Skip to ContentSkip to Navigation
Research PhD courses

Linking Community and Ecosystem Dynamics

Herdershut, Schiermonnikoog, 18 - 23 April 2022

Please note: this event is fully booked. Registration is closed.


  • Matty P. Berg (Chair; VU University, Amsterdam / GELIFES, University of Groningen)
  • Han Olff (GELIFES, 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. In community ecology 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. Also, the importance of positive feedbacks in community dynamics is more and more appreciated, and merged with trophic interactions in ecological networks. 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 positive and negative feedbacks between organisms in ecological networks as well as the importance of non-trophic interactions by ecosystem engineers. The course will address how these principles can be used to link communities to ecosystems enabling a better understanding of how environmental changes affect community and ecosystem dynamics. Students will construct ecological networks of their own study system or based on literature data and analyse these using structural equation modelling.

Course Set-up

The course is composed of a series of lectures, a poster session, analysing ecological networks using structural equation modelling and finalized with a debating session.

  • Poster session: Prior to the course, participants submit a poster of their work (A4-size) in PDF, which will be printed and included in the course reader. The poster contains your name and affiliation, title and short description of research project (including concepts) with one highlight (something exciting) and the reason you want to participate in this course. During the course, participants briefly pitch their research (maximum 3 slides) amd indicate where they would like to receive input from the course particpants and lecturers.
  • Lectures and discussion: Each day starts with a key speaker who will give a lecture on one of the key course topics (covering both general theory and own research). After the lecture we'll have a discussion which is convened by three participants who challenge the speaker on the lecture and two papers that the speaker submitted which are related to the topic of the lecture (participants will receive these before the course to prepare them self).
  • Group activities: In the afternoons, participants will be split into working groups, which will work on specific group assignments associated with the topic of the course (design ecological networks and analysing these). 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: We will debate propositions that have been brought forward by speakers, students or have appeared to be a point of discussion during the course.

Preliminary Programme

The programme for the course has been updated as of 22 March. The final programme for the course will be published in due time.

Monday April 18:

Afternoon Arrival of the participants at the "Herdershut"
17.15-18.15 Introduction & Student pitches 1
18:15-19:15 Dinner
19:45-20:45 Student pitches 2 & Getting to know each other (meaning drinks)

Tuesday April 19:

08:00-08:45 Breakfast + cleaning up
09:00-10:00 Matty Berg Setting the scene: aim, an overview of concepts and approaches
10:00-10:30 Coffee
10:30-11:30 Han Olff Lecture: Introduction to coastal ecosystems and their networks
12:00-13:00 Lunch + cleaning up
13:00-17:30 Interactive field trip to salt marsh & dunes to learn about hybrid networks
18:00-19:00 Dinner
19:30-20:30 Student pitches 3

Wednesday April 20 :

08:00-08:45 Breakfast + cleaning up
09:00-10:30 Han Olff Lecture: Ecosystem Dynamics (Marsh vs Mud)
10:30-11:00 Coffee
11:00-12:30 Hands on: working group Ecosystem Dynamics
12:00-13:00 Lunch + cleaning up

13:00-14:45 Han Olff

Hands on: R course, how to analyse network data?
14.30-15.00 Tea
15:15-17:30 Hands on: R course, how to analyse network data?
18:00-19:00 Dinner
19:30-20:30 Student pitches 4

Thursday April 21:

08:00-08:45 Breakfast + cleaning up
08:45-12:00 Tjisse vd Heide Interactive field trip to mud flats networks
12:00-13:00 Lunch + cleaning up
13:00-17:00 Tjisse vd Heide Hands on: working group interaction network assignment
18:00-19:00 Dinner
19:30-21:00 TBD

Friday April 22:

08:00-08:45 Breakfast + cleaning up

09:00-10:30 Matty Berg

Lecture: Ecosystem engineering networks and landscape organization
10:30-11:00 Coffee
11:00-12:30 Hands on: working group interaction network assignment
12:30-13:30 Lunch
13:30-14:30 Hands on: working group interaction network assignment
14:30-15:00 Tea
18:00-19:00 Dinner
19:30-20:30 Closure and evaluation

Saturday April 23;

08:00-08:45 Breakfast + cleaning up
09:00-10:30 Cleaning up
10:30-11:00 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



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


5 Days; arrival Monday, start course Tuesday, course end Saturday at 10.30 (Boat departure 11:00).


The registration fee for all participants belonging to the RSEE and co-organizing research schools (e.g., PE&RC, WIMEK) pay € 350. All other participants, including participants from SENSE, pay € 500. This includes lodging, meals, and the course material at the course venue. The reduced course fee is possible due to a contibution of the co-organizing Research Schools.


Please note: this event is fully booked. Registration is closed.

Please take note of our general course information on payment, registration and cancellation, applicable to all registrations.


Corine Eising
Email: c.m.eising

Last modified:23 March 2022 10.05 a.m.