Landscape Genetics Course Offered This Spring

posted Jan 5, 2012, 12:22 PM by Joe Wheaton
Landscape Genetics Course:

Jan 18 ­ - May 2, 2012

Wed 9:30 ­- 11:30 MST

Location: NR204 (NR202 on Mar 7)


Course Organizers: Melanie Murphy, Helene Wagner, and Lisette Waits

Co-Instructors: Niko Balkenhol, Janine Bolliger, Sam Cushman, Rodney Dyer, Marie-Josee Fortin, Olivier François, Stephane Joost, Nusha Keyghobadi, Erin Landguth, and Steve Spear


USU Ecology Center Sponsorship: The USU Ecology Center is covering the usual $750 per person fee for this course, for a group up to 8-10 students.  Karen Mock will serve as the course coordinator for this group of students.  For students wanting credit, this can be arranged via the University of Idaho or as independent study credit via USU.  Please contact Karen Mock (; 7-7870) if you are interested in participating in the course, with or without credit. 

Course Description

This course on Landscape Genetics provides a unique opportunity for interdisciplinary training and provides an overview of the field of landscape genetics. The course caters to students in both basic and

applied ecology, especially conservation/population genetics, landscape ecology and conservation biology. A key objective of landscape genetics is to study how landscape modification and habitat

fragmentation affect organism dispersal and gene flow across the landscape. Landscape genetics requires highly interdisciplinary specialized skills making intensive use of technical population

genetic skills and spatial analysis tools (spatial statistics, GIS tools and remote sensing). Even when students receive disciplinary training in these areas, educational programs often lack the necessary

linkage and synthesis among disciplines. This linkage can only be accomplished after experts from each discipline work together to develop guiding principles for this new research area.


Landscape Genetics will be concurrently offered at six universities in North America and Europe giving students the opportunity to learn from international experts and work with peers from outside institutions. For students who are not members of the participating institutions, we are offering a web-based online course to reach a broader audience.  Each course meeting will start with a live web-cast lecture (no special software required) by an expert on the topic that introduces foundations and

methods and highlights points for discussion in local seminar groups. After breaking out into local course group discussion (including a discussion group for online course students), a web-based discussion

across campuses will wrap up the weekly topic. Students who are unable to make it to live-cast of lectures and need to view taped lectures should contact the course coordinators to make special arrangements.  In addition, students may choose to participate in optional interdisciplinary group team projects with web-based collaboration across institutions.


Description from Lisette Waits:

The format of the class will be 50 minute lecture, ~30 minutes discussion among local groups or among individuals in the online group, and then ~25 minute wrap up discussion where the lecturer answers questions from students at the different institutions.  The lectures/discussion will be taped so that students who miss it can watch later.  There will be assigned readings each week but no textbook.  (one doesn't exist but I'm actually working on one with some colleagues)


There will be the option for students to participate in group research projects led by the faculty with the goal of generating a publishable paper but we’ve found this is more like a 2 semester than one semester time commitment.  We'll send more info about that in January to everyone who registers.


We will be generating weekly computer lab activities which we can provide to the online students.  They are likely to use R a lot and might use GIS as well.


Course topics (these are approximately the topics for each week)


Date                      Week                    Topic                                                     Lead Speaker

18-Jan                   Week 1                 Introduction                                       All

25-Jan                   Week 2                 Landscape Genetics                        Spear

1-Feb                    Week 3                 Gene Flow                                          Waits

8-Feb                    Week 4                 Landscapes                                         Wagner

15-Feb                  Week 5                 Spatial Analysis                                 Fortin

22-Feb                  Week 6                 Discrete Populations                      Balkenhol / Fortin

29-Feb                  Week 7                 Landscape Data                                Bolliger

7-Mar                    Week 8                 Matrix Resistance                            Landguth / Murphy

14-Mar                 March break

21-Mar                 Week 9                 Distance-based Methods             Cushman

28-Mar                 Week 10              Model Selection                               Wagner

4-Apr                     Week 11              Simulation Modeling                      Balkenhol / Landguth

11-Apr                  Week 12              Network-based Methods            Murphy

18-Apr                  Week 13              Contemporary Gene Flow           Dyer

25-Apr                  Week 14              Adaptive Variation                          Manel

2-May                   Week 15              Group Presentations                      All