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UFZ Winter School 2024

by Jonathan Haag

Group picture during the winter school

From February 29 to March 09, the department for ecological modelling (OESA) organized the UFZ Winter School 2024 "Introduction to Ecological Modelling". The event hosted 18 (under)graduate students from a variety of backgrounds, both geographically but also in terms of their respective field of studies (Ecology, Biology, Biogeochemistry, Biophysics,...). 

The first three days were spent at the UFZ in Leipzig, where OESA member Michael Müller gave an introduction to programming in C++. Five junior department members, among them Julia, Kaja and Jonathan from the POLISES group, assisted the students during the hands-on practice. The remainder of the course took place in Kohren-Sahlis, a small Saxon town around 50 km away from Leipzig. Here, each day started off with a morning lecture on one aspect of ecological modelling given by OESA seniors: They ranged from model conceptualization (Karin Frank), over individual-based modelling (Andreas Huth), model analysis (Michael Müller) and spatial models (Sara König) to matrix models (Jürgen Groeneveld). After lunch and a well-earned break, Julia, Kaja and Jonathan supervised pairs of students working together to develop a simple model of either synchronous breeding or non-hierarchical competition. Evening lectures finished the days off, giving further insight into the work at the OESA and the field of modelling overall. As part of these, Julia gave a talk on mathematical (equation-based) modelling, while Jonathan presented the current status of his work on modelling hay markets. 

Apart from the academic exchange, the winter school offered enough free time and nice surroundings to not only get to know the participating students better, but also serve as a team event for the supervising OESA juniors. Furthermore, it was a great opportunity to improve soft skills such as organization, supervision/teaching, and presentation. The final presentations of the developed models and obtained results on the last day also showed that the students became familiar with different tools and methods to use modelling techniques in future projects. 

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