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Modelling species distributions under global change
Provider: Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

Activity no.: 3173-23-00-00 
Enrollment deadline: 31/07/2023
Date and time28.08.2023, at: 09:00 - 01.09.2023, at: 18:00
Regular seats15
Course fee9,480.00 kr.
LecturersDavid Bravo Nogues
ECTS credits5.00
Contact personIda Marie Bergman Rasmussen    E-mail address: ida.mbr@sund.ku.dk
Enrolment Handling/Course OrganiserPhD administration     E-mail address: phdkursus@sund.ku.dk

Aim and content

This course is free of charge for PhD students at Danish universities (except Copenhagen Business School), and for PhD Students from NorDoc member universities. All other participants must pay the course fee.

Anyone can apply for the course, but if you are not a PhD student at a Danish university, you will be placed on the waiting list until enrollment deadline. This also applies to PhD students from NorDoc member universities. After the enrollment deadline, available seats will be allocated to applicants on the waiting list.

Learning objectives

A student who has met the objectives of the course will be able to:

1) Understand theories and hypotheses that relate climate and distribution of species and how these relationships change through time.

2) Apprehend formal knowledge about the main approaches to relate climate and the distribution of species, including mechanistic, process-based and correlative models, and compare and contrast the strengths and weaknesses of these methods

3) Explain and perform workflows to manage, curate and model species’ ecological niches to infer how distributions change under past and future climate scenarios.

4) Write and execute scripts to perform repeatable analyses in R or another programming language using their own data.

5) Acquire a critical reading of the scientific literature as a result of the paper discussions and seminars.


Understanding the ecological and evolutionary drivers of species distributions is a core topic in biology that has clear applications to fields as diverse as conservation, epidemiology, and food security. Species distribution models (SDMs) were developed to better understand how ecology shapes species’ distributions, and are now among the most influential tools of the last 20 years. SDMs leverage large datasets to predict how species distributions may be altered by climate change, from pathogen vector invasion and spread to biodiversity declines and extinctions.

Climate change is altering the distribution of species, which in turn, is affecting societal and human welfare in previously unforeseen ways (Pecl Science 2017). Under these circumstances, it is urgent to train young scientists in approaches to model and predict past, current and future distributions of species under climate change, including biodiversity keystone species (i.e., plants, megafauna), food security threats (i.e., agricultural pests) and pathogen vectors (i.e., malaria-transmitting mosquitos). This PhD course will cover ecological and evolutionary theory on species distributions and ecological niches, methodological considerations for good model design, training in SDM-based analytical tools, and applications of SDMs to a broad range of questions from global change biology, genomics, population biology, conservation, and epidemiology. We will specifically focus on examples and biological systems relevant for students across SUND.


PhD students interested in biodiversity, climate change and their cascade effects, including how climate change may lead to the decline of biodiversity and its relevant effects on human welfare. Scientific backgrounds of previous students of the course ranged from biology and geology to socio-economics and health. Students are requested to have a basic level of R software.

Relevance to graduate programmes

The course is relevant to PhD students from the following graduate programmes at the Graduate School of Health and Medical Sciences, UCPH:

Life, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Public Health and Epidemiology




The course brings world-leading experts to teach different aspects related to the distributions of species and how to model them, including lectures, hands-on-data exercises and research-based seminars over the course of a week from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM. The course will promote both individual and group work among students. Before attending, the students will read a compendium of background literature composed of ~30 original research papers representing landmark studies. The last five hours of the course will be devoted to student presentations of a final project. Final presentations will require the students to disseminate the results of their modeling exercises from the course applied to a unique question relevant to their area of study. Students are asked to put results in the context of the theories and methods learnt during the course. This session will be organized as a scientific workshop in which students (after a formal presentation of their results using Powerpoint and projector) will discuss their findings with the other students and with the panel of teachers. During the course, all students are expected to participate in paper discussions and practicals, and to attend lectures. Full attendance of the entire PhD course, preparation through background reading, and pro-active participation in seminars and practicals are required to obtain the 5 ECTS

Course directors

David Nogués-Bravo, Full Professor, University of Copenhagen, dnogues@sund.ku.dk

Hannah Lois Owens, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Copenhagen, hannah.owens@sund.ku.dk


Damien Fordham, Associate Professor, University of Adelaide

Diederik Strubbe, Assistant Professor, University of Gent

Spyros Theodoridis, Marie Curie Fellow, Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Center

Hannah Owens, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Copenhagen

David Nogués-Bravo, Full Professor, University of Copenhagen


28 August - 1 September 2023

Course location

Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate. Univeritetsparken 15, Copenhagen


Please register before 31 July 2023

Seats to PhD students from other Danish universities will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis and according to the applicable rules. Applications from other participants will be considered after the last day of enrolment.

Note: All applicants are asked to submit invoice details in case of no-show, late cancellation or obligation to pay the course fee (typically non-PhD students). If you are a PhD student, your participation in the course must be in agreement with your principal supervisor.

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