Ecological Modelling

Natural resource management and decision making require tools to assess the trade-offs between alternative choices. Ecological modelling is a powerful instrument to synthesize information to better understand how changes in multiple factors can lead to population- or ecosystem-wide changes.

Models help us understand the value of obtaining specific information, quantify uncertainty, and predict what may happen in the future. This often leads to an application of quantitative rigour otherwise not possible. Like most science communication, when done right, a model will help everyone better understand an ecological problem, ultimately helping our clients make better decisions. 




Guiding principles in model development: 

  • Model development should be collaborative. In our experience, models are most useful when they are developed in a collaborative setting, which helps facilitate the understanding of all stakeholders in what is often complex scientific material. This type of framework improves transparency while building trust between the involved parties. It also ensures that models are scoped to meet our clients’ needs. 
  • Models should be built simply, only building in complexity as necessary (re: Occam’s Razor). As models become more complex, the number of assumptions required increase which often leads to models that are difficult to comprehend. A model should never be a ‘black box’; assumptions need to be stated carefully and explicitly. 
  • Models should be scientifically credible. Real data should be used when possible, especially when available for the system in question. 

Our Ecological Modelling team has many years of experience in the design, development, and application of models and environmental information systems in the areas of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem management. ESSA has helped our clients develop a wide variety of ecological models to address challenging problems and questions. We have experience developing many types of models, ranging from single-species population models to ecosystem models. We use a variety of approaches from ground-up development of deterministic and simulation-based models, to development with existing programs like Ecopath with Ecosim. Some of our models have become stand-alone tools to help decision-makers (e.g., TELSA). Many of these models are designed using the approach and methods of Adaptive Management. 

Let us help you develop ecological models to meet your needs. 


In addition to the development, documentation and implementation of models, we provide: 

  • training and user support, 
  • assessment of the decision support requirements of resource managers, 
  • reviews and syntheses on the state of the science related to ecological modelling, 
  • model audits and assessments that examine model performance and integrity, and 
  • development of strategic management plans and research programs

Key projects showcasing these services: 

  • Dwarf Mistletoe Growth and Sanitation Simulations