Bioinformatics tools to assess climate change impacts on composition and structure of ecological communities

0830 – 1600, Tuesday 9 February | $130 per person SOLD OUT!


  • Marta A. Jarzyna, PhD
    Yale Climate and Energy Institute Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University
  • Ryan Powers, PhD
    NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University
  • Mao-Ning Tuanmu, PhD
    Postdoctoral Associate, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University (Starting in Spring 2016: Assistant Research Fellow, Biodiversity Research Center, Academia Sinica, Taiwan)
  • Walter Jetz, PhD (TBC)
    Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University

Description and Objectives

The ability to predict the consequences of climate change to biodiversity and develop sound conservation strategies depend on our understanding of the relationship between changes in biodiversity patterns and climatic variability. To date, the majority of research regarding the implications of climate change to biodiversity has evaluated responses of individual species [1, 2, 3, 4]. The variability of individual species responses is predicted to lead to disruptions of communities and ecosystems [5], but the complex nature of ecological interactions makes it difficult to extrapolate from the scales of individuals to the community or ecosystem level [6]. In order to fully understand consequences of climate change, it is imperative to develop a more comprehensive understanding on whether climate change can lead to broad-scale changes in community structure and composition.

Reponses of ecological communities to climate change have so far attracted limited attention. Progress in this arena might have been hindered by unfamiliarity with techniques necessary to study community-wide phenomena. The workshop is designed to address this issue by introducing students and other early-career scientists to tools that allow measuring change in community composition and community structure. We will also introduce statistical techniques that allow attributing community changes to changing climatic conditions and/or other environmental factors. Lastly, we will cover tools necessary for making sound predictions of future community composition.

The detailed workshop agenda will cover the following:

(1) measuring community composition and structure and their change (approximate duration 2 hr)

(a) metrics of community composition and structure—e.g., measuring functional and phylogenetic diversities

(b) metrics of community change—e.g., measuring compositional turnover, functional turnover, phylogenetic turnover

(c) remote sensing as a tool to measure attributes of community composition and community change—e.g., remote sensing indicators of species richness and/or functional and phylogenetic diversities

(2) obtaining remotely-sensed environmental variables driving community dynamics (approximate duration 1 hr)

(3) modeling community change (approximate duration 4 hr)

(a) methods to account for species’ imperfect detection in Species Distribution Models (R package hSDM)

(b) extending single-species Species Distribution Models to multispecies modeling—e.g., basics of joint Species Distribution Models and multispecies occupancy modeling (introduction to WinBUGS and JAGS)

(c) macroecological models

(4) forecasting future changes in community composition (approximate duration 2 hr).


Combination of short lectures and hands-on exercises, followed by group discussions.

Requirements & Criteria

Everyone with basic knowledge of R statistical program can attend. The workshop will be on the first-come first-serve basis, though we would like to reach as many early-career scientists (students and postdocs) as possible and limit the participation of late-career scientists to the minimum.


[1] Parmesan C, Yohe G (2003) A globally coherent fingerprint of climate change impacts across natural systems. Nature, 421, 37-42.

[2] La Sorte FA, Thompson FR (2007) Poleward shifts in winter ranges of North American birds. Ecology, 88, 1803-1812.

[3] Marini MA, Barbet-Massin M, Lopes LE, Jiguet F (2009) Predicted climate-driven bird distribution changes and forecasted conservation conflicts in a neotropical savanna. Conservation Biology, 23, 1558-1567.

[4] Zuckerberg B, Woods AM, Porter WF (2009) Poleward shifts in breeding bird distributions in New York State. Global Change Biology, 15, 1866-1883.

[5] Brotons L, Jiguet F (2010) Bird communities and climate change. In: Effects of climate change on birds (eds Moller AP, Fielder W, Berthold P), PP. 275-294. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Buckley LB, Jetz W (2008) Linking global turnover of species and environments. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 105, 17836-17841.

[6] Walther GR, Post E, Convey P, et al. (2002) Ecological responses to recent climate change. Nature, 416, 389-395.