• Advanced Courses in Life Sciences

    Header of Biogeography at Transmitting Science

Online Course – 3rd Edition

Embracing uncertainty: preserving gradual patterns when modelling species distribution diversity and change

January 17th-21st, 2022

This course will be delivered live online

This course will be taught using a combination of live (synchronous) sessions on Zoom, with tasks to be completed in between live sessions on the Slack platform.
The live sessions will be recorded and available to the participants for a limited period of time. However, attendance to the live sessions is required as this course is mostly hands-on.

Course Embracing uncertainty preserving gradual patterns when modelling species distribution diversity and changeCourse overview

Species occurrence data are always incomplete snapshots of actual species distributions, which are often elusive, dynamic and constantly changing. Predicting species distributions and how they may evolve is crucial for ecosystem management and conservation planning, but the intrinsic unpredictability that is inherent to living organisms prevents accurate categorical forecasts of species’ occurrence sites, or accurate delimitations of their distribution ranges.

Species distribution models are often applied, but their predictions are then typically converted to binary predictions of presence or absence, using artificial thresholds whose choice can have substantial impacts on the results, conclusions and recommendations arising from such studies. The problem is compounded when these models need to be combined to forecast species diversity patterns, range overlaps, and distributional changes such as range shifts, expansions or contractions.

In this course, we will:

1) Recognize the intrinsic uncertainty associated with all species occurrence data

2) Employ easy-to-use tools for formally dealing with this uncertainty using species distribution models, favourability, fuzzy logic, and an analogy with quantum physics

3) Obtain more realistic estimates of species distribution, diversity (including vulnerability and endemicity) and change, without using thresholds.

The course includes theoretical and practical sessions, which are carried out entirely in R. We will use R packages such as fuzzySim and modEvA to 1) model species distributions based on available occurrence records, and obtain favourability from species presence probability; 2) evaluate the predictive capacity of these models with a varied set of metrics that address different facets of model performance, including discrimination and calibration; and 3) incorporate natural uncertainty in the analysis of species distributions, avoiding thresholds and instead using fuzzy logic to assess potential diversity, vulnerability, endemicity, overlap and change in biogeographical communities.

We will provide plenty of example data for the practicals, but participants are also encouraged to bring their own species distribution data to analyse under our guidance.

Check the program here


Participants will need a computer with R installed, a good internet connection, and preferably a webcam to keep the live sessions as dynamic and interactive as possible. Basic knowledge of R is required.




January 17th-21st, 2022

Schedule and Course length

Online live sessions from Monday to Friday from 15:00 to 18:00 (Madrid time zone).

28 hours: 15 hours live online sessions, the rest of the time will be taught with assignments, to be done between the live sessions.

This course is equivalent to 1 ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) at the Life Science Zurich Graduate School.

The recognition of ECTS by other institutions depends on each university or school.




Places are limited to 16 participants and will be occupied by strict registration order.

Participants who have completed the course will receive a certificate at the end of it.

A. Marcia Barbosa instructor for Transmitting Science

Dr. A. Márcia Barbosa

Alba Estrada instructor for Transmitting Science

Dr. Alba Estrada
Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos, IREC (CSIC-UCLM-JCCM)

Haris Saslis coordinator for Transmitting Science

Dr. Haris Saslis
Transmitting Science


  • Introduction to species distributions.
  • Types of distribution data: Presence-only, presence-absence, range maps.
  • Facing uncertainty in species distributions.
  • Introduction to modelling species distributions.
  • Presence-only, presence-background and presence-absence modelling methods.
  • Overview of R packages for modelling species distributions.
  • fuzzySim introductory practice: Obtaining distance-based fuzzy distribution data.
  • Species distribution modelling with the favourability function.
  • fuzzySim modelling.
  • Calculating “quantum” measures of diversity and distributional change.
  • Evaluating the fit and predictive capacity of distribution models.
  • modEvA practice: Analysing and evaluating fuzzy distribution data.


  • Course Fee
  • Early bird (until November 30th, 2021):
  • 475 €

    (380 € for Ambassador Institutions)

  • Regular (after November 30th. 2021):
  • 620 €

    (494 € for Ambassador Institutions)

  • This includes course material (VAT included).
    After registration you will receive confirmation of your acceptance in the course. Payment is not required during registration.

You can check the list of Ambassador Institutions. If you want your institution to become a Transmitting Science Ambassador please contact us at communication@transmittingscience.com


Discounts are not cumulative and apply only on the Course Fee. We offer the possibility of paying in two instalments (contact courses@transmittingscience.com).

Former participants will have a 5 % discount on the Course Fee.

20 % discount on the Course Fee is offered for members of some organizations (Ambassador Institutions). If you want to apply to this discount please indicate it in the Registration form (proof will be asked later).

Unemployed scientists living in Spain may benefit from a 40 % discount on the Course Fee. If you would like to enquire about this discount, please contact the course coordinator. That would apply for a maximum of 2 places and they will be covered by strict registration order.


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