Multi Species Models BIOL5131

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Biodiversity One Health Vet Med
  • Credits: 10
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course will introduce students to the different ways in which it is possible to formulate multi-species population models. We will focus particularly on the formulation of appropriate ordinary differential equations, the functional responses implicit in these formulations, and models of food web dynamics, together with local and global stability analysis. We will review the history of ecological thinking on question of how ecological stability can be defined and how such measures relate to the complexity of ecological systems.


Concentrated course over one week, with one hour lecture, one hour practical computer laboratory and one hour of tutorial per day.

Requirements of Entry

A second class Honours degree or equivalent in a relevant subject. Professional experience may be taken into account.

English language

If your first language is not English, the University sets a minimum English Language proficiency level. See English Language Requirements

Excluded Courses



Key research skills (Semester 1)

Programming in R (Semester 2) for specialisation in Quantitative Skills in Applied Ecology, Epidemiology and Conservation Biology


Students will submit practical exercises to gauge their depth of understanding and engagement with the skills learned in each of the practical sessions. The work will be assessed not only on completion of the assigned tasks but on interpretation and self-reflection of the theories learned (50%). The remaining 50% will be a set exercise that will require integration of the evidence-based knowledge and skills learned in this module.

Course Aims

This course will introduce students to the theory and practice of formulating multi species population models. It will aim to introduce students to the different ways these models can be formulated in theory, and implemented in practice (this will be undertaken in the R programming environment). Students will be asked to review a range of previous uses of these forms of models, and be asked to develop critical views of them. Emphasis will be placed on identifying the key assumptions of these different models, and when different formulations are most appropriate.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to discuss critically with respect to the evidence base and primary literature:

■ Applications, limitations and assumptions of the main areas of multi-species population models

■ Features of a range of commonly used multi-species population models, and evaluate the various assumptions that each make

■ Examples of when these different models have been applied to particular situations, and what different sorts of predictions such models are most appropriate for

■ Current issues and controversies in this area of multi-species ecological modelling


In addition, they will be able to:

■ Implement a range of different multi-species models in R, and be able to conduct comprehensive numerical analysis of these models.

■ Estimate critical parameters contained within these different formulations, and determine how the stability of these models depends on their formulation and parameterization

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits