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Research PhD courses

Life History Theory


Prof. Christiaan Both (Conservation Ecology, GELIFES, RUG)
Dr. Corine Eising (RSEE)

Aim of the course

Life History Theory deals with species-specific adaptive schemes of the distribution of the reproductive effort over the life of an organism. The general theoretical problem is to predict which combination of traits will evolve under specific conditions. The concepts used are also relevant to study within species variation in life history traits. The one week course aims at giving an overview of the field and will discuss methodology and recent developments.

Contents & Structure

The subject will be worked out on the basis of lectures, case histories, discussion and literature. Attention will be paid to various groups of organisms such as birds, fishes, insects and plants. The contact with current research projects is guaranteed as concrete examples will be treated by scientists working in the field. In poster sessions work and/or plans of the participating students will be discussed with the whole group and we will use computers to illustrate some of the concepts.

Topics and Teachers:

Cost of reproduction and aging in a life history context (Simon Verhulst, GELIFES)

Life-history variation and population dynamics (Martijn van de Pol, NIOO)

Evolutionary genomics (Kees van Oers, NIOO)

Age and size at maturity (Tom van Dooren, CNRS, France)

We are very happy to announce that this year we will have two special guest lecturers: Jonathan Wright and Yimen Araya Ajoy (both of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway). Professor Wright is a behavioural ecologist who is an expert on the evolution of cooperation, parental care, parent-offspring conflict, cooperative breeding in birds. Dr Araya-Ajoy is particularly interested in the causes of variation in labile traits and its consequences on population dynamics.

Provisional Program:
Sunday 11 March 2018: Arrival, Registration and Dinner at the course venue, Field station the Herdershut, Schiermonnikoog, the Netherlands

19:45 h Arrival at the "Herdershut", simple meal, arrangement of lodging, short session on who is who

PLEASE NOTE: due to unforeseen circumstances we've had to change our programme. Therefore, a few titles and topics will be updated in the coming period.

17.00 - 19.00 Welcome, sleeping arrangements, drinks & dinner
19.30 - 20.00 Introduction to the course (Christiaan Both)
20.00 - 21.30 Poster presentation by participants

Monday 12 March :
08:00-08:45 Breakfast
09:00-10:30 Simon Verhulst The basics of life history evolution
10:30-11:00 Coffee
11:00-12:30 Simon Verhulst Optimality in evolutionary ecology
12:30-13:30 Lunch
13:30-15:00 Simon Verhulst Calculating fitness (bring your own PC)
15:00-15:30 Tea
15:30-17:30 Poster presentation by participants
18:00-19:00 Dinner
19:30-20:45 Christiaan Both Adaptation to Climate Change

Tuesday 13 March :

08:00-08:45 Breakfast
09:00-10:30 Jon Wright Life history evolution in a changing World: r- vs k-selection and pace-of-life syndromes
10:30-11:00 Coffee
11:00-12:30 Yimen Araya -Ajoy The hierarchical nature of life histories: a mixed model approach
12:30-13:30 Lunch

Practical class: How to test ideas using random regression models in R; Part 1

(E.g. analysing data sets on life history variables, fitness and population densities for a range of different populations)

15:00-15:30 Tea
15:30-17:30 Practical class: How to test ideas using random regression models in R; Part 2
18:00-19:00 Dinner
19:30-21:00 Yimen Araya -Ajoy / Jon Wright Summary of results, discussion, short lecture on general development of ideas

Wednesday 14 March :

08:00-08:45 Breakfast
09:00-10:30 Martijn van de Pol Life-history strategies in a variable environment
10:30-11:00 Coffee
11:00-12:30 Martijn van de Pol Life-history strategies in rapidly changing environment (habitat selection by Oysterchatchers on Schiermonnikoog)
12:30-13:30 Lunch
13:30-17:30 EXCURSION
18:00-19:00 Dinner
19:30-21:00 Group discussion

Thursday 15 March :

08:00-08:45 Breakfast
09:00-10:30 Kees van Oers Epigentics and lif-history trade-offs
10:30-11:00 Coffee
11:00-12:30 Kees van Oers Animal personalities
12:30-13:30 Lunch
13:30-14:30 Ido Pen Life-history evolution in social insects
14:30-15:00 Tea
15:00-18:00 Ido Pen Practical Life History Evolution in Social Insects
18:00-19:00 Dinner
19:30-20:45 Tom van Dooren Age and size at maturity

Friday 16 March ;

08:00-08:45 Breakfast
09:00-10:30 Tom van Dooren Workshop “Fishery induced evolution”
10:30-11:00 Coffee
11:00-12:30 Discussion session How does your own PhD project relate to Evolution of Life histories?
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 Poster: You have to make a poster on your own work to be discussed at the course. Send in your poster as pdf before 26 February at the very latest and prepare a short 5-minute powerpoint presentation to start the discussion on your poster. We will print the posters in a booklet so you can read them before the discussion.
A digital copy of the book by Roff (1992), The Evolution of Life Histories: Theory and Analysis will be made available via the RSEE Office to the course participants.
Course material Because we will run computer simulations, PhD students should bring along their laptop.
Course credits 2.5 ECTS
Location Field Station The Herdershut, Heereweg 10, 9166 SE, Schiermonnikoog, phone 0519-531363
Duration & date 5 days; the course starts Sunday night the 11th of March and ends Friday the 16th of March 2018
Costs The registration fee is € 350,- for all participants belonging to the RSEE and affiliated research schools (PE&RC, SENSE). All other participants pay € 500,-. This includes lodging, meals, and the course material at the course venue.
Participants The number of participants is limited to 20.
  • Christiaan Both, Animal Ecology Group, Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences (GELIFES), Linnaeusborg, P.O. Box 11103, 9700 CC Groningen.
  • Corine Eising (Coordinator Research School Ecology and Evolution, Linnaeusborg, P.O. Box 11103, 9700 CC Groningen, Phone: 0031 (0) 50 363 9140

At present, registration for this course is open

Last modified:05 February 2018 5.30 p.m.