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What You'll Study
  • Selecting the appropriate analytical framework for achieving research objectives
  • Importing and formatting data for each analytical approach in R
  • Calculating animal density in R using distance sampling data
  • Calculating survival rates, population growth rates and abundance using mark-recapture approaches and a broad range of model/data types in R
  • Calculating occupancy probability using a range of data/model types in R
  • The appropriate use of covariates, model selection, and testing of model fit
  • Interpretation and visualization of results
  • Best practices for study design in a range of field scenarios and for a broad range of study objectives
  • Proper application and scenarios for use of advanced analytical techniques
  • Troubleshooting field studies during stages of design, data collection, and data import for distance sampling, mark-recapture and occupancy-based projects

Participants must be familiar with basics of programming in R either independently or with the help of assigned pre-course assignments.

Program Details

August 10 – 21, 2020

Available Formats

Graduate (CONS 645 3 credits)
Professional Training (SMSC 0511, 9 CEUs)


GraduateSee Mason’s graduate tuition rates

Professional Training: $3,203.00*

*Professionals from certain countries are eligible for a reduced rate of $2,276.00 which will automatically be reflected during the registration process.

Scholarships & financial aid


Apply by June 1, 2020 (for first consideration)
Payment Due By June 15, 2020

Meet the Faculty

Jim Hines
Computer Specialist
USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Jim develops and maintains software widely used across the globe, including programs CAPTURE, PRESENCE, JOLLY, SPECRICH, DOBSERV, and others. He has published over 150 scientific articles and has received several awards from the USGS.
Brittany A. Mosher
Assistant Professor
Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Vermont
Dr. Mosher's research interests are broad, spanning disease ecology, species distribution modeling, parameter estimation, natural resource decision-making, and identifying optimal study designs. She's a passionate educator and enjoys collaborating with students and professionals to answer a variety of research questions.
Joe Kolowski
Joe Kolowski
Research Ecologist and Grad/Professional Training Manager
Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation
Joe Kolowski manages the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation’s graduate- and professional-level capacity building programs. His passion for conservation and applied research spawned an enthusiasm for the integration of research with effective conservation education and training. 
Courtney L. Davis
Quantitative Ecologist
Intercollege Graduate Program in Ecology, The Pennsylvania State University
Courtney works at the interface of ecology and statistics to estimate population- and community-level responses to global change. Her research interests and background are varied, but focus on the use of various quantitative tools to better inform conservation and management.


The size of animal populations, trends in their numbers, demographic parameters, and the identification of factors influencing animal presence and distribution in the landscape are key pieces of information necessary to inform conservation and management decision-making. This course will provide a strong theoretical and analytical background to both graduate students and professionals in three of the most commonly used approaches for estimating animal abundance and occupancy: distance sampling, mark-recapture, and occupancy modeling. The course will focus on the practical use of field data in the freely available R statistical computing environment. Guided and independent computer exercises will include analysis of real field data, and focus on identifying problems with one’s dataset, selecting appropriate models, and interpreting analysis results. Case studies will focus on vertebrate studies, primarily involving birds and terrestrial mammals.

By the end of the course, participants will be able to identify the scientific questions that can be addressed with each technique and implementing basic analyses in all 3 frameworks. More advanced techniques in each program will be demonstrated, indicating when they are appropriate and how results can be interpreted. Participants will be provided with a detailed list of available resources to assist in the use of more advanced techniques.

What’s Included

Acceptance does not guarantee you a seat in the course. Seats are allocated as registration payments are received, and early registration is strongly encouraged to ensure you get a spot.

The total cost includes our Housing ($624.00) and Dining ($416.00) Package and covers:

  • Registration fees
  • Instruction, course manual, and other course materials
  • Airport pick-up and drop-off shuttle service at Dulles International Airport (IAD) at pre-determined times. We do not provide ground transportation shuttle service to or from any other airports in the Washington, DC, region.
  • Transportation for course activities
  • Daily full-service buffet at the SMSC Dining Commons
  • Housing at the SMSC Residential Facility, including a shared room with bathroom (single rooms available at extra cost)

Interested in Commuting?

Participants with a documented, permanent address local to campus may elect to commute with permission from SMSC. Commuters are required to purchase a reduced meal plan ($132.00) which includes lunch and snack breaks for each day of instruction. Additional dining options are available and may be selected during registration.  Email for additional information.

“This course was extremely useful for understanding the concepts involved in doing populations analysis. The instructors were very helpful, friendly and extremely knowledgeable. I strongly recommend this course if you’re doing any work in populations ecology or occupancy. Great course!”

Chandra Rogers Fish Populations Biologist, IISD Experimental Lakes Area
Take the next step toward a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity