Modeling Principles for Natural Resources Management (Beginner Track)


Target Audience:  

Biologists and resource managers who are seeking to gain model-building skills to inform research and decision-making in natural resource management. Participants are not required to be highly skilled in mathematics or computing, although familiarity with spreadsheets and how the results of models can be applied is beneficial.  

Summary and Objectives:  

This is a fun, engaging, and challenging online course based on Dr. Anthony Starfield's Principles of Modeling for Conservation Planning and Analysis. Participants will learn about the modeling process, how to think like a modeler, and how modeling fits into management decision-making. Participants will develop practical skills on building and communicating about models. The class covers a variety of modeling techniques applicable to resource management and conservation issues. Session topics include Introduction to Modeling and Spreadsheets (e.g. context, sensitivity analysis, assumption analysis, and mechanics), Population Modeling, Decision Analysis, Ecosystem Modeling, Spatially Explicit Models, and the use of models in making conservation decisions. Online presentations, discussions, and exercises emphasize hands-on experience with building spreadsheet models to illustrate the values, limitations, and appropriate applications of models. The typical weekly format consists of video lectures and spreadsheet modeling tutorials/exercises, homework on tutorial models, posting to a discussion board, and a virtual classroom meeting to debrief homework and review team model challenge presentations. The course schedule runs over a 15-week time span (with one week off). Instructors and coaches will have virtual office hours weekly. Participants should be prepared to work an average of 6 hours per week. This course was developed in collaboration between the Bureau of Land Management, the National Training Center, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Conservation Training Center, and the Vermont Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit.  

Upon completion of this course, participants will be able to:  

  • Discover how to use models in planning for ecological and conservation biology decisions with defensible results. 
  • Describe the modeling process, terminology, use of deterministic and stochastic models, what to leave out of a model, scale and resolution, age or state-structured models, and how to deal with uncertainty in making conservation decisions. 
  • Build modeling skills. 
  • Use decision trees, approach decision-analysis under uncertainty, and incorporate a pragmatic modeling approach to data collection methods and data analysis. 
  • Design management-oriented modeling frameworks, qualitative models, and determine where GIS can be useful. 
Course Short Name
Course Type
Training Tuition Cost
40 hours
Training Credit Hours
Semester Hours

Questions and Registration

Course Contact


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