FISH 501

Ecosystem Modeling with Ecopath with Ecosim

Credit Value

3 credits

Not offered in 2023/24

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The course is open for UBC graduate students with interest in quantitative modelling, as well as for upper-level UBC undergraduate students, based on UBC requirements. Students from other universities in Western Canada may be able to participate through the Western Deans Agreement.  The course serves as a Methods course, where such are required (IOF, IRES, …)


The course is focused on how the Ecopath with Ecosim (EwE, modelling framework can be used to address scientific questions related to food web modelling, and notably how to address questions as part of an Ecosystem Based Management process. The underlying theories will be introduced throughout, but the emphasis will be on hands-on with actual implementation.

With the purpose of providing an overview of how EwE is being used for Ecosystem Based Management, we have invited a series of guest lecturers to give presentations throughout the course. For details, see the Schedule page.

The course will cover a series of topics:

  • Modelling strategy

  • Data requirements and availability

  • Extracting data from online databases, notably FishBase

  • Parameters and mass-balance

  • Economic and social aspects: the value chain from producer to consumer

  • Time-dynamic modeling

      • The foraging arena

      • Fitting ecosystem models to time series data

  • Modeling environmental impacts and mediation

      • Environmental Impact Assessments

  • Uncertainty

      • Monte Carlo approaches

      • Management Strategy Evaluation

  • Introduction to spatial modeling

  • Spatial modelling with habitat capacity/species distribution models

  • Spatial optimizations/zoning

There will be 3-4 assignments during the course, and no final or mid-term exams.

Course materials

There is no textbook for the course, but we will read through a number of publications. If you follow the course, you are expected to read the assigned papers before each class. Also, we may be using the “flipped class room” approach for some classes – on those occasions you are expected to watch the lectures before classes as we will be discussing these and clarifying issues/questions, rather than repeating the lectures.

Due to the Covid situation, the course was held via Zoom in 2021 & 2022, and this provided an opportunity to broaden the participation and to include a substantial number of guest lecturers from outside UBC. Recordings are available through the Ecopath YouTube channel.


Visit for information on Ecopath with Ecosim.  We will be using the latest EwE6.6 version for the course, please download from

EwE is a free, open source program, and it (still) requires Microsoft Windows as operating system. On Macs it is necessary to use a virtualization software and to install Windows (any more recent version is fine). There are several virtualization software packages that can be used, and Parallels Desktop works really well. Parallel is the only option if you have a Mac with the Apple M-series chips, but it costs C$60/year. For Macs with Intel processors you can also use Oracle’s open source VirtualBox (free, but Parallel really works better). Please try to sort this out before the course, or discuss with Villy as needed.

Course Instructor

Dr Villy Christensen