From August 11-21, 2014, I visited Professor Dr. Volker Grimm’s lab at the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research in Leipzig, Germany. This international lab visit was funded by the Canadian Fisheries Research Network through a Strategic Network Enhancement Initiative (SNEI) grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada


Fan Zhang (left) and Volker Grimm

Dr. Grimm is a senior scientist at the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research and a professor at the University of Potsdam. He is one of the leading scientists in applying individual-based models (IBM) to solving ecological problems and has more than 200 publications, many of which are cited frequently. In particular, his book “Individual-based modeling and ecology” has been cited more than 1000 times to date.

Using IBM to study fisheries systems is an important part of my PhD thesis. The main objectives of my visit were to 1) systematically learn how to use the Overview, Design concepts and Details (ODD) protocol to describe and present IBM in scientific literature; and 2) discuss the potential application of IBM in fisheries research and management.

During my visit, we discussed the ODD of an IBM I built before the trip, which helped to clarify my understanding of the meaning and use of the protocol. Then, we had some discussion about the historical application of IBM to fish population dynamics and the potential links between IBM and fisheries management. For example, we talked about the potential for using IBM as the operating model component in Management Strategy Evaluation for fisheries management.

In addition, I was invited to attend a 2-day course on scientific writing given by Dr. Grimm while I was there. I learned some useful techniques from this class, which will help improve my writing skills and habits.

Overall, the experience improved my understanding of IBM, and I gained some valuable suggestions to enhance my research. Thanks to my host Dr. Grimm, the SNEI funds to support this visit, and to Dr. Tom Nudds and my colleagues at the University of Guelph.