Population and Systems Ecology


About this course

The course Population and Systems Ecology teaches basic concepts in Population, Community, Ecosystem and Landscape Ecology. The course takes a quantitative approach, grounded in basic models for population, community and ecosystem processes. Subject matter includes life tables, Leslie matrices, non-linear difference equations, systems of non-linear differential or difference equations for species interactions, etc. We emphasize development of insight in the dynamics of ecological systems and models, development of quantitative skills in analyzing ecological models using pencil and paper, and ability to critically evaluate predictions from interpret models in relation to real world phenomena. Applications are drawn from, e.g., nature conservation, fisheries biology, and the dynamics of infectious diseases.
Note: students BBN that intend to take this course, please contact before registering.

Learning outcomes

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:

  • state the founding principles of basic ecological models, and explain the meaning and units of variables and parameters;
  • explain the relationship between basic structure elements of population systems (e.g. unlimited resources versus resource limitation, feedbacks, predatory or competitive species interactions, spatial spread), and the resulting dynamics;
  • calculate the dominant eigenvalue, eigenvector, and sensitivities and elasticities of a Leslie matrix model, using pencil and paper, and interpret these mathematical results in terms of the associated real world phenomena;
  • calculate equilibria and isoclines in 2 species dynamic systems, and graphically analyse stability;
  • apply simple mathematics on general ecological principles such as species-area relationships, competition, meta-population theory and nutrient cycling illustrate species adaptations to environmental conditions and their feedbacks to ecological processes at the level of communities, ecosystems and landscapes;
  • interpret life history traits and predator search strategies in terms of fitness and evolutionary selection pressures;
  • illustrate threats to biodiversity using ecological theory, and describe and explain the consequences for ecosystem functioning and the ecological background of nature management, natural resource management and nature policy.

Required prior knowledge

Assumed Knowledge:

  • PEN10503 Ecology I;
  • PEN20503 Ecology II;
  • EZO23306 Modelling Biological Systems.

First year mathematics is essential prior knowledge and is used in this course.

Link to more information

If anything remains unclear, please check the FAQ of Wageningen University.


  • Start date

    10 February 2025

    • Ends
      7 March 2025
    • Term *
      Period 4
    • Location
    • Instruction language
    • Register between
      1 Jun, 00:00 - 12 Jan 2025
These offerings are valid for students of TU Eindhoven