2017 Masterclass

The Masterclass 2017 is conceived as a mastering course and update on the latest  developments in k.LAB.

Key dates

Date and timetable of the Course

Dates: 20th – 24th of November, 2017
Duration: 5 days
Timetable: Monday-Friday 9:00-13:00, 14:00-18:00


BC3-Basque Centre for Climate Change
Sede Building 1, 1st floor
Scientific Campus of the University of the Basque Country
48940 Leioa

The sorroundings: Bilbao City


Bilbao is the capital of Bizkaia, one of the provinces of the Basque Autonomous Community. It is located 14 kilometres upstream from the mouth of the Nervión estuary, on the Bay of Biscay.

The Greater Bilbao area is home to around half of the population and business activity of the Basque Country. It is at the intersection of the important European north-south axis and the emerging Atlantic transversal axis.

Over recent years, Bilbao has undergone a historic reinvention process to tackle the challenges of the 21st century. The opening of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in 1997 was the driving force of an unprecedented environmental, urban development and economic transformation citywide.

Selected as one of the urban best practices to be present at the Shanghai World Expo, Bilbao has involved architects of the ilk of Gehry, Foster, Pelli, Isozaki, Hadid, Calatrava, Moneo, Siza, Starck, Legorreta, Soriano, etc., in its regeneration process.

Its streets are spaces open to art, where you can enjoy a unique experience, with works by Salvador Dalí, Eduardo Chillida, Jorge Oteiza, Manolo Valdés, Jeef Koons, Louise Bourgeois, Marcus Lüpertz, William Tucker, Nestor Basterrexea, Vicente Larrea,…

Bilbao has an intense cultural life, with its highlights including eleven museums, over twenty galleries and exhibition centres, many different concerts, including BBK Live and the annual Bilbao Orkesta Sinfonikoa season, the ABAO opera season, first rate drama performances, the ZINEBI and FANT film festivals, etc.


Participation to the course is competitive. The school is open to participants from governmental, non-profit and academic institutions who wish to further their skills in understanding, modeling and managing ecosystem services. Regardless of disciplinary background, each prospective candidate should possess the basic skills outlined below. All software, skills and materials obtained during the school will remain available to participants indefinitely for not-for profit use. Prospective participants from corporate and consulting businesses are welcome to apply, but should contact the school by e-mail before application to discuss potential limitations.

Necessary qualifications

The school is technical in nature and is intended for skilled, active practitioners of environmental science and modeling. The following should be intended as minimum requirements. In addition, the modeling platform used in the school is highly innovative and sophisticated. Candidates with a special interest in the fields of ecoinformatics and integrated computer modeling are encouraged to contact the school by e-mail to discuss the fit of the school to their interests.

The students must bring a recent laptop running a 64-bit operating system (Windows, Macintosh or Linux) with good disk storage and RAM (4GB minimum, more preferred). The software used in the school is not compatible with a 32-bit architecture. Please contact the school by e-mail with any questions on the adequacy of the hardware.


  • Participants should be conversant in the mainstream literature on coupled human-environmental systems and have basic experience and a good understanding of the field.
  • Basic geographic information system (GIS) skills. Familiarity with open source packages (e.g. Quantum GIS) is an added value.
  • A good understanding of the basics of environmental modeling is a prerequisite to be able to profit from the courses. Knowledge of methods such as system dynamics, integrated assessment modelling, agent-based modelling, etc. is an added value.
  • Robust mathematical and statistical skills. Familiarity with Bayesian modeling is an added value.
  • We expect most participants to be actively working in the field of ecosystem services and to be able to formulate a problem, collect basic data and evaluate results at the time of application.
  • As academic titles are often bad predictors of experience in the field, we do not impose requirements on instruction levels. However, we expect most participants to hold degrees at M.Sc. level or above.
  • Because we teach a highly interdisciplinary field, qualified applicants from diverse quantitative disciplines (environmental science, engineering, computer science, economics, policy sciences, social science) are expected and encouraged to apply.
  • The course will be held in English and full language proficiency (spoken, understood, read and written) is expected. Case study proposals that concern non-English speaking contexts are acceptable, but all teaching and assistance during the course will be conducted in English

Relative Weight of the criteria

  • CV and expertise of the Student: 60%
  • Motivation Statement: 30%
  • Planned future application of modeling skills taught during the course: 10%

Spring University Science Board and Selection Committee

Ferdinando Villa (BC3)
Ken Bagstad (USGS)
Brian Voigt (University of Vermont)
Ioannis Athanasiadis (Democritus University of Thrace)
Stefano Balbi (BC3)
Javier Martinez (BC3)

Instruction and Working hours

  • Each student will attend 80 hours of classroom instruction.
  • Non-curricular working hours devoted to the school (for study proposal preparation and personal study) can be estimated from a minimum of 40 to a maximum of 115 hours for those students who will choose to contribute to academic publications that will collect the best results of the Spring University.

A detailed study program will be developed after applications have been approved, structured around focus groups that will cover broad areas of ES science. The groups will be structured based on the topics covered and the students will develop certain competencies to offer them professional skills.

Structure and Content of the school

Classroom instruction
Theory of cloupled human-enviromental systems 20 hours
Basics of integrated modeling and k. LAB software instruction 15 hours
The k.IM semantic language and collaborative modeling 15 hours
Biophysical and social modeling in k. LAB 15 hours
Analysis and interpretation of results and scenario development 15 hours
Non-curricular working Hours
Minimum 40 hours
Students contributing to academic publications 75-115 hours


Ferdinando Villa
Director of the School
Ikerbasque Professor at BC3, Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3), Bilbao, Spain

Ferdinando Villa holds a Ph.D. in theoretical Ecology and had a long parallel career as a scientific software designer and engineer. After working in many fields of Ecology he has focused his research at the interface of policy, ecology, economics and computer science, concentrating on artificial intelligence approaches to assist environmental decision making and natural system assessment and valuation. He collaborates with many international institutions and governments on environmental assessment methods and is the author or coauthor of 120+ scientific publications and many open source software packages. He has been the recipient of several million USD from the US National Science Foundation, the European Union, governments and private foundations for projects that integrate novel science with sophisticated decision support method. His most current effort, the ARIES project (www.ariesonline.org) is redefining the field of integrated assessment of ecosystem services and providing new approaches to address the challenge of environmental decision making in the 21st century.

Brian Wordpress
Brian Voigt
Researcher/Professor at Rubenstein School for the Environment and Natural Resources, USA.

Dr. Brian Voigt received his Ph.D. in Natural Resources from the University of Vermont, USA. Brian has a B.A. in Mathematics and Sociology from Miami University, OH, USA and a Master’s degree in City and Regional Planning from Clemson University, SC, USA. He is currently a Research Professor in the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont and a lead developer of the ARIES modeling platform. Brian’s research interests include developing and applying computer based systems for modeling land use change and the interaction between humans and their environment. Current research topics include modeling freshwater ecosystem services and the spread of infectious disease in Tanzania, modeling environmental tradeoffs resulting from alternative development patterns in Chittenden County, VT, USA, and modeling the impacts to recreation and groundwater resources resulting from the development of oil, gas and mineral resources on federally owned public lands in the western USA.

Ken Bagstad
Researcher at Geosciences & Environmental Change Science Center, Denver, USA

Ken Bagstad is a Research Economist and former Mendenhall Postdoctoral Fellow working with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Geosciences & Environmental Change Science Center in Denver. For this work, he uses GIS and modeling to map and value ecosystem service flows at several sites in the United States and globally. He has worked on pilot projects using ecosystem services modeling tools such as ARIES, SolVES, and InVEST to incorporate ecosystem services into management with U.S. federal agencies, including the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and USDA Forest Service. Ken received his Ph.D. from the University of Vermont, M.S. from Arizona State University, and B.A. from Ohio Wesleyan University. He has taught ecosystem services modeling at the University of Denver, the University of Vermont, and has led development of training materials for biophysical modeling of ecosystem services as part of the World Bank’s WAVES program.

Stefano Balbi
Researcher at BC3, Basque Centre for Climate Change, Bilbao, Spain

Since my Master’s in Environmental Economics, I’ve been studying interactions between human and natural systems from a holistic perspective, in which theories and approaches from both social and environmental scientific practice are integrated to overcome disciplinary boundaries and provide more accurate representations of behaviours, spatial dependencies and temporal dynamics. This emphasis led me to pursue a Ph.D. in Analysis and Governance of Sustainable Development and to direct my interests towards cutting edge research in human geography, making use of computationally intensive, non-equilibrium methods to explore the complexity of social-ecological systems (SES)

Ioannis N. Athanasiadis
Researcher/Professor at Wageningen University

I am Assistant Professor with the Information Technology Group at Wageningen University, in the Netherlands. Previously, I was a faculty member with the Democritus University of Thrace, Greece, and a Researcher with the Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence, in Switzerland.
I investigate complex environmental applications of computer science and the enabling role of computer science for investigating nature. My areas of expertise include ecoinformatics, integrated modelling, data and model interoperability, intelligent systems, agents, decision support systems, knowledge engineering, metadata and ontologies and machine learning. My work has been applied in several domains, including agriculture, water management, air quality, ecosystem services, tourism, and meteorology. I serve as an Editor of Environmental Modelling and Software a scholar journal published by Elsevier.

Simon Willcock
Researcher at the University of Southampton, United Kingdom.

I am a Research Fellow studying Ecosystem Services at the University of Southampton, United Kingdom. My main research interests include monitoring, modelling and mapping natural resources and their use to help achieve sustainable use, with a particular focus on African tropical forests and food security. I currently work on two Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) projects, namely Attaining Sustainable Services from Ecosystems through Trade-off Scenarios (ASSETS) and Which Ecosystem Service Models Best Capture the Needs of the Rural Poor (WISER). Previously, I worked on the Valuing the Arc project which aimed to improve knowledge of the ecosystem services provided by the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania, of their contribution to human welfare, and to find solutions to managing these services in a sustainable way. Specifically, I was based within the carbon-related services module; focusing on measuring and modelling carbon storage and sequestration within the forests and woodlands of the Eastern Arc and on estimating the value of these services.

2012-07-08-Luke-EE-Bio-Shot.scaled - Copy
Luke Scott
Software Developer, Seattle, USA

J. Luke Scott is a Software Engineer from Seattle, USA, with over 10 years of industry experience prior to returning to academia to complete a Masters program in Computer Science at the University of Luxembourg with a focus on Intelligent Systems and Green IT. He received his B.A. in Economics at The University of Washington and has since worked as a consultant and developer in Seattle and the Bay Area. His Master Thesis, a collaboration between the University of Luxembourg and BC3, and advised by Prof. Ferdinando Villa, was on the integration of spatio-temporal scales in agent systems, with Thinklab as the reference platform for the work. Through this project he has helped create the agent subsystem within Thinklab, and will continue to be involved in its development. Prior to working with Prof. Villa, he had done advisory and development work on the Ecosystem Valuation Toolkit for Earth Economics in Seattle, USA, and for the Green IT project under Prof. Pascal Bouvry at the University of Luxembourg. His most recent industry position was at Amazon.com in Seattle.classification.

Javier Martinez - Copy
Javier Martínez-López
Researcher at BC3, Basque Centre for Climate Change, Bilbao, Spain.

I am a Biologist with a MSc on Freshwater Ecosystems Management and Assessment (University of Murcia, Spain) and a MSc on Environmental Engineering and Consulting (EOI – Escuela de Organizacion Industrial, Spain). In 2014 I received my PhD in Ecology on the topic “Modelling and establishment of plant indicators of ecological status for semiarid mediterranean saline wetlands” from the Ecology and Hydrology department of the University of Murcia (Spain). My main research topics are landscape ecology, remote sensing, ecosystem services and spatio-temporal ecosystem modeling using several open source programming languages, such as R, Python and GRASS GIS. I have worked on several projects, such as the ‘Integrated Modelling for the Sustainable Management of the Mar Menor lagoon’, the ‘Application of the European Water Framework and the Natura 2000 Network on the Segura Basin’ and the ‘Millenium Ecosystem Asessment in Spain’. I have been coordinating several international environmental projects as a project manager at ttz-Bremerhaven (Germany). I was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission working in Ispra (Italy) on the Digital Observatory for Protected Areas (DOPA) developing spatial biophysical habitat models and indicators for monitoring the state and pressures of protected areas globally (eHabitat+). Currently I am working at BC3 (Basque Centre for Climate Change) for the ARIES and AQUACROSS projects.

marta pascual
Marta Pascual
Researcher at BC3, Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3), Bilbao, Spain.

Dr. Marta Pascual is a Post-Doctoral Researcher. 6 years of professional experience in different lines of marine and coastal research applied to Marine Spatial Planning (MSP); Ecosystem Services Mapping and Modelling; Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM); Biological Valuation (BV) and Ecosystem Services Valuation (ESV). Participated as researcher in the following projects: FP7-OCEAN-2009 MESMA (Monitoring and Evaluation of Spatially Managed Areas); BIZKAIZET (Catalogación de las áreas de especial interés para la conservación de los cetáceos en el golfo de Bizkaia); FP7-OCEAN- 2011-3 PERSEUS (Policy-oriented marine Environmental Research for the Southern European Seas); FP7-OCEAN-2011 CoCoNET (Towards COast to COast NETworks of marine protected areas); GEF project: Integration of climatic variability and change into national strategies to implement the ICZM Protocol in the Mediterranean; DG-MARE Call for Tenders No MARE/2013/11: Assistance Mechanism for the Atlantic Action Plan – Spanish Focal Point. Her current research interests are focused on ecosystem services mapping, modelling and evaluation using the ARIES and k.LAB tool; as well as in spatial planning management, socio-economics’, equity, governance, decision-support tools and the implementation of European directives (WFD, MSP and MSFD). Her work has also succeeded in publications in international peer-reviewed journals.

The International Spring University on Ecosystem Services Modeling is supported by Bilbao City Council and Bizkaia Provincial Council through Bilbao Ekintza, EPEL and Beaz.

We are thankful to all these institutions who provided us the venue, KBI digital, to organize the 2016 edition of the school during two weeks.

We are also specially grateful to Bilbao Ekintza for backing this project and for all their help.

Funded by

This dissemination activity is funded by MINECO “Convocatoria Proyectos de Investigación Fundamental no Orientada 2012.CAUSE Project (CTM2012-39500).

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