Summer school: Path analysis in ecology

 (ECL 805)

27 April  to 1 May 2020

UdeS        Laboratoire d'écologie fonctionnelle                                  


Course description


Obtaining credit

Information you will need before registering

How to register


How to get to the University of Sherbrooke

Documents and R functions to obtain before the course


Course description



ECL 805 Analyse des pistes en écologie II (Path analysis in Ecology)

(Please note this course code you will need to enter it when registering)


Ecologists often pose cause-and-effect hypotheses involving several variables in systems for which controlled randomised experiments are not possible.  When this occurs one must use a set of statistical methods called "structural equations modelling" or "path analysis".  In this intensive five-day course you will learn the basics of these methods and how to apply them in your ecological research.  Theoretical sessions will be interspersed with practical sessions using the free R software.  You are encouraged to use your own data sets whenever possible.   This course is listed as a doctoral level course, but MSc and post-docs can also take it.  A maximum of 30 people can take this course and priority will be given to graduate students.  You can arrive on the 26th of April 2020 if you choose to say in the University dormitory.  Courses begin at 9AM on the 27st of April and run all day until 5 PM.  The course ends at noon on the 1st of May. You must vacate your room by 4PM on the 1th of May.


The course content follows Shipley, B. 2016. Cause and correlation in biology: A user's guide to path analysis, structural equations, and causal inference with R,  Cambridge University Press (2nd edition). You must have a copy and can order it from CUP or from Amazon.


Since this summer school targets an international audience, the language of instruction is English but questions in French are welcome.  The course is given on the campus of the University of Sherbrooke in association with the Centre for Forest Studies (CEF) and the Quebec Centre for Biodiversity Science (CSBQ).  Scholarships are available to student members of these two research centres; see the respective web sites of these Centres for more details.  You are responsible for obtaining these scholarships.


Course prerequisites: 

(1) You must be a graduate student (MSc, PhD) or post-doc.  Priority will be given to students who are officially registered in this course and the total number of spaces is 30.  Others can resister for the course if space is available.

(2) You must have a basic knowledge of statistical analysis (inferential tests, correlation, regression and linear models)

(3) You must have a basic knowledge of the R statistical software

(4) You must have a portable computer with R installed before the start of the course, including the following libraries: lavaan, ggm, piecewiseSEM and CausalToolbox (this last one is available from Github).


Subjects covered (including practical sessions for each)





Students registered at the University of Sherbooke: the course is included with your normal registration and course credit is automatically assigned.

Students registered in another Quebec University: the course is included with your normal registration, and the course credit is automatically assigned at your university iwhen you register via the CRÉPUQ.

Other students: Your course is paid by the Science Faculty; you don't  pay! 


Your only costs are for travel and for lodging/food.


Lodging at the University residences is available at 45$/night for rooms with a single bed and 60$/night for rooms with two single beds.  Payment and reservations must be done online here by the 31st of March 2020 without exception.  Food can be purchased at the cafeteria or you can cook you own food in the residence.


Obtaining credit


These courses are part of the course offerings of the Biology Department of the University of Sherbrooke. 

Students registered in another Quebec university should register via the CRÉPUQ: and this will automatically register the credit at their home university.

Students from universities outside Quebec must find out from their home institutions if these credits can be recognised and, if so, how to arrange the transfer.  To obtain an official transcript for this course from the Université de Sherbrooke, go to: :


Information you will need before registering


(1) Graduate students already registered at the Université de Sherbrooke: Register in the normal way via your fiche d'inscription, then inform me of this via email:

(2) Graduate students from other Quebec universities: Register via the CRÉPUQ:, then inform me of this via email:

 (3) All other people:  assemble the necessary documents below, fill out this registration form and send it, along with scanned copies any other documents (passport page, CAQ etc.) to


Personal information:



If you are a registered student in another Quebec university and don't register via the CRÉPUQ:


 If you are registered as a student in a Canadian university outside of Quebec:

If you do not have the status of a student in Canada:


How to register for the course


First, please carefully read the above section detailing the information and papers needed for registration.  After having assembled all of these, follow the information given above and send it to me by email (


The deadline for registration, including receipt of all necessary documents, is March 31st 2020.

How to register for lodging at the University residences

Please download and fill out this WORD form, save it, and return it to me at  You will be required to provide a credit card number.

You can purchase food at the cafeteria either on a per-meal basis or by purchasing a week-long card when you arrive.

How to get to the University of Sherbrooke


If you are coming from the Trudeau Airport in Montreal, then go to the main bus terminal in Montreal, either by taxi (~35$) or by public transport:


To go by public transport  you take the bus 747 (a shuttle) from the airport to the downtown “Berri UQUAM” Métro station (subway stop and bus terminal).  At the bus terminal, purchase an express bus ticket to Sherbrooke.  The trip is approximately 2 hours.  Some of these buses stop at the Université de Sherbrooke campus; others will take you to the Sherbrooke bus terminal.  From there you can either take a taxi to the main campus or take a local bus.

If you drive to the campus then it is possible to get a parking ticket.

Documents and R functions to obtain before the course

I will send each student a set of zipped files containing the documents, PowerPoint presentations, and R Studio files approximately two weeks before the start of the course.  Make sure to tell me if you have not recieved them!