Niche Models Workshop

Understanding, developing, and interpreting niche/habitat selection models for species conservation and management will be the foundation of the Niche Model Workshop.  

For more information about these program, contact Julie Heinrichs at  Future class TBD

Bridging ecological niche modeling and decision support, this workshop builds a toolkit for ecological professionals to understand and map species distributions for management and conservation applications.

Course Description

Wildlife management and species conservation efforts are increasingly using niche models and maps to define and protect habitat, as well as identify conservation actions and project changes in species ranges.  Niche models are known by a variety of names including species distribution models, habitat relationship models, bioclimatic envelopes, etc., but all assess the niche - the set of environmental conditions in which a species can survive and persist.  There are many different approaches and algorithms for estimating niche relationships, each with slightly different objectives, strengths and limitations.  In this short course, we will provide a rapid introduction to niche modeling covering from basic theory to advanced application and model development.  We will mix lecture, discussion, and hands-on modeling experience.  Participants will gain an understanding of the range of niche modeling approaches, the background and tools to start their own models, and practice interpreting results.  Our emphasis will be on assessing habitat for terrestrial wildlife species of conservation and management interest.  However, the modeling approaches also apply to the study of plants, bacteria, and invasive species; we welcome participants working on other species and systems.  For those interested in learning how to use and interpret habitat models for management and conservation applications and decisions, we will detail the strengths, limitations, and robust interpretation of various niche modeling approaches.

Researcher taking note about tundra plants

Learning Objectives

More specifically, participants in this course will:

  • Understand and weigh a range of modeling options. Participants will gain insight into the available statistical algorithms, learn how to select approaches and how they differ from each other, understand data/sampling requirements, and make informed decisions when selecting the most appropriate model(s) given a specific question and data structure. 
  • Gain hands-on modeling experience and quick-start tools. Instructors will provide example data, R code, and guidance to develop multiple types of niche models.  We will start with the basics of visualizing data in R and progress to full habitat models.
  • Practice assessing, interpreting, and communicating niche models. We will discuss how to assess niche models and communicate the strengths and limitations of each kind of model.  In each niche module, we will discuss how each type of model is best developed and used to support conservation and management efforts. 

Instructional Modules

This one-week course is structured around the instructional modules listed in the table.  Each module begins with an instructional lecture on a niche modeling topic, hands-on model development, and a group discussion on best practices for model interpretation, evaluation, and use in applied decision support.  Lectures will cover theoretical and conceptual foundations of modeling approaches and their statistical algorithms, assumptions, and data requirements.  In modeling sessions, participants will practice loading and viewing example data, then use pre-developed code to execute the modeling steps, troubleshoot as needed, and develop models.  The emphasis of labs will be on understanding the steps and code, rather than on replicating or developing code.  We will use data from terrestrial wildlife case studies and provide examples of how niche models have been applied to manage species.  Participants can also bring their own data and models and solicit advice during the final hands-on modeling session.

All modules will cover the following:

  • Description of the model, approach, and theory
  • Benefits, limitations, and best uses of the modeling approach
  • Data requirements, modeling steps, and coding
  • Model fit and performance assessment
  • Examples of applications for species management

Workshop Basics

One-week course on resource selection function modeling and interpretation to:

  • Learn new and old techniques and how to choose the right modeling approach
  • Grow your understanding of how habitat selection models are best used to support species conservation and management
  • Gain access to our quick-start tools, including computer code, and adapt them to your own projects
  • Bring your own data for consultation with our experts to select the most appropriate data structure and model forms for analyses for your research questions

Who:  Anyone with an interest in understanding or developing resource selection function models to support species conservation and management.  Early – late career professionals, academics, and students.
When:  January 12 (1pm) -16 (noon), 2020.
Where: Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO and online via Zoom.
Instructors: Cameron Aldridge, Adrian Monroe, David Edmunds, Julie Heinrichs
Requirements: Access to a laptop/notebook with R.  No prior experience necessary.  We will start with the basics of visualizing data in R and progress to full habitat models of varying complexity.
Cost: Participants are responsible for their own accommodation and travel, though recommendations will be provided and unfortunately we cannot currently support online consultation time with experts on participant data and projects.

  • Professional/Faculty $1500;
  • Non-CSU students/postdocs/research associates $1100;
  • CSU students/postdocs/research associates $900;
  • Online-only $800;

Note: A minimum number of registrants are required for this course to run. Please register by Nov. 15 and inquire with course organizers before booking non-refundable travel




Workshop agenda