. Complexity of ecological systems Nonlinearity and emergent phenomena. Order and disorder in ecosystems. The importance of noise. The importance of rare events. Historical constraints. Notes on the predictability of ecological processes. 

  • Case, T. J. (2000) An illustrated guide to theoretical ecology. Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford.

  • Czárán, T. (1997) Spatiotemporal models of community and population dynamics. Chapman and Hall, London.

  • Begon, M., Townsend, C. R. és Harper, J. L. (2005), 4. edition. Ecology: from individuals to ecosystems. Blackwell Publ., Oxford, UK.

  • Solé, R. V. és Bascompte, R. (2006) Self-organisation in complex ecosystems. Princeton University Press, New Jersey, USA.