IDEM 186

Comparative Approaches in Ecology and Evolution

Course Coordinator: Rob Salguero-Gómez
Start: April 25, 2016
End: April 29, 2016
Location: Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR), Rostock, Germany.


  • Rob Salguero-Gómez (University of Queensland, Australia)
  • Scott Chamberlain (UC Berkeley, USA)
  • Kevin Healy (Trinity College Dublin, Ireland)
  • Owen Jones (Southern Denmark University, Denmark)
  • Bruce Kendall (UC Santa Barabara, USA)
  • Jean-François Lemaitre (CNRS, Lyon)
  • Jitka Klimešová (Institute of Botany, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic)
  • Dmitriy Logofet (Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia)
  • Alejandro Ordoñez (Aarhus University, Denmark)
  • Alexander Scheuerlein (Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research)
  • Iain Stott (Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Germany)
  • Jean-Michel Gaillard (CNRS, Lyon, France)

Course description:
The last decades have witnessed significant changes in the attitudes of ecologists and evolutionary biologists towards open-access data. The availability of information on species’ conservation status (IUCN), geographic ranges (GBIF), functional traits (CLOPA, BIEN), demographic rates (COMPADRE, COMADRE, BIDDABA, MALDABA,  DATLife) offer the unprecedented opportunity to examine global drivers of life history strategies using robust statistical tools on large datasets using phylogenetic methods.

This workshop brings together some of the leaders in functional ecology, demography and phylogenetic analyses to train participants on the combined predictive potential of these disciplines for ecology, evolution and conservation biology at a global scale. The first half of the week will be devoted to equipping the participants with key theoretical and technical knowledge, while during the second half the participants will develop projects using the analytical approaches and open-access data made available during the course.

Organization and logistics:
The course will last five days (Monday 25th through Friday 29th of April 2016). Participants are expected to arrive in Rostock on Sunday 24th or earlier to be available on Monday morning and stay until the end of the course on Friday late afternoon. The workshop will follow a gradual transition from more lecture-heavy content (Monday-mid Wednesday) to more participant-led projects (mid Wed-Friday). Participants will develop research projects drawing from the techniques and open-access data introduced during the course.

The instructors will provide a series of mini-lectures.  Each mini-lecture will be followed by exercises in R, based on open-data resources provided by the instructors, or obtained from publically available sources. In addition to the mini-lectures, at least three special-interest group modules are scheduled to take place during the week; these will cover general interests that may emerge from the participants as they develop their projects.

The modules may include:
Module A: Linking traits, and phylogeny to climate: FetchClimate
Module B: Advanced stochastic population dynamics
Module C: To be determined based on participants’ interests

Participants are encouraged to bring their own laptops, although in exceptional cases a limited number of laptops may be provided by the MPIDR – contact The participants will be approached via email ahead of time with the necessary manuscripts to read and R libraries to install prior to the start of the weeklong workshop.

The databases used in this workshop include: COMPADRE & COMADREBIENClo-Pla, BIDDABA, MALDABA, GenBankIUCNGBIFFetchClimateCatalogue of LifeThe Plant List, among others.

We understand that being familiar with all the disciplines involved in this workshop is rather unlikely (e.g. functional ecology, demography and phylogenetics). However, preference will be given to applicants with a significant background and interest in at least one of these disciplines, and with a strong interest in comparative biology and macro-ecology/evolution. Participants must have a moderate level in programming and statistical analyses in R. The course is open to researchers in stages from MSc to full professor, but priority will be given to graduate (MSc and Phd) students and postdocs.

The participants will be evaluated on the basis of their engagement during the workshop and a presentation to take place on Thursday or Friday.

Financial support:
There is no tuition fee for this course: the workshop is free to all accepted participants.  Students are expected to pay their own transportation and living costs.  However, a limited amount of funding may become available to *partially* support their accommodation in the guest apartments of the MPIDR. Applicants in need of this partial support should state so in the application letter of intent section.

How to apply:
Applications should be sent by email to the MPIDR ( Please write in the subject line of your email “Application for IDEM 186  – Comparative approaches in ecology and evolution”. You also need to attach the following items integrated in *a single PDF file*:

  • A max. 1-page letter of intent, describing your background, your strengths in at least one of the disciplines involved (phylogenetic analyses, demography, functional ecology), experience with R, and scientific interests, explicitly highlighting how attending this workshop will benefit your career. At the very end of your letter of intent, in a separate paragraph, please add “I request partial housing support from the MPIDR” if you would like to be considered for partial accommodation support provided by the MPIDR.
  • A max. 2-page curriculum vitae.
  • A max. 1-page letter of recommendation from your advisor or senior researcher/colleague explicitly stating how attending this workshop will advance the career of the applicant.

The single PDF application package must not exceed four pages.

Send your email to Heiner Maier ( no later than January 31st, 2016. Acceptance will be notified by February 29, 2016.

More Information

Comparative Approaches in Ecology and Evolution - Detailed course schedule (PDF File, 43 kB)

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.