Matrix population modeling for wildlife workshop: August 25th-26th 2018

Introduction to modeling wildlife population dynamics using matrix models

Instructor: Dr. Sophie Gilbert, Department of Fish & Wildlife Sciences, University of Idaho

Date: August 25-26, 2018 (8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.)

Location: University of Idaho, College of Natural Resources (MCCL 214A)

Registration Details: Cost $300. Registration deadline- July 31st, 2018. Please contact Kim Stout,

Course description

Animal population dynamics are influenced by a wide array of processes, from environmental variability to predation, competition, management changes, and nutritionally-induced density dependence. As a result, researchers and managers are often keenly interested in better understanding and quantifying population dynamics. However, the complex life histories of many species require approaches that can incorporate multiple vital rates and evaluate their relative importance, such as matrix population models.  Matrix-based population models can incorporate a multitude of ecological dynamics and provide a wide array of useful metrics, and are also the basic structure underlying an important new approach, integrated population models (not covered in this course). However, the construction and analysis of matrix models can be a barrier to use for those who have not used them previously.

In this course, participants will learn and practice the skills needed to build and analyze matrix population models, including a wide variety of structures (age-based, stage-based, 2-sex, density-dependent, and stochastic). The course structure will begin with morning lectures interspersed with running brief analyses, which will focus on key concepts and approaches for matrix population models. In the afternoons, the course will consist of interactive, hands-on computer exercises executed in program R. Previous experience with program R is helpful, but not required.

Course outline

Lecture: Introduction to matrix population models

·      Connection between matrix population models and other population models

·      Basic structure and formulation of matrix population models

·      Translation of sampling design to appropriate matrix structure

·      Age vs. stage-structured models (exercise)

·      1 vs. 2 sex models

·      Basic matrix model outputs and interpretation (exercise)


Lecture: Adding ecological complexity to matrix population models

·      Density dependence in matrix models

·      Demographic stochasticity and links to PVAs (exercise)

·      Environmental stochasticity (exercise)

·      Transient dynamics (exercise)

Practicum, Afternoon 1: work through matrix modeling exercises, including stage- and size-structured models, and 2-sex models

Practicum, Afternoon 2: work through more complex exercises to model a density-dependent population with environmental stochasticity

Instructor contact information

Sophie Gilbert, Department of Fish & Wildlife Sciences, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID 83844