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Tips on drafting a manuscript and publishing your research 

Presenters: Prof. Colleen Downs and Dr Alan Lee

Time: 08h30 to 10h30

Duration: 2 hours

Professor Colleen Downs, author of >400 peer reviewed papers, and Dr Alan Lee, Editor of Ostrich (Journal of African Ornithology) will provide early career biologists with an introduction to the publication process in peer reviewed journals, providing insights, tips and hacks that will improve chances of acceptance of your article. This includes advice on presentation, structure, themes of interest, choosing a journal, cover letters and much more. After presentations from the Editor and Academic perspectives, the workshop leaders will field questions in an open discussion. Experts in the field of publishing are particularly welcome to attend and contribute their insights and resources.

Bios of presenters

Dr Alan Lee is BirdLife South Africa’s Science and Innovation Programme manager and has been Editor-in-chief of Ostrich since 2016. He is an Honorary Research Associate at the School of Life Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Professor Colleen Downs is the SARCHI chair in Ecosystem health and biodiversity in  KwaZulu-Natal  and the E. Cape at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg campus. Her research interests are broad and interdisciplinary. They include the conservation, behaviour, ecology and ecophysiology (particularly nutrition, digestive physiology and thermal biology) of terrestrial vertebrates in unpredictable environments. This includes ecosystem health in KwaZulu-Natal, incorporating conservation, general biology and persistence of species with changing land use (including urban ecology). Another interest is science education (particularly problems experienced by Biology students and the development of strategies to address these).


An introduction to species distribution modelling

Presenter: Dr David Ehlers Smith

Time: 11h00 to 12h00

Duration: 1 hour

Species distribution modelling, or niche modelling, is an integral part of conservation and ecology and essential for today’s ecological toolkit. This one-hour workshop will familiarise attendees with the background, theory, importance and application of species distribution modelling, followed by a demonstration on how to produce a distribution model using the free, industry standard programme of MaxEnt. The example distribution model will be an endangered bird species present in South Africa, the Spotted Ground Thrush (Geokichla guttata).

This workshop is aimed at attendees with no prior experience in species distribution modelling, and will guide the attendee from the background and theory to its application and a demonstration of how to produce a species distribution

Presenter bio: Dr David Ehlers Smith is a conservation ecologist specialising in ornithology, landscape ecology, functional and community ecology and forests and grasslands


Behaviour recognition facilitates the research of movement ecology through the combination of telemetry, AI and Citizen Sciences

Presenters:  Mr. Li Guozheng and Ms. Yan Lin

Time: 13h30 to 15h30

Sponsored by: Druid Tech

Statistical results of behaviour recognition is one of the most important data clusters for the research of movement ecology. Data collecting by field observation of researchers or volunteers is time consuming, discontinuous, and lack of standards. This workshop aims to share a package of tools we have designed to facilitate data collection, behaviour modelling, and furthermore, with the behaviour models in hand, how we enable the trackers to output continuous behaviour recognition results, which offers the new dimension of data with huge potential to bring considerable insight to your research project.

During the workshop, we will share with the attendees the long term continuous behaviour monitoring results validated in our recent publications based on such tools and methodology.

Presenter bios:

Mr. Guozheng Li is founder of Druid Group, which was established based on his initiative concept of Biological Ubiquitous Networking driven by the passion for protecting ecosystems and biodiversity using innovations in artificial intelligence (AI) and internet of things (IoT). Mr. Li got his bachelor degree from School of Life Sciences, University of Science and Technology of China, and double M.S. degree of life sciences and environmental engineering in U.S., graduated under the supervision of Dr Bruce Rittmann, the fellow of the US National Academy of Engineering. He led a National Science Foundation project with publishing nearly 20 papers in top journals and dozens of derivative essays. He jointly founded the China-US environmental Scholars Association and acted as the chief secretary, and was selected as the fellow of China-US Young Leaders Forum.

Ms. Lin Yan is the CEO of Druid Technology Co., Ltd., a branch of Druid Group focusing on wildlife data collecting, analysing and mining solutions. As the founding team member, Ms. Yan dedicates in introducing Druid’s edge-cutting technology to the ornithological community, enabling the users to make full use of the potentials of Druid’s various products portfolio, and to listen to the users to obtain inspiration for the improvement of the products and the company’s own development.


An introduction to Occupancy Modelling   

Presenter: Dr Yvette Ehlers Smith

Time: 15h30 to 17h00

In ecological research, simple ‘presence/absence’ data can give useful results, if corrected for detection probability. Such analyses rely on survey data that result from efforts to detect the species of interest and measure site characteristics (variables/covariates). These models use information from repeated observations at each site to estimate detectability. These analyses are hampered by false negatives: the failure to detect a species at a site where it is present. The presence or absence of a species in a set of units (polygons, landscape units, territories, etc.) is a fundamental concept in many ecological studies. The occupancy models were developed to solve the problems created by imperfect detectability. If the issue of detectability is not accounted for, estimates that rely on the level of occupancy can be misleading. Visits to sampled units can result in positive detection of a species or non-detection of the species in that unit. However, a species may not always be detected if present, which results in “false absences” causing parameter estimates to be biased if unaccounted for, possibly giving misleading results and conclusions. Occupancy models can be used to estimate the probability that a site is occupied (and other parameters related to changes in occupancy) despite false negatives. Since their initial development in 2002, there have been several important expansions of the occupancy modelling framework that allow response categories beyond just presence and absence, and integrated habitat models.

Single-season occupancy models are ideal for beginners, and other occupancy models are an extension of this. Therefore, this workshop will cover methods for modelling species occurrence using single-season occupancy modelling. The workshop will deal with basic occupancy modelling tools with a strong focus on the practical use of field data in the free program, PRESENCE. The workshop will begin with a lecture followed by practical examples on how to estimate species occupancy and detection probability using program PRESENCE using real field data, followed by the selection of appropriate models, and interpreting results. We will focus only on the basic occupancy model, i.e. single-season model and how to analyse detection/non-detection data to determine occupancy and detection probability. We will then cover how to model the impact of environmental parameters (categorical as well as continuous) on species detection and occupancy. By the end of the workshop, participants will be comfortable in identifying their scientific questions that can be addressed with this technique

The main goals of this workshop are:

  • To cover basic occupancy model and introduce you to the free software program PRESENCE
  • An overview of the single-season occupancy models
  • To offer practical examples to help get you to get started with occupancy studies

The target audience: Participants are beginners to occupancy analyses who have little or no experience. No previous experience with program PRESENCE or occupancy models is assumed.

Occupancy Estimation and Modeling E-book – Vermont Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit Spreadsheet and R Project ( – note that we won’t be covering R in this workshop.

Presenter bio:

Dr Yvette Ehlers Smith is a regional ecologist for South-Eastern KwaZulu-Natal at Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, South Africa and a honorary research fellow at the Centre for Functional Biodiversity at the School of Life Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal. Her current research entails ‘an assessment of the effects of land-use and climate change on the avian, mammalian and plant functional and taxonomic communities in KwaZulu-Natal province’.