Integral projection models (IPM): From population ecology to climate change studies

August 30, 2021 – September 3, 2021 all-day
UiB, Bergen + digital

Organizer: Ragnhild Gya (BIO & Bjerknes Center for climate research UiB)
Course responsible: Joachim Paul Töpper (Norwegian Institute for Nature Research & BIO UiB)
Course lecturers: Olav Skarpaas (NHM UiO), Eelke Jongejans (Radboud University, Netherlands) & EMERALD representatives: Eva Lieungh (NHM UiO) & Sonya Geange (BIO UiB)
Pedagogical responsible: Roy Anderson (bioCEED UIB & Lund University, Sweden)
Credit points: 2 ECTS (1 week intensive training with pre and post work)
Registration form (deadline: 19 July)

*CHESS will cover the travel and accommodation costs for CHESS members to participate in this course. The information about making travel claim after the activity can be found on our webpage Travel reimbursement for participating in CHESS activities. *

Course description

Studying population dynamics allows us to investigate the underlying demographics of abundance change in species. Thus, population ecology is frequently used to take a closer look at changes observed in target species along climate gradients and in climate-change field experiments to get a better understanding of how climate governs populations sizes and species occurrences.
Integral projection models (IPM) are a powerful tool used to study population dynamics based on demographic data with continuous state variables. The method is based on the principles of matrix projection modelling, but with more flexibility, and quantifies how underlying vital rates (i.e. survival, growth, fecundity, clonality) shape the overall fate of the population.
To fully understand the effects of climate change on populations and communities, we need a better mechanistic understanding. IPMs are a good tool for this, and can be combined with for instance functional trait theory, species distribution models, to better answer questions related to climate change.
Finally, we try to bridge the gap between ecologists and climate modellers by facilitating conversations between the two schools of thought. In the course we will talk about how climate models work, and the potential future ways ecological data could help further develop climate predictions. After the course we organize a seminar for climate modellers where participants of the course present their work and ideas about how ecological data could be integrated into climate models or climate predictions.
We welcome people of all stages of their career, whether they are interested in population ecology, climate science, or both. Through this course we will train novices to IPMs a new methodology, while the more advanced population ecologists can refresh their knowledge and build on their studies. At the same time, climate modellers get an inside view to population ecological data and models. The coure will thus serve as a networking opportunity for people interested in population ecology, climate change research, and novel approaches of combining ecological and climate data for better climate predictions.


The objective of this course is to teach the participants how to build, analyse, and interpret integral projection models (IPMs), preferably using their own datasets of plants or animals over years. We are aiming at a module-based course structure that allows both beginners and more experienced users of IPMs or matrix models to benefit from the course. With this course we hope to strengthen the population ecology network in Norway, and facilitate conversations between ecologists and climate modellers.


Most days will follow the standard set-up of lectures with exercises. At the end of the course the participants will present their own projects and how far they got during the course. Ideally, participants follow our IPM course in Bergen, to have lively interaction during the lectures, exercises and participant projects. For those people who cannot travel to Bergen, we will have an option to follow the lectures live. We expect that people who follow lectures online ask questions and interact with other course participants.

Monday (30.08):
09:00 Welcome and info
09:30 Intro: what are IPMs & how can we use them in ecological climate research
Exercise: Creating an IPM “by hand” part 1
12:00 Lunch
13:00 Continuing: What are IPMs & how can we use them in ecological climate research
Exercise: Creating an IPM “by hand” part 2
16:00-18:00 Presentation of participants’ projects 1-2 slides each
Tuesday (31.08):
09:00 Fecundity
Exercise/own data
12:00 Lunch
13:00 Fecundity II
Exercise/own data
16:00-18:00 Work with own project
Wednesday (01.09):
09:00 Seedbanks & Clonality
Exercise/own data
12:00 Lunch
13:00 Analysis of IPMs
Exercise/own data
16:00-18:00 Work with own project
Thursday (02.09):
09:00 What can climate models and modellers learn from population ecology?
10:00 Parallel sessions to address varying interests/challenges*
12:00 Lunch
13:00 Open slot
14:00 Parallel sessions to address varying interests/challenges*
16:00-18:00 Work with own project
*Suggestions for parallel sessions: IPMS in a climate perspective, Uncertainty in IPMs: bootstrapping, and Bayesian IPMs, Dormancy, Group structured data – IPMs and mixed effects models, Evolutionary demography, Introduction to FATES (The Functionally Assembled Terrestrial Ecosystem Simulator), How can concepts from population ecology improve FATES?
Friday (03.09):
09:00 Participants’ presentations of their projects
12:00 Lunch
13:00-15:00 Wrap-up and planning of the seminar from population ecologists for climate modellers

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the course the students should be able to
– Build integral projection models based on your own data
– Analyse and interpret results from integral projection models
– Explain how population ecology can be important in answering questions related to climate change research
– Understand how concepts from population ecology can be used in the next generation climate models