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OnderzoekPhD courses

Linking Community and Ecosystem Dynamics

Herdershut, Schiermonnikoog, November 2018 (dates TBA)

- Matty P. Berg (Chair; VU University, Amsterdam / GELIFES, University of Groningen)

- Han Olff (GELIFES, University of Groningen)

- Corine Eising (RSEE, University of Groningen)

Under auspices of the research schools RSEE, PE&RC and SENSE

Scope of the course

The research fields community and ecosystem ecology have diverged more or less independently over the last decennia. Progress is made in understanding shifts in community composition under the influence of environmental change and how these shifts can be explained by functional trait approaches of component species. Studies in ecosystem ecology traditionally have a strong focus on energy and nutrient fluxes and how deviation in these fluxes affect ecosystem functioning and stability. Recent studies reveal tight links between these sub-disciplines that enforce us to rethink how communities and ecosystems interact.

This course focuses on theoretical concepts such as autocatalytic loops and feedbacks between organisms, thermodynamics in species interactions and the importance of ecosystem engineers. We will explore how these principles can be used to link communities to ecosystems in order to understand how environmental change affects community and ecosystem dynamics. In the lectures we will develop conceptual ideas, using examples from many terrestial, marine and aquatic ecosystems, including savanna's, deserts, forests, soils, streams, oceans et cetera.

Contents & Structure

The course is composed of a series of lectures, a poster discussion session, working group activities and finalized with a debating session.

  • Lectures and discussion: Each day starts with a key speaker giving a lecture on one of the key course topics (covering both general theory and own research from different ecosystems). After the lecture we have a discussion (around 30 minutes) which is convened by three course participants, who challenge the speaker on the lecture and two papers that the speaker submitted, related to the topic of the lecture (participants will receive these before the course to prepare themselves).
  • Poster session: Prior to the course, participants must submit a poster on their work (A4-size) in PDF, which will be printed and combined into a booklet by the course organizers. It is therefore not necesary to bring a full size poster. The poster must contain name and affiliation, title and short description of your research project (including concepts) with one highlight (something exciting). Participants briefly (3 minutes) pitch their poster, including the reasons why you want to participate in this course and what you hope to learn. During the course there will be time for participants and lecturers to futher read and discuss individual posters.
  • Group activities: One afternoon, participants will be split into a few working groups, which will work on specific group assignments associated with the topic of the course (study design and analysing data). The exact topics of these activities will be selected by the participants. Each group will present the results to all course participants the following day . Group activities will be supervised by the lecturers and course organizers (which are present the whole course), so that the students can optimally benefit from experts that are among the leaders in their fields.
  • Debating session: Two groups (about 5 participants per group) will debate on propositions that have been brought forward by speakers or have appeared to be a point of discussion during the course.

Preliminary Programme, based on programme for 2016.

The final programme for the course will be published in due time.

Sunday :

Afternoon: Arrival of the participants at the "Herdershut"

18:00-19:00 Dinner
19:30-20:45 Getting to know each other (meaning drinks)

Monday :
08:00-08:45 Breakfast
09:00-10:00 Matty Berg Setting the scene: aim, and an overview of definitions and approaches
10:00-10:30 Coffee
10:30-11:30 Han Olff Lecture: Introduction to coastal ecosystems
12:00-13:00 Lunch
13:00-17:30 Interactive field trip to salt marsh / mud flats
18:00-19:00 Dinner
19:30-20:30 Feedback and discussion on observations trip

Tuesday :

08:00-08:45 Breakfast
09:00-10:30 Han Olff Lecture: Hybrid networkds and ecosystem organization
10:30-11:00 Coffee
11:00-12:30 Student Pitch 1
12:30-13:15 Lunch
13:15-14:45 Student Pitch 2
14:45-15:15 Tea
15:15-17:30 Student Pitch 3
18:00-19:00 Dinner
19:30-20:30 Han Olff Lecture: SEM and R

Wednesday :

08:00-08:45 Breakfast
09:00-10:30 Matty Berg Lecture: Ecosystem engineering networksand landscape organization
10:30-11:00 Coffee
11:00-12:30 Working groups: interaction network assignment
12:30-13:30 Lunch
13:30-15:00 Working groups: interaction network assignment
15:00-15:30 Tea
15:30-17:30 Working groups: interaction network assignment
18:00-19:00 Dinner
19:30-21:00 Student Pitch 4

Thursday :

08:00-08:45 Breakfast
09:00-10:30 Tjeerd Bouma Lecture: Plantecosystem engineers, mutualism and landscape evolution
10:30-11:00 Coffee
11:00-12:30 Working groups: interaction network assignment
12:30-13:30 Lunch
13:30-14:30 Working groups: interaction network assignment
14:30-15:00 Tea
15:00-18:00 Working groups: Feedback to group and discussion
18:00-19:00 Dinner
19:30-20:30 Student Pitch 5

Friday ;

08:00-08:45 Breakfast
09:00-10:30 Brainstorm session: novel ideas and research questions
10:30-11:00 Coffee
11:00-12:30 Brainstorm session: novel ideas and research questions
12:30-13:30 Lunch
13:30-14:30 Cleaning up
14:30-15:30 Tea or simple dinner (soup)
16:30 Boat departure - End of course
General Information

Required Knowledge & Preparation

Course participants need to read some articles that will be made available beforehand and prepare some challenging questions as well as prepare a poster in PDF format on their own work.

Course Material

Please bring your own laptop to the course.

Course Credits

2.5 ECTS


The course will be held in the fieldstation of the University of Groningen, The Herdershut, on Schiermonnikoog.


5 Days; arrival Sunday, start course Monday, course end Friday at 16.00 (Boat departure 16:30).


The registration fee is € 300,- for all participants belonging to the RSEE and co-organizing research schools (e.g., PE&RC, SENSE). All other participants pay € 450,-. This includes lodging, meals, and the course material at the course venue.


The number of participants is limited to 20.


On line: registration form

Laatst gewijzigd:10 oktober 2017 15:13