Course information

Course title
Introduction to Agent Based-Models Using NetLogo
University / Organization
Transmitting Science
Els Hostalets de Pierola, Barcelona
Academic level
Both Msc and PhD
Transmitting Science
Course director
Course lecturer(s)
Dr Jürgen Groeneveld (Institute of Forest Growth and Computer Sciences, Germany) Dr Nina Schwarz (University of Twente, The Netherlands)
Course aim
Course overview In Ecology and Socio-Ecological systems many patterns at the population or community level emerge from processes, variability and interactions at the individual scale. Therefore it is increasingly acknowledged that the basic entities in many models should be individuals. This is the aim of individual based modelling (or agent-based modelling). In this course, we present the principles of agent-based modelling. We will introduce participants to NetLogo**, a development environment and a domain specific computer language for agent-based modelling. In lectures, we explain techniques to develop, analyse, test and document agent-based simulation models. Hands on session will familiarise participants with the concepts: In small groups they will develop, implement and analyse an agent-based model to answer an ecological or socio-ecological question. Questions will be suggested by the instructors and will comprise applied (e.g. sustainable forestry) and theoretical topics. Every group will present their project and their experiences at the end of the course in a short presentation. Our intention is that after the course the participants are able to implement and analyse simple models in NetLogo. ** Wilensky, U. 1999. NetLogo. Center for Connected Learning and Computer-Based Modelling, Northwestern University. Evanston, IL.
Course contents / programme
Program Monday, September 17th, 2018. Morning. Lecture: Introduction into agent-based modelling. In the first lecture we will give a general overview on model applications in ecology and socio-ecological systems. We will then focus on our main course topic: Process-based, spatially explicit agent-based models. This model type is suitable in the context of many ecological and socio-ecological problems, as it allows incorporation of many sources of natural variability and heterogeneity (e.g. spatial, temporal or individual variability). Afternoon. Lecture: First Steps in NetLogo. In the afternoon session, we will introduce the participants to a development environment and a domain specific computer language for agent-based modelling, NetLogo. We will present basic functionality and example models during the first NetLogo session. Tuesday, September 18th, 2018. Morning. Classroom exercise: Example Model in NetLogo. Our main intention is that after the course the participants are able to implement and analyse simple models in NetLogo. Therefore, a substantial amount of time is dedicated to hands on exercises and project work. Thus, in the morning, we will demonstrate the development and implementation of an ecological model in NetLogo. Afternoon. Project work: Presentation of instructive ecological and socio-ecological research questions that will be solved by participants in groups of two during the week applying modelling. In the afternoon, we will introduce participants to the instructive modelling projects they will develop during the course. In essence, we will suggest a selection of ecological and socio-ecological research questions. Participants will select and investigate one of them by developing, implementing and analysing their own agent-based model in NetLogo. The suggested modelling problems will cover fields of population ecology, behavioural ecology and resource management. The modelling projects are chosen specifically to familiarise participants with strategies to develop solutions to typical practical problems in the field of ecological and socio-ecological modelling. Wednesday, September 19th, 2018. Morning. Project work: Development and implementation of models to solve the instructive ecological and socio-ecological research question. In the morning participants will work on their projects assisted by the course instructors. Afternoon. Lecture: Analysing and testing models. In the afternoon lecture, we will discuss the issues of model analysis and testing. In particular we will address the analysis of complex and stochastic model outcomes. We present techniques of pattern oriented modelling (sensu Grimm et al. 2004, Science) as a means for multi-dimensional model calibration. Sensitivity analysis will be introduced to identify how simulation results depend on the chosen parameters and their values. Therefore, we will introduce the NetLogo tool BehaviorSpace and present examples from case studies. Thursday, September 20th, 2018. Morning. Project work: Analysis of self-developed models. In the morning participants will finish their model projects assisted by the course instructors. Afternoon. Lecture: Model documentation. In the afternoon lecture we will discuss documentation and communication of models. We will introduce the ODD-protocol (Grimm et al. 2006, Ecol. Model.). ODD is becoming a standard for the description of complex individual-based models; it facilitates model comparison and communication. To practice model description and communication, participants will be given time to write an ODD description for their own model project. In this process, they will make use of the Info tab of NetLogo. Friday, September 21st, 2018. Morning. Project presentation, wrap up and feedback. The last (half) day is reserved for the presentation of the participants’ self-developed projects. Each group will present its project and discuss their experience using NetLogo and the ABM approach. Finally, there will be time for synthesising comments by the instructors and feedback by the participants.
Required Knowledge and preparation
Teaching methods
Course type
Consecutive days
Online course
Duration (net days)
September 17th-21st, 2018
Course fee
Direct e-mail to register
Paper submission required?
Logo of institution
front approval