Ecological Monitoring

Ecological monitoring is a key aspect of protected areas management. Completing the 4 units will set the foundation to understanding what ecological monitoring is, and how it works.

About this course

Ecological monitoring plays a pivotal role in protected areas management. These four course units serve as the foundational steps toward comprehending the principles and practices of ecological monitoring.

This crucial component of adaptive management in protected areas involves systematic, ongoing data collection to address specific questions. It may also involve comparing collected data against established standards, such as baseline conditions or desired states, and demands precise knowledge, established techniques, and specialized data analysis.

Course details

Learning mode
5 months
Starting date
Registration date
Open for enrolment

What you’ll learn

The completion of the four units establishes the foundational knowledge necessary for comprehending the principles of ecological monitoring (EM) and its function within the management of protected areas. EM plays a pivotal role in the practice of adaptive management within these areas, involving the systematic and ongoing collection of environmental data to address specific inquiries.

This approach can also be employed to compare data from the area of interest with predetermined benchmarks, such as baseline conditions (e.g., initial species population) or desired states (e.g., optimal vegetation conditions in the absence of external pressures). Ecological monitoring demands a high degree of precision, employs well-established techniques, and necessitates specialized data analysis.

Course partners

Course outline

Several sessions of the MOOC are organised each year.


This unit is a general introduction to the MOOC, and it establishes the foundation to start the course well.

Sequence Description
Recommended reading
1.0 MOOC introduction General presentation of the course
1.1 Unit introduction Detailed outline of unit 1
1.2 Why do we monitor? The importance of monitoring a PA’s ecology
1.3 What is EM? EM definition, complexity and diversity
1.4 What is EM for? Possible uses of EM, examples and testimonies
1.5 Setting EM goals Values, key ecological attributes, conservation goals, indicators
1.6 How to choose the monitoring method? Collecting data according to the different KEAs
1.7 Sampling KEAs for EM Sampling logic, total/partial, random, stratified
1.8 Effective monitoring at the best cost How to choose according to costs and means available
1.9 Data analysis Implementation, processing, decision-making
1.10 Summary Unit 1 summary
Exam 1 – Graded quiz on unit 1



This unit specifically looks at EM techniques.

Sequence Description
Recommended readings
2.1 Unit introduction Unit intro – outline – goals
2.2 Statistics: basic notions Basic notions: variables, populations, samples
2.2 bis Summary and example Summary and example of sequence 2.2
2.3 Numerical summaries Frequency, exploratory analysis, median, variance
2.3 bis Summary and example Summary and example of sequence 2.3
2.4 Graphical summary Pie charts, bar charts and box plots
2.4 bis Summary and example Summary and example of sequence 2.4
2.5 Population distribution models Some population distribution models (normal, Poisson distribution, exponential), numerical summaries and models, choosing a model.
2.5 bis Summary and example Summary and example of sequence 2.5
2.6 Estimattion Estimators, calibration, method of moments, Maximum Likelihood Estimator
2.6 bis Summary and example Summary and example of sequence 2.6
2.7 Confidence intervals Estimate, confidence
2.7 bis Summary and example Summary and example of sequence 2.7
2.8 Hypothesis tests Compare theories and data
2.8 bis Summary and example Summary and example of sequence 2.8
2.9 Jolly method Jolly method
Exam 2 – Graded quiz on units 1 and 2



This module lays out EM practical techniques.


Sequence Description
Recommended reading
3.1 Unit introduction Unit introduction – outline – goals
3.2 Basics of ecology Identifying attributes
3.3 Basics of ecology Choosing the method and the sample
3.4 Monitoring abiotic factors Important abiotic factors, measuring techniques, uses and benefits
3.5 Monitoring plants Understanding and monitoring plant communities, the structure and the evolution of an ecosystem’s vegetation
3.6 Monitoring large mammals: directly Direct observation methods, travelling counts, IKA, stationary counts, transects,

presenting results, decision-making

3.7 Monitoring large mammals: indirectly Indirect methods, monitoring through tourism, villagers’ feedback, monitoring tracks and droppings, camera-traps, calling stations
3.8 Case study: carnivores Techniques, benefits, uses
3.9 Case study: primates Techniques, benefits, uses
3.10 Case study: aerial count Inflight inventory techniques, data processing, total or partial count, monitoring large species through satellite, drones and kites
3.11 Case study : mobile animals Techniques, collars, bands, GPS, marking, Mark and Recapture



This unit illustrates the techniques presented in units 2 and 3 with a series of practical EM examples in different environments, on different species and at different scales.


Sequence Description
Recommended reading
4.1 Unit introduction Unit introduction – outline – goals
4.2 Levels of EM Differents possibles levels, biomes, species, means
4.3 Example of EM on different PAs: NRT Specificities and monitoring examples in several PAs
4.4 EM example of a terrestrial PA: Nazinga Specificities and monitoring examples in a terrestrial PA
4.5 EM example in a marine PA: Aldabra Specificities and monitoring examples in a marine PA
4.6 EM example in the forest: Taï Specificities and monitoring examples in the forest
4.7 EM example in the savanna: Comoé Specificities and monitoring examples in the savanna
4.8 EM example of populations: water-birds Specificities and monitoring examples of water-bird populations
4.9 EM example elephants Specificities and monitoring examples of elephants
4.10 20 golden rules EM golden rules
Final exam – Graded quiz based on the entire course


No prerequisites