Stakeholder-Driven Scenario Models for Strategic Conservation Planning

Scenario planning is an approach that allows us to imagine how land use decisions we make today could influence the landscapes of tomorrow. Scenarios are storylines, developed by stakeholders, that describe different potential futures. When linked to land use, socioeconomic, and environmental data, these scenarios can help us identify tradeoffs or synergies between environmental health and human well-being.

Stakeholder-Driven Scenario Models for Strategic Conservation Planning is a project-based course providing practitioners and advanced students with a conceptual and practical understanding of the intersection of scenario planning and land use modeling in the context of natural resource and environmental planning.

Through an extensive simulated workshop, course participants learn how to use stakeholder input to develop plausible future storylines, or scenarios.  Participants work through guided exercises to learn modeling essentials, using the environmental and socioeconomic landscape of Northwestern Virginia as a case study. All exercises involve modifying existing models and code. Software used in these exercises include Dinamica EGO, a free, open-source landscape modeling platform; R, a free, open-source statistical coding platform; and ArcGIS, the industry-standard geospatial analysis and mapping platform. Each participant is provided with a desktop computer for all lab exercises. All data are also provided, sourced from publicly accessible databases. The course also features a panel discussion with regional experts, focused on the opportunities and challenges of scenario planning and modeling.

By the end of this course, participants will:

  • Have a fundamental understanding of the considerations for building a land use model, including issues of data availability, scale, and landscape patterns.
  • Understand the underlying structure of Dinamica EGO’s essential parameters, how they contribute to model outcomes, and how to modify them using R
  • Know how to build and run a scenario planning workshop with stakeholders
  • Possess fundamental tools for communicating complex information to various audiences


Prerequisites: Course participants must be able to read R code (e.g. database manipulation, for loops, functions); possess a basic understanding of spatial data analysis and model-building; have a solid understanding of fundamental statistical concepts; have at least a basic understanding of spatial statistics; and have some experience working with a geospatial mapping program such as ArcGIS, QGIS, or GRASS.

Stakeholder-Driven Scenario Models for Strategic Conservation Planning is designed and led by Iara Lacher, PhD, of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s (SCBI) Forest Ecology Lab. Additional instructors include Tom Akre, PhD, wildlife ecologist and Director of SCBI’s Virginia Working Landscapes Program, and Bill McShea, PhD, ecologist in SCBI’s Conservation Ecology Center.


2018 course dates to be determined


Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia, USA

Application Procedure

Note: the 2017 offering of this course has been withdrawn; we are now exploring dates for a 2018 offering, please check back soon.

Stakeholder-Driven Scenario Models  for Strategic Conservation Planning is offered through the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation as a professional training course. Applications should be submitted using our Online Application Page. Before beginning our online application, please have .pdf or .doc versions of your updated CV and of your Personal Statement of Interest and Qualifications (maximum 350 words). You’ll be asked to attach these with your application.

Course Costs

 Your acceptance to the course does not guarantee you a seat in the course. Seats are allocated as registration payments are received, and prompt registration is strongly encouraged to ensure your space in the course.

The total2017 cost for this six-day course is $1944.50 (Course fee of $1500 + Housing (shared double room) and Dining Package of $444.50). Those applying as citizens of “less-developed” nations qualify for a reduced course fee of $850, making the total cost including housing (shared double room) and dining package $1294.50. Click HERE to check if your country of citizenship qualifies you for the reduced course fee. Your total course payment includes:

  • Course enrollment fee
  • Instruction, electronic course manual, and any other course materials
  • Airport pick-up and drop-off shuttle service at Dulles International Airport (IAD), the only Washington, DC-region airport for which SMSC provides ground transportation shuttle service
  • Transportation for course activities
  • Daily full-service buffet-style dining at the SMSC Dining Commons
  • Housing at the SMSC Residential Facility, including shared room with bathroom (single rooms available at extra cost) –


A very limited number of partial or full scholarships may be available on a competitive basis for eligible course applicants. Note: In no case will any SMSC scholarships for this course cover flights, visas, or other costs of transportation to the course. Click HERE for more information on scholarships.


With course coordinator’s written approval in advance of registration/payment, local participants may elect to stay off campus, waive the housing and dining package, and commute to this course. Meals in the Dining Commons can then be purchased individually.