© Copyright 2014 Photo by Northern Pindos National Park – used with permission


Our programme features practical skills for biodiversity fieldwork with for major taxa such as plants, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles and for butterflies and other insects. But participants also learn how to use modern statistical techniques to analyze biodiversity using R and its packages for biodiversity data analysis (e.g. VEGAN). The programme uses lectures, fieldwork, computer labs and a group project to give participants an understanding of the principles of modern biodiversity theory and practice all the way from ecological fieldwork, through data analysis, to conservation policy. This happens in the heart of one of the most exciting natural areas of Europe – the Vikos-Aoos National Park of the Pindos Mountains.



Dr. John Halley

Dr John Halley (University of Ioannina, Greece) 
website >>

John is Professor of Ecology at the at the Department of Biological Applications and Technology of the University of Ioannina (UOI) and is the director of PALASE field station. Since his appointment at the University of Ioannina in 2007, John has been active in conservation issues in the area. Between 2009 and 2012 he served on SCB’s Science and Publications Committee. His extracurricular interests include hiking, rock climbing and orchids. The main focus of his research is the use of mathematics and statistics to forecast the dynamics of biodiversity. He has published numerous papers in leading scientific journals including Ecology Letters, PNAS and Science. Current foci are the biodiversity responses to climate change and rates of species extinction due to rainforest loss. He is currently supervisor to seven graduate and undergraduate students on subjects ranging from the neutral theory of biodiversity to the cultural ecology of sacred groves





Dr. Alessandro ChiarucciDr. Alessandro Chiarucci (University of Bologna, Italy) website >>

Alessandro Chiarucci is Full Professor at the Department of Biological, 
Geological and Environmental Sciences of the University of Bologna,
where he teaches ‘€œPhytogeography’ and ‘€œConservation Biology’.
Alessandro is interested in the patterns and the determinants of species 
diversity at different spatial scales and the problems associated to 
sampling species richness at larger spatial scales. This is done using a 
variety of methods, including the analysis of species distributional 
data, field plots, field experiments and data modelling. Alessandro has 
authored more than 100 scientific papers and book chapters, served as 
reviewer for almost more than 40 scientific journals and is member of 
many scientific societies. Alessandro is also Chief Editor of the 
’€œJournal of Vegetation Science’€ and ‘€œApplied Vegetation Science’€.







Zoltan ElekDr. Zoltán Elek (MTA-ELTE-MTM, Hungary) website >>

Zoltán Elek is an ecologist and entomologist working in the Ecology Research Group hosted by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Eötvös Loránd University and the Hungarian Natural History Museum, Budapest, Hungary. As an entomologist he studies the ecology and behaviour of ground beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae) concerning habitat fragmentation caused by either forest management or urbanisation or agricultural practices. He dabbles enthusiastically with statistical analysis of data mainly model-based approaches in R (multi-model inference with linear and nonlinear and mixed models, multivariate statistical procedures, meta-analysis, diversity orderings) and scientific visualization of quantitative information for publications. He successfully applied these skills in postdoctoral fellowships in France and Denmark and other joint researches with various European countries. He gives lectures about the use of R especially for the graphical issues and their use in scientific publications. He is associate editor of the Journal Community Ecology and the Book review editor for the Journal of Biosafety.





Dr. Athanasios KallimanisDr. Athanasios Kallimanis (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece) website >>

Thanasis is an ecologist and currently serves as assistant professor of ecology and nature conservation in the Department of Environmental and Natural Resource Management. His research focuses on issues of spatial ecology, and more specifically in analyzing the spatial pattern of biodiversity under different temporal and spatial scales with an emphasis in protected areas (e.g. Natura 2000 network). In his research he likes to use models and statistics to analyze data and test theories. He has authored more than 40 peer-reviewed papers, member of several national and international scientific societies.








Dr. Vassiliki KatiDr. Vassiliki Kati (University of Patras, Greece) website >>

Kiki (Ph.D. Université Cathollique de Louvain, Belgium) is assistant professor of Biodiversity Conservation in the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources Management. Her teaching interests include biodiversity conservation, wildlife and protected areas management, while she teaches also in a postgraduate course regarding national parks. She studies the biodiversity of Greek mountains and she focuses on reserve design, biodiversity indicators as well as conservation management of several animal groups, such as insects, herpetofauna and birds. She is interested also recently on the effect of climate change on biodiversity patterns. Kiki believes that in our biodiversity crisis era we do not have the luxury to do science without implementation and vice versa. She also argues that local conservation experience should inform global decision and vice versa. In this context, she is active in the envionmental policy arena, writing articles for newspapers, being an active member of several NGOs at local and national scale, member of the Policy Committee of SCB-Europe, and member of EU expert committee on biodiversity and climate change. Kiki was member of the Board of Directors of the SCB-ES and chair of Education Committee of SCB-ES for the period 2008-2010.




Dr. Gabor LoveiDr. Gabor Lovei (Aarhus University, Denmark) website >>

Gabor is an animal ecologist, entomologist. Born and educated in Hungary, he has been living and working in several European countries, China, New Zealand, and Africa. His research interest includes biodiversity on cultivated land, environmental biosafety of transgenic plants, invasion ecology, biological control of arthropod pests, bird migration, tropical ecology and scientific communication. Author of >130 peer-reviewed papers, editor of 6 books; member of several national and international scientific societies, journal editorial boards, organiser of 13 international conferences, and workshops; former member of the EFSA expert panel on plant health, and the Board of Directors of Society of Conservation Biology, Europe Section. Gabor has been a core teacher of the GSS since 2010.







Dr Stefanos SgardelisDr. Stefanos Sgardelis (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece) website >>

Stefanos Sgardelis’ research interests include the structure, dynamics and management of Mediterranean-type ecosystems including especially problems of degradation and desertification, indices of environmental stresses, spatially explicit model and patterns of biodiversity. As well as teaching community ecology and population dynamics to students of biology, he also teaches mathematical modelling, statistics and database design to MSc students of biology and of physics.









Vassiliki Sgardeli (University of Ioannina, Greece)
Viky Sgardeli is a PhD student at the University of Ioannina’s Laboratory of Ecology. She graduated from the Physics Department of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, and has a Master’s degree from the University of Warwick, UK, in Complex Dynamical Systems. Her PhD work, supported by a scholarship from the Onassis Foundation, concerns the neutral theory of biodiversity applied to the estimation of extinction rates.










Dr. Kalliopi StaraDr Kalliopi Stara (University of Ioannina, Greece)

Kalliopi Stara is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Department  of Biological Applications and Technologies of UOI. Her research is part of the interdisciplinary project “Conservation through Religion: the Sacred Groves of Epirus” (“SAGE”, 2012-2015), which aims to study SNA biocultural value in the context of effective conservation. She works with local communities and people aiming to locate sacred natural areas, describe them as parts of management systems in the small scale of the community and understand their function in present. She holds a degree in Psychology (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, 1992), a master’s degree in Ecology (University of Wales – Bangor, 2001) and a PhD in Folk Studies (UOI, 2009). Her research interests are focused on the scientific fields of Cultural Ecology and Ethno-ecology, specially ethno-ornithology. She has also designed several environmental education kits for primary school students  about protected areas and threatened species.







Dr. Despoina VokouDespoina Vokou (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece)
Despoina is Professor of Ecology at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Her research interests are in Aerobiology and Chemical Ecology, especially regarding the role of aromatic plants in the Mediterranean. She is also interested in the management of protected areas, in which area she has a wealth of practical experience. She has served on the board of WWF Greece, presided over the Axios Delta protected-area Management Authority (2003-2006) and chaired the national Natura 2000 Committee from 2010-2013. She also represented Greece at the Nagoya biodiversity summit in 2010, which developed the “Nagoya Protocol”. She is the current president of HELECOS, the Hellenic Ecological Society.








Dr. Martin WiemersDr. Martin Wiemers (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Halle, Germany) website >>
Martin is an entomologist, whose main research fields are evolutionary biology and community ecology (including the effects of climate change), with a focus on butterflies as model organisms. He obtained his PhD at Bonn University working on a molecular phylogeny of a young species-rich radiation of blue butterflies. Before and after his PhD thesis he worked several years as an entomologist in Papua New Guinea and then became an Assistant Professor at Vienna University in Austria (Department of Tropical Ecology and Animal Biodiversity), where he taught molecular methods in ecology and systematics and field courses on biodiversity in Austria, Costa Rica and Indonesia. Currently he is a researcher at the Department of Community Ecology at UFZ where he is member of the coordination team of LEGATO – a multinational research project on sustainable rice production systems and ecological engineering in Southeast Asia. Martin has authored more than 50 scientific papers and books, served as reviewer for more than 20 journals and is a board member of the German Society for Conservation of Lepidoptera and of Butterfly Conservation Europe.







Natasa TzortzakNatasa Tzortzaki (University of Ioannina, Greece)
Natasa Tzortzaki is currently a doctoral candidate at the Department of Biological Applications and Technology of UOI, with her thesis on the population ecology and genetics of Campanula species, with special emphasis on the contrasting distributional patterns at the centre and limits of their altitudinal dispersal, on mountainous regions of Greece. Her other research interests include Landscape Genetics and the dispersal patterns of species across their range.



The cultural landscapes of Zagori

Kalliopi Stara (University of Ioannina, Greece)

This session will introduce students to the natural history of Zagori and will help them to “read” the landscapes of the area. It gives basic information about the conservation importance of the North Pindos National Park and the bio cultural value of the area and its landscapes from the  mountain picks of Tymfi and Smolikas to the warm valleys of Vikos and Aoos. Land-use practices that create “working landscapes”, culture imprints in to the landscape such as social orders, conventions and borders between domesticated land and wilderness and local cosmologies are the main elements that we will use to interpret the mountain landscapes of the area beyond their recent advertisement as places of a “virgin nature” and “unspoiled tradition”.


Sampling methods for biodiversity assessment and monitoring

Alessandro Chiarucci (University of Bologna, Italy)

Assessing and monitoring species diversity over large scales, such as natural parks or administrative regions, is a really difficult task especially for species-rich taxa. As a consequence this is one of the major tasks of present day conservation biology but it is also a major challenge in ecology. Species richness estimators and rarafaction techniques are now widely used, especially because they are easy available in many softwares. However, the use of these techniques is not free of problems and needs to be applied under ceratin limitations. This lecture will present some possible solutions in assessing and monitoring large scale species diversity, especially discussing sampling design issues and how they can affect the resulting species richness estimates.


Spatial scales in biodiversity

Alessandro Chiarucci (University of Bologna, Italy)

Species diversity is deeply affected by spatial scale. Species-area curves are the most important models to relate species diversity to the spatial scales. The most applied models of species-area curves, namely the Arrhenius’ power function and Gleason’s exponential model, will be introduced and discussed in this lecture. However, spatial scale does not act as a single component if affecting species richness, just because it can represent different natural phenomena. The effects of the different components of the spatial scales, namely grain, extent and focus, on the species richness will be discussed in this lecture together with a final look to the most recent advancements on modelling species-area curves.


Ecosystem services and biodiversity

Gabor Lovei (Aarhus University, Denmark)

Ecosystem services were recognised relatively recently, and were brought to the forefront with the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (1999-2004). Biodiversity is intuitively linked to ecosystem services, but the precise mechanism is not known. This area has triggered one of the “boom” research fields in recent ecology. In this module, I present the ecosystem services concept and taxonomy, survey the history of the biodiversity-ecological functioning debate, starting with the various theories suggested (statistical artefact, overhead theory, production theory) and the current lines of empricial evidence. Above-belowground linkages and functional vs. species diversity approaches will be detailed and discussed. I shall also touch on the hoped-for advantages and pitfalls of the utilitarian approach to ecological functioning.


Network Analysis

Athanasios Kallimanis (University of Patras, Greece)

Alot of research in biodiversity has been focused towards analyzing the species composition of communities. However, of critical importance is not only what species constitute a community but also how do they interact. And even though pairwise interactions have always had a key role in ecology, the increase in the amount and availability of biological data highlighted the existence and importance of complex ecological networks (such as plant-pollinator interaction networks). The availability of powerful computational tools has facilitated wide access to such data, and a rapid increase in the relevant research publications, not only by ecologists but also by social scientists, physicists and mathematicians. In this module we will examine the methods available and also apply them to some ecological examples.


Analyzing Functional Diversity

Athanasios Kallimanis (University of Patras, Greece)

Biodiversity is a notoriously multifaceted ecological phenomenon. Most of the current research focuses on several aspects of taxonomic diversity. Functional diversity is the facet of biodiversity that reflects the range of things that organisms do in communities and ecosystems which is an important concept in ecology because it captures information on functional traits absent in classical indices of biodiversity. We will combine information from biodiversity datasets with the functional traits of species in order to estimate an array of functional diversity indices. We will explore the properties and associations between the different aspects of biodiversity.


Conservation Biology in practice

Vassiliki Kati (University of Patras, Greece)

In this introductory lecture, the science of conservation biology will be introduced. The main principles and characteristics of conservation biology will be presented. Students will learn about the main tools we dispose in order to face biodiversity loss. Concepts such as the hotspots of biodiversity, the techniques of reserve design, methods of rapid biodiversity assessment, gap analysis, species action plans, and concepts such as umbrella, flagship, or indicator species will be presented and enriched with examples from the real conservation world.


Biodiversity Theory

John M. Halley (University of Ioannina, Greece)

Measures of diversity. Models of community structure. We review different models of biodiversity of the ecological community. From populations to communities: what is a community? Different models of the community. Ecological foodwebs and assembly rules. The Preston, McArthur and other descriptions of community structure. Hubbell’s neutral model of biodiversity. The dynamics of the community – from cycles to evolution. Diversity and scale. Biogeography and species richness. The Arrhenius scaling relationship for biodiversity and area. Theories of the species-area relationship. Extinction and the SAR. Extinction debt.


Phylogenetic Diversity

Martin Wiemers (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Halle, Germany)

Our knowledge about the phylogenetic relationships of organisms has been greatly enhanced in recent decades, especially due to molecular methods. At the same time, phylogenetic diversity is increasingly seen as an important aspect of species diversity, and methods have been developed to measure this component of natural diversity. The results can be important to inform the debate on prioritizing conservation actions. This lecture gives an introduction to the topic and presents different metrics of phylogenetic diversity which have been developed during the past 15 years.


Frameworks for Biodiversity Conservation

Despoina Vokou (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece)

Description explanation of the various frameworks for biodiversity protection. Lecture will discuss their scope and effectiveness.

Refresher Course: Review of R

Zoltán Elek (MTA-ELTE-MTM, Ecology Research Group, Budapest, Hungary)

This short course will introduce to the R program, focusing on the data management and some simple analyses such as ANOVA. This brief overview about the basics of R use may help the participants to enjoy its benefit during the session ”analyzing diversity”.
Participants should bring their own laptops, preferably with the installed R program (>3.0v.)

1.    Installation, first steps in R, open data, using help in R
2.    Explore example data, introduction to graphical tools in the R language
3.    Package management (library, require, install packages), important packages for ecologists, Vegan, agricolae, MASS, (through R task view)
4.    Analysis of variance in R – the two ways of approaches
5.    Post-hoc tests in R

Detailed schedule
Day 1 morning (9am-12am, 25/06/2016) – general introduction to R
– installation, first step in R, open data, using help in R
– explore example data create first graphs, demo (graphics), introduction to graphical tools in R
– package management (library, require, install packages)
– important packages for ecologists, Vegan, agricolae, MASS, (through R task view)

Day 1 afternoon (1pm- 5pm, 25/06/2016) – manage your data in R
– import/export data, store data in R
– merge, subset datasets
– manage and create variables
– using multiple datasets for analyses – the two ways of approaches
– questions and dissemination session

Day 2 morning (9am-12am, 26/06/2016) – producing the graphs in R
– overview of plot functions, symbol types (lines symbols), axis types, legend, font type, colours and font and symbol size, inner and outer margins
– explore data with graphs – scatterplot matrix, conditional plot/interaction plot
– multipanel conditioning
– some useful graphs – dotplot and the lattice graphics

Day 2 afternoon (1pm- 5pm, 26/06/2016) – analyses in R
– making analyses in R – analysis of variance in R – the two ways of approaches
– repeated Measurement design in ANOVA
– nested design in ANOVA
– post-hoc tests in R –  the two ways of approaches
– questions and dissemination session


Analyzing Diversity

Gábor Lövei (Aarhus University, Denmark & Fujian University of Agriculture, Fuzhou)

& Zoltán Elek (MTA-ELTE-MTM, Ecology Research Group, Budapest, Hungary)

This short exercise will introduce participants modern concepts of diversity and some more sophisticaed diversity indices. The Rényi-generalisation will be explained and discussed using examples. The practical sessions will use the R program with the Vegan package. Graphical presentations of diversity representations will be demonstrated.
Participants should bring their own laptops, preferably with the installed R program (>3.0v.)

1. Calculating abundance and species richness in R
2. The rank abundance curves, species accumulation curves
3. Diversity indices
4. Calculating diversity in R: similarity/dissimilarity functions
5. Diversity in Vegan: One parametric diversity families – Rényi profiles


Rarefaction technique

Alessandro Chiarucci (University of Bologna, Italy)

This session will familiarize students with the application of the rarefaction thechnique to the field data they have collected, in order to show how the changes of the expected sample size can affect the observed species richness values.


Databases for biodiversity. Design and implementation in MsAccess

Stefanos Sgardelis (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece)

This lab is in two parts. In the first part we design a database to keep records of plant species occurrence and abundance in several localities and habitat types. Our aim is to produce the schema of a relational database based on entity-relationship diagrams. We look at the structure of the bioGreece DB for reference. In the second part we implement a working prototype of our database in Microsoft Access.


Using molecular data for biodiversity studies

Martin Wiemers (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Halle, Germany)

Creating phylogenetic trees is becoming increasingly easy, partly due to the development of streamlined procedures, and is no longer the realm of phylogeneticists only. This lab session will enable the ecologist to download and process molecular data from public databases in order to analyze phylogenetic relationships and calculate selected phylogenetic diversity indices.

The basis of all diversity assessment is field sampling. All methods have their advantages and disadvantages, but most importantly the limitations need careful scrutiny because this determines the reliability of the data obtained. Once the base data are of inferior quality, no amount of data analysis sophistication will render them reliable, and the conclusions will be false. Therefore field sampling is of critical importance.






Sampling Biodiversity of Birds and Reptiles (12h)

Vassiliki Kati, University of Patras, Department of Environmental and Natural Resources management, Greece

This session will introduce students to a range of different field sampling techniques and associated data treatment.
(a) Sampling passerine birds. The first part of the session focuses on small terrestrial bird sampling. Various bird census methods will be presented, as well as the ecology of passerine birds, their value as monitoring tool and the different types of bird songs. Students will have to conduct acoustic and visual sampling at early morning hours, filling a standard worksheet and recording the species richness of bird community in different sampling points in an agricultural ecosystem.
(b) Reptile sampling. The second part of the field session will introduce different survey methods for reptile diversity. It will focus on lizard and tortoise sampling, involving standard transects in an agricultural ecosystem.
(c) Data treatment. This session will introduce the methodology of setting up databases of biodiversity data. Data from bird and reptile sessions will be merged in a common database. Simple alpha and beta diversity analysis will follow, using either the real data from the morning field sessions, or data provided by the instructor. We will also introduce elements of community analysis, using CANOCO software.


Sampling Biodiversity of Invertebrates (12h)

Gabor Lovei (University of Aarhus, Denmark)

This session will introduce students to a range of different field sampling techniques and associated data treatment. In this session the participants will do small exercises using the basic field census techniques for birds and invertebrates. For invertebrates, visual censuses will be performed on available flowering plants, which will be used for biodiversity analyses, including species richness estimation, life form/functional diversity analysis, and diversity ordering. The methods of on-plant surveys, pitfall trapping, and canopy beating will be demonstrated. Data recording, sample storing and identification will be briefly explained and some small practical exercises can be run.


Rapid Biodiversity Assessment using Butterfly Transect Counts

Martin Wiemers (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Halle, Germany)

Natural and semi-natural habitats are altered at increasing speeds due to land use and climate changes. Therefore rapid biodiversity assessments (RBA) are also becoming increasingly important to measure these changes. Insects represent the majority of species diversity in terrestrial habitats, and among them, butterflies have emerged as one of the best study groups due to relative ease of recording and determination. This is especially true for open grassland- or shrub-dominated habitats which are prevalent in the Zagori region. This field session will demonstrate RBA by using a standardized transect method in the surroundings of the field station, where more than 60 species of butterflies can be expected.

Student research project

Students will have to choose and develop a small research project. They will work in teams of three persons. Each team will have a supervisor to assist in formulating the research question, in designing an appropriate sampling methodology, and in the analysis and interpretation of the data collected. Student teams will have to work independently in the field and in the laboratory, and will be expected to present their project as 15 minute scientific presentation on the last day of the course. Simple field and laboratory equipment, as well as access to literature via the Internet will be available. Students may bring their own datasets if they want to work on those.

Refresher course in R.

Day Date Main activity
Fri 23/06 Arrivals
Sat 24/06 General introduction; Managing data in R
Sun 25/06 Producing graphs with R; Data analysis


GSS -2016: Main activities by day.

Day Date Main activity
Sun 25/06 Arrivals
Mon 26/06 Registration, Intro. to Zagori
Tue 27/06 Field techniques 1, Project assignments
Wed 28/06 Sampling methods
Thu 29/06 Field techniques 2
Fri 30/07 Rarefaction techniques
Sat 01/07 Invertebrate diversity, Biodiversity protection
Sun 02/07 Excursion
Mon 03/07 Phylogenetic diversity
Tue 04/07 Biodiversity databases
Wed 05/07 Theory of biodiversity
Thu 06/07 Completion of projects
Fri 07/07 Project presentations


PALASE Field Station

PALASE Field Station


The Summer School is held at the field station PALASE of the University of Ioannina. Situated in Northern Pindos National Park (39.876311°N,  20.706089°E). PALASE is surrounded by meadows, oak forests, wetlands and mountainous grasslands that host an amazing fauna of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians as well as countless invertebrate species.


With an elevation of 960m the weather is cooler than other areas in Greece and combines Mediterranean and Boreal climates. Ecological activity typically begins in mid April and lasts well in to July.


In close vicinity, there are:

  • The Vikos-Aoos National Forest
  • The Pindos National Forest
  • 11 NATURA 2000 areas
  • The UNESCO Vikos-Aoos Geopark
  • Prehistoric sites, Byzantine churches and monasteries, and villages with traditional stonework (16th – 19th c)

Other attractive features are:

  • Ease of access (30 minutes from Ioannina airport)
  • Natural beauty and unique landscapes (3 km from Vikos Gorge)
  • Vivid tradition and hospitality


It is the first field station in the Organization of Biological Field Stations (OBFS) network to be situated in Mediterranean Europe. PALASE was established in 2012, in the former Labriadeios Textile & Weaving School.

PALASE is a two floor 150 m2 building with:

  • 2 Classrooms/Laboratories.
  • Food-service and cooking facilities.
  • 5 Large dormitories (40 people).
  • 5 Single/double rooms.
© Copyright Greek Summer School

PALASE Field Station

© photo Northern Pindos National Park
© photo Northern Pindos National Park