cod. 1011145

Academic year 2022/23
2° year of course - First semester
- Ferenc Valter JORDAN
Academic discipline
Ecologia (BIO/07)
A scelta dello studente
Type of training activity
Student's choice
24 hours
of face-to-face activities
3 credits
hub: PARMA
course unit

Learning objectives

The key goal is to present the multiplicity of problems and methods related to networks and to broaden the perspective of the students. The key skill to develop is to become open and sensitive to the crosslinks between various disciplines and research topics.


Elementary mathematics: summation, product, matrices, determinants, limits, derivatives.

Course unit content

I will emphasize the importance (and also the limits) of the network perspective, discussing key concepts, various methods. Many case studies will illustrate the conceptual and methodological knowledge and these examples will help to understand the similarities and differences among various systems. After discussing ecological networks at different levels of biological organization (individual, population, community), we will establish vertical links among them, seeing how are these related. Ecology will be understood quite broadly, in the sense of the science of co-existence, so the dynamics of social groups (e.g. predators) will be linked to community dynamics and landscape dynamics. I will discuss the whole process from data description to network construction, network analysis and testing predictions.

Full programme

1. The network perspective: why to built network models and why not? Key concepts, graph theory, nodes and links. Interaction types (directed, weightes, signed), classical methods. Novel methodologies and new directions (e.g. multi-node centrality)
2. Food webs (linking species in multi-species communities), pollination networks (linking plants to pollinators in sub-communities), heterospecific foraging networks (linking bird species to mixed-flocks), microbiomes (linking bacteria in microbial communities), social networks (linking invididuals in social groups), habitat networks (linking habitat patches in landscapes).
3. The big challenge: socio-ecological system models. The comparative view: similarities and differences. Vertical links among organization levels. Testing predictions: mesocosm experiments. Applications of the systems perspective (e.g. in agricultural ecology, marine fisheries). Supporting decision-making.


Pimm, S.L. 1982. Food Webs. Chapman and Hall, London.

Croft D.P., James, R., and Krause J. 2007. Exploring animal social networks. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.

Teaching methods

The lectures will be as interactive as possible, extensively illustrated by PowerPoint slides and, if needed, the use of the whiteboard (for the mathematical parts). Towards the end of the course, software will be presented (UCINET, CosbiGraph, Pyntacle).

Assessment methods and criteria

The exam will be oral, with time for preparing and exposing a randomly chosen topic.

Other information