FISH 501

Ecosystem Modeling with Ecopath with Ecosim

Credit Value

3 credits


Term 2, Tu & Th 9:00 – 11:00 am

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UBC Calendar


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, …)

Because of the Covid situation, UBC does not allow on campus classes for the coming semester, therefore the course is online via Zoom.  This opens for wider participation in the course, and we are willing to allow informal auditing of the course. Please contact Villy Christensen if you are interested. The expectation of all participants, including those who audit unofficially is that the avoid being disruptive and that they do not dominate interactions in the classes – while active participation is encouraged.

In addition to Zoom, we will broadcast the classes live on FaceBook Live. Links will be made available through the Ecopath FaceBook page.

We also intend to make recordings available through‘s YouTube channel.


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


Visit for information on Ecopath with Ecosim.  We will initially be using the new EwE6.6 version for the course, please download the newest availavble version 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, including open source ones (i.e. free versions). Oracle’s free VirtualBox works fine. Please try to sort this out before the course, or discuss with Villy as needed.

More information (course website)

Course Instructor

Dr Villy Christensen

Teaching Assistant & Instructor

Santiago de la Puente