INF-31806 Models for Ecological Systems


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Group work5
Course coordinator(s)ir. MA Zijp
Lecturer(s)dr. HM Scholten
dr. ir. ing. AGT Schut
prof. dr. ir. GMJ Mohren
dr. ir. MMPD Heijmans
prof. dr. WM Mooij
Examiner(s)dr. HM Scholten
dr. ir. ing. AGT Schut

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

Elementary mathematics, for instance as taught in the courses MAT-14903 Mathematics 2 and MAT-15003 Mathematics 3.
Specifically you should be acquainted with the following concepts and techniques: functions, differential equations, differentiation and integration. See well before the course starts blackboard INF31806_2017_3 for tests and materials.


Systems approaches are widely used in education, research and management to understand, analyse and manage systems with the help of simulation models. Moreover, more and more so-called 'ready-to-use' computer models are being offered and used. We then have to know whether a 'ready-to-use' model is appropriate for our objectives. Therefore, the objective of the course Models for Ecological Systems is: "To provide you with scientifically sound tools which you can use to judge or assess to what extent a model fits your purpose". Judging existing models, rather than developing models from scratch yourself, is the main objective of this course. For this purpose, the following topics are included.
The first topic is related to the content of simulation models (Model Content, MC) for forest and aquatic ecological systems and the associated biological, chemical and physical processes.
The second topic introduces a Good Modelling Practice (GMP) approach, i.e. how to design, build, analyse, and use simulation models to solve certain aspects of problems. Good Modelling Practice facilitates the (re)construction of a model based management study, which allows others to audit and evaluate the overall quality of these studies.
Thirdly, what is taught in MC and GMP will be applied to analyse complex existing simulation models that are used for current research and scenario studies. Students will implement their own (so-called) mini-models that are simplified versions of these complex models.
Finally, the complex models are used during group work to study real-world problems in the domain of Forest and Nature Conservation and Aquatic Ecology, and to learn how to judge such models with the help of the MC and GMP tools.
This course is not suitable for students already familiar with modelling taught in courses like PPS-20306.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- explain the concepts and basics of mathematical simulation models consisting of algebraic and/or differential equations. This includes understanding of state variables, rate variables and driving variables, feedback mechanisms and the importance of time coefficients and residence time;
- explain differences between numerical integration methods for ordinary and partial differential equations (1D only);
use and develop conceptual state-flow and Forrester diagrams, effectively use and apply an unit analysis;
- interpret and assess outcomes of existing models;
- re-use existing models and/or model components for real world problems;
- practice mathematical formulations of some elementary (agro)ecological, chemical and physical processes, as part of such models;
- apply modelling according to Good Modelling Practice (GMP). This includes problem analysis, data requirement analysis, application of the concepts mentioned above, and activities to enable re-use of models and model components;
- implement, test and analyse relatively easy models;
- evaluate validity and adequacy of existing models that are used to analyse real world problems in the context of ecological systems according to GMP principles;
- recognize limitations of existing models;
- optional (available to interested students): to be able to extend an existing model for solving a particular real world problem in the context of ecological systems


- classroom lectures (25%);
- practical training (30%);
- mini-models (15%);
- group work (30%).
This includes the exam, presentations, a self-assessment, a question hour and 28 hours of scheduled self-study.


- written individual closed book exam with open questions (60%);
- group work: model journal (25%);
- presentations (15%);
To pass each component requires a minimum mark of 5.50).



Compulsory for: MFNForest and Nature ConservationMScC: Ecology3WD
Restricted Optional for: MEEEarth and EnvironmentMScC: Biology and Chemistry of Soil and Water3WD
MCLClimate StudiesMScC: Ecological and Agroecological Systems3WD