The theory and practice of distribution modelling for conservation and ecological restoration

Increasingly spatial modelling is becoming a part of how long-term conservation activity is planned and undertaken. This has partly been encouraged by the emergence of simple, freely available software packages that are capable of executing these analyses, and partly by the emergence of large, freely-available data sets that inform these analyses. Species distribution projections are now used to suggest all kinds of complicated conservation actions, from reintroduction and assisted colonisation programs, through ecological restoration programs. The fact that these analyses are increasingly simple, and produce very convincing outcomes is worrying, because often there is very little consideration devoted to the meaning of the associations between the model projections and what mechanisms might be limiting the distributions of the species in question. It is only by understanding what these interactions between the organism and the environment might entail that we can tailor really useful conservation actions on the basis of distribution projections. Misunderstanding these relationships, or misrepresentation of them in poor quality models can lead to conservation and restoration failure, or worse, to a perennial management encumbrance causing more harm than benefit. This workshop is designed to cover the basics on different approaches to spatial modelling, with simple interactive exercises demonstrating some of the more common mistakes encountered. It also finishes up with a review of some of my recent developments in species distribution modelling of short range endemic flora, with suggestions for a standardised technique for the guidance of translocation and restoration of such species in Australia.



IMPORTANT! Before Attending

Before attending the workshop it is critical to download and install the appropriate software and data packages. This may involve some time and also require a reliable data connection to download and install all the support packages required for the analysis.


Although it isn’t essential to conduct the exercise yourself, since I intend to work my way through it as I go, it is a more beneficial experience to step through the process on your own device. There is no guarantee that we will be able to install and set up everything prior to the workshop day. It would be beneficial to have undertaken this before attending, and also to have conducted a test of the analyses to iron out the differences between Windows and Macintosh machines. I have tested all these analyses myself using a Windows machine, but I have very little capacity to guarantee their functionality on a Macintosh.

"For anybody intending to engage with the SDM workshop, we have found that updating to R v3.4.4 and installing the appropriate packages does not necessarily update all the required dependencies as well. This can cause problems for some of the activities planned for the workshop. Attendees are asked to specifically update all their R packages to the latest compatible versions. This is easily done in RStudio by clicking the "update packages" button."


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For more information or questions please contact Sean Tomlinson: