• Header of Evolution at Transmitting Science

Advanced Courses in Life Sciences

4th Edition

Mapping Trait Evolution

August 3rd – 7th, 2020, Crete (Greece)


Evolution Logo


We realise that, due to the COVID-19 virus outbreak, making travel arrangements during this time is difficult. Therefore, registration for this course is open, but it does not require payment at this moment. We will only receive payments once the outbreak has calmed down and travel restrictions have been lifted.

Mapping Trait EvolutionCourse Overview

The course provides a comprehensive overview of the state-of-the-art methods in mapping phenotypic trait evolution and will provide participants with a springboard to using these methods to answering their own research questions.

We focus on analyses that use a phylogenetic tree and observed trait information from tip taxa (extant and/or extinct) to describe how traits have changed along the branches of a phylogeny. The course covers methods that estimate and test patterns related to changes in mean, covariation, and rate. Applications for continuous and categorical, and univariate and multivariate research designs are discussed.

At the end of this course, participants will have developed an understanding of:

(1) Brownian motion and Ornstein-Uhlenbeck models of evolution.

(2) How these models can be applied to estimate and test patterns of trait evolution.

(3) What the advantages and disadvantages are of different models/methods.

(4) How to recognize which model/method is most appropriate given a particular dataset and research question.

We provide several data sets that will be used to exemplify the application of these methods. We do, however, encourage participants to bring their own data so as to get direct experience with analysing precisely what they expect to analyse.

Methods from the following R packages will be discussed: ape, geiger, phytools, evomap, l1ou, bayou, surface, OUwie, mvMORPH, geomorph (this list may change as new packages become available).

Important note: Please bear in mind that this course is not about reconstructing (building) phylogenetic trees, the methods we cover in this course assume that a phylogeny is known.


Alexander Hotel

Gerakári, Municipality of Amari, 74 061
Crete, Greece


August 3rd-7th, 2020




35 hours on-site.

This course is equivalent to 2 ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) at the Life Science Zurich Graduate School.

The recognition of ECTS by other institutions depends on each university or school.


Places are limited to 18 participants and will be occupied by strict registration order.

Participants who have completed the course will receive a certificate at the end of it.



Jeroen Smaers instructor for Transmitting Science

Dr. Jeroen B. Smaers
Stony Brook University
United States of America

Haris Saslis coordinator for Transmitting Science

Dr. Haris Saslis
Transmitting Science


Graduate or postgraduate degree in any Biosciences discipline. Knowledge of multivariate statistics.

A reminder of R-skills that are of particular relevance when applying phylogenetic comparative methods will be given the first day, though a medium level of R knowledge is needed for following the course (i.e. knowledge on how to load and save data, manipulate data frames, use basic plotting functions, and use functions to analyse data).

All participants must bring their own personal laptop (Windows, Macintosh, Linux).


Monday, August 3rd, 2020. (R packages: ape, Geiger).

  • Morning: Phylogenetic data.
    • What is the basic structure of phylogenetic data?
    • How to visualize and manipulate phylogenetic data?
  • Afternoon: Models of evolution.
    • What are models of evolution?
    • What are the assumptions of the different models of evolution?
    • How are models of evolution utilized?

Tuesday, August 4th, 2020. (R packages: ape, nlme, caper, evomap).

  • Morning: Phylogenetic regression.
    •  Assumptions, properties, and applications of the phylogenetic regression.
  • Afternoon: Phylogenetic ancova.
    • Testing for grade shifts using the phylogenetic regression.

Wednesday, August 5th, 2020. (R packages: phytools, motmot, geiger, ape, evomap, BayesTraits).

  • Morning: Ancestral estimation.
    • Using models of evolution to estimate values of ancestral nodes.
  • Afternoon: Analysis of rates of evolution.
    • Estimation of rates of evolution.
    • Testing hypothesis about rates of evolution.

Thursday, August 6th, 2020. (R packages: bayou, phylolm, surface, OUwie, mvMORPH).

  • Morning: Inferring the structure of a macroevolutionary landscape.
    • Using Ornstein-Uhlenbeck models to map macroevolutionary patterns.
  • Afternoon: Testing the structure of a macroevolutionary landscape.
    • Applications and assumptions of OU models.
    • Using OU models to test macroevolutionary hypotheses.

Friday, August 7th, 2020. (R packages: geomorph).

  • Morning: Modularity and integration.
    • What is ‘phylogenetic’ modularity and integration?
    • Applications and assumptions.
  • Afternoon: Case study.


  • Course Fee
  • {{content-1}}
  • Early bird (until April 30th, 2020):
  • 490 *

    (392 for Ambassador Institutions)

  • Regular (after April 30th, 2020):
  • 615 *

    (492 for Ambassador Institutions)

  • This includes course material, coffee breaks and lunches (VAT included).
    * Participants from companies/industry will have an extra charge of 100 €.
  • Course Fee + Accommodation Package
  • {{content-1}}
  • Early bird (until April 30th, 2020):
  • 840

    (672 for Ambassador Institutions)

  • Regular (after April 30th, 2020):
  • 965

    (772 for Ambassador Institutions)

  • This includes course material, coffee breaks, transportation from and to Barcelona city, accommodation from Sunday to Friday, breakfasts, lunches and dinners (VAT included).
    * Participants from companies/industry will have an extra charge of 100 €.

You can check the list of Ambassador Institutions HERE. If you want your institution to become a Transmitting Science Ambassador please contact us at communication@transmittingscience.org.

Discounts (see Funding below) are not cumulative and apply only on the fee.

We offer the possibility of paying in two instalments (contact the course coordinators).


If you choose the Accommodation Package you will be hosted at Alexander Hotel in Gerakári village (take a look at the venue), in shared en-suite twin rooms, although you will only share rooms with other course participants. There is a possibility that the rooms will be mixed. If this is an inconvenience for you, and you would prefer to stay in an all-female or all-male room, please indicate so in the “Comments” field of the Registration form (below).

If you prefer to stay in a single en-suite room, you can do so with a supplementary charge.

The Accommodation Package includes transportation from the centre of Heraklion to the venue and back, at the start and end of the course, respectively. The trip takes around 1 hour 50 minutes each way. If you require transportation from or to Chania (the other city of Crete with an airport), please contact the course coordinator who can arrange it at an additional cost.

If you do not wish to take the Accommodation Package, you can find a few other options in the surrounding area. However, please be aware that access to and travelling around the area requires a private vehicle as public transport is scarce. Therefore, course participants will find choosing the Accommodation Package more convenient.


1st Edition, June 5th-9th, 2017

Course Mapping Trait Evolution - 1st Edition, June 5th-9th, 2017Twenty people belonging to the following countries and institutions participated in this edition:

  • United Kingdom: University of Manchester, Royal Botanic Gardens – Kew, Liverpool John Moores University, University of St Andrews, University of Cambridge.
  • Switzerland: University of Zurich, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology – Eawag.
  • Portugal: Instituto de Ciências e Tecnologias Agroambiente da Universidade do Porto, Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos – CIBIO-InBIO.
  • Austria: University of Innsbruck, Institute of Science and Technology, University of Vienna.
  • Spain: Universitat de Barcelona, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Estación Biológica de Doñana – CSIC, University of Santiago de Compostela.
  • United States of America: The Ohio State University, University of Maine.
  • France: French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development.


Course Schedule

Monday to Friday:

  • 9:30 to 13:30 Lessons.
  • 13:30 to 15:00 Lunch (included).
  • 15:00 to 18:00 Lessons.

The schedule is approximate; it is possible that the content of one day may run into the next and a working day may be longer than advertised.

Accommodation Package Schedule


  • 18:30 Meeting at Heraklion Archaeological Museum to take the bus to Gerakári.
  • 20:15 Check-in at Alexander Hotel.
  • 20:45 Dinner.

Tuesday to Thursday:

  • 8:30 to 9:00 Breakfast.
  • 20:30 Dinner.


  • 8:30 to 9:00 Breakfast.
  • 18:30 Meeting at Alexander Hotel to take the bus to Heraklion.
  • 20:15 Arrival at Heraklion Archaeological Museum



Former participants will have a 5 % discount on the Course Fee.

Furthermore, a 20 % discount on the Course Fee is offered for members of some organizations (Organizations with discount). If you want to apply to this discount please indicate it in the Registration form (proof will be asked later).

Unemployed scientists living in Greece, as well as PhD students based in Greece without any grant or scholarship to develop their PhD, could benefit from a 40 % discount on the Course Fee. If you want to ask for this discount, please contact the course coordinator. That would apply for a maximum of 2 places and they will be covered by strict inscription order.

Discounts are not cumulative and apply only on the fee, not to Accommodation Package or other options.

Previous editions of this course


Transmitting Science Logo


European Association of Vertebrate Palaeontologists (EAVP) Logo
Sociedade Brasileira de Paleontologia (SBP) Logo
Colegio Oficial de Biólogos de Castilla y León Logo
Colegio Oficial de Biólogos de Euskadi Logo
Colexio Oficial de Biólogos de Galicia Logo
Col·legi Oficial de Biòlegs de la Comunitat Valenciana Logo


Alexander Hotel, Gerakári

Alexander Hotel 1

Alexander Hotel twin room

Alexander Hotel, Gerakári

Alexander Hotel 2

Alexander Hotel, Gerakári

Alexander Hotel 3