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Multivariate analysis of biological data using R

ECTS credits: 1.5 ECTS

Course parameters:

Language: English

Level of course: PhD Course

Time of year: Autumn 2024 (6 – 8 August 2024)

Capacity limits: 30

Course fee: DKK 350

Objectives of the course:

The course aims to introduce the analysis of multivariate data arising from observation and experimental studies with the R statistical software.

Learning outcomes and competences:
At the end of the course, the student should be able to:

  • have a good introductory understanding of the main ordination approaches used in the analysis of multivariate data sets
  • be able to choose an appropriate method to use to analyse a data set
  • understand how to use restricted permutation tests with constrained ordination methods to test the effects of predictor variables or experimental treatments
  • be able to use the R statistical software to analyse multivariate data

Compulsory programme:

Active participation in the course including attendance at lectures and completion of computer-based classes and exercises. Completion of short, computer-based assessments testing their understanding of a topic and the practical skills taught. For credit, students must complete a data analysis exercise to be submitted one week after the end of the course (16th August).

Course contents:

The course is based on a series of lectures and computer based practical classes led by an international expert in the analysis of multivariate data, who is also one of the senior developers of the vegan R package and the creator of the permute R package.

The course covers the following topics:

  • An introduction to multivariate data and their analysis
  • Dissimilarity and dissimilarity coefficients
  • Unconstrained ordination
    • Principal Components Analysis
    • Correspondence Analysis
    • Principal Coordinates Analysis
    • Non-metric Multidimensional Scaling
  • Constrained ordination
    • Redundancy Analysis
    • Canonical Correspondence Analysis
    • Distance-based Redundancy Analysis
  • Statistical testing using permutation tests


This course is suitable for Phd students (including senior thesis-based MSc students) and researchers working with multivariate data sets in biology (inter alia animal science, ecology, agriculture, microbial ecology/microbiology). Some prior knowledge of R is required.

Name of lecturer:

Assistant Professor Gavin Simpson, Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Aarhus University gavin@anivet.au.dk


Open access teaching resources prepared by the course leader will be supplemented by original literature (papers). Electronic copies of the open access teaching resources will be provided to each participant before the course starts.

Course homepage:


Course assessment:

The course will be assessed through a data analysis exercise (take home) to be submitted by 16 August 2024.


The course is provided by the Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Aarhus University


3 days of teaching in a single block (6 – 8 August 2024). Classes are held from 09.30 to 16.00 each day.


The course will be taught at AU Campus Viborg

Course fee:

DKK 350


Please send an e-mail to Julie Jensen, e-mail jsj@anivet.au.dk no later than 2 August 2024 to register.

If you have any questions, please contact Assistant Professor Gavin Simpson, Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Aarhus University, e-mail: gavin@anivet.au.dk

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