Distance Live online workshops

Distance Live online workshop

        • Considering the use of distance sampling for population assessment?
        • Wish to have individual attention learning to analyse distance sampling data sets?
        • Difficult to schedule and finance such training in Scotland?
        • Consider taking the live online version of distance sampling training.


    Training in distance sampling design and analysis has been conducted in St Andrews for the past 25 years. In addition, training materials and video lectures were placed online in 2018 and have been used by >4000 users in the past ~18 months to 2 years.

    We now offer these lectures, discussions and exercises in a new, interactive format, enabling participants to engage in lectures, conduct guided analyses of data sets and ask questions of the instructor.

    Workshop delivery format

    The training workshop will be delivered via the internet using Zoom software that enables participants to use their webcamera to interact with the instructor during lectures and exercises.

    The workshop will be delivered in 10 two-hour sessions. Each session will consist of an interactive lecture, a computing exercise analysing distance sampling data sets and a concluding question and answer session discussing principles and technical details of the session. Sessions will take place weekdays over a two week period. In the first instance, the live sessions will take place in the evening in the UK (1700-1900), corresponding to 1200-1400 on the east coast of the US. Subsequent offerings of the workshop may be scheduled for convenient participation in other time zones around the world. Get in touch for your suggestions of preferred time zones.

When is the workshop happening?

The interactive online training workshop is scheduled to be held from  6th – 17th July 2020, UK (1700-1900), corresponding to 1200-1400 on the east coast of the US. This workshop is now fully subscribed.

The next interactive online training workshop is scheduled for 7th – 18th September 2020. Registration for this workshop will open in July. For information about the September or future workshops please contact Eric Rexstad, email: er26@st-andrews.ac.uk


In the first instance, the workshop will be based upon analyses using the Distance package in R. All participants will make use of the cloud version of R-Studio. Participants will not need to install R software onto their computers. Instead R, the R-Studio programming environment, necessary packages and data sets will all be available when you access the RStudio Cloud site created for the workshop. You should have some familiarity with the R programming language; however code will be provided for running the 9 exercises in the workshop.

Concepts described

Distance sampling concepts to be discussed include:

  • line transects
  • point transects
  • survey design
  • detection function models
    • model selection
  • estimation of uncertainty
    • identifying sources of uncertainty in estimates
  • geographic stratification for variance reduction
  • indirect surveys
    • dung or nest surveys and use of multipliers

Enrolment limit

The number of participants is limited to 15 to facilitate time for questions and individual assistance with the exercises (via screen share capability of the Zoom software). The next offering of this workshop will be 7th – 18th September 2020, a further workshop will be offered in November 2020; some based upon using R for analysis, others using Distance for Windows for analysis.

When participants have paid their registration fee, further details will be provided regarding:

  • scheduling a test Zoom session with the instructor to ensure the internet connection is smooth
  • access to the RStudio cloud site for the training workshop
  • location of the online lecture materials


“I really like your teaching style. The pace is steady enough for ample note taking, but quick enough to keep my attention span. The humour gets me chuckling alone at my desk. The concepts are so easy to understand and relate to. Some of these concepts I’ve been aware of for a long time in a kind of ‘working knowledge’ way, but hearing you describe the theory behind them is giving me a lot of ‘oh yeah!’ moments. It is a real pleasure and is giving me a lot to think about for my own teaching.”  — Dr Sarah Marley, University of Portsmouth


“I find the lectures very clear and very well constructed. I am happy with everything we’ve learned so far.” — Julie JourdanGECEM, Mediterranean Cetacean Study Group



Please contact:
Eric Rexstad, Organiser and Instructor
Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modelling
University of St Andrews
The Observatory, Buchanan Gardens
St. Andrews
Scotland KY16 9LZ
Email: er26@st-andrews.ac.uk