Data management for ecologists and evolutionary biologists

16-17 March 2017

In collaboration with CUSO doctoral program in Ecology and Evolution

Venue: University of Bern


To teach researchers basic concepts, skills, and tools for working with data so that they can get more done in less time, and with less pain.

How to create a database in Microsoft Access or MySQL.

To learn why good data management skills are important (especially in an era of big data) and learn to identify good and bad practices when organizing data and dealing with other people’s data.



Basics of relational databases and the Structured Query Language to subset and select (i.e. query) data from databases.

One of the workshop’s main objectives is to help you create a database tailored to your own system, data, and research questions. Thus, the workshop will be most useful for students who already have data stored in some form (e.g. field notes, lab notes, simple digital formats) and are ready or have started to analyze them.

The database you will create will be flexible to suit many different purposes and can be expanded in future experiments or projects. The aim is to make data entry as easy and flawless as possible, while making the database (re)user friendly

Day 1 - Morning:

  • Lecture: importance of good data management do’s and don’ts
  • Practical: sketching of your data structure with respect to the aims of the research
    • What questions do I seek to answer?
    • What type of data do I have?
    • How are the data currently stored and organized?
    • What is the relation of these data to my other research questions/projects?
    • What are potential ways in which people might want to re-use my data in the future?
    • What types of statistical analyses will I carry out on these data?
  • Lecture: using queries to select data from your relational database

Say 1 - Afternoon:

  • Create or improve your own database

Day 2 - Morning:

  • Lecture: using digital ‘forms’ to enter data into your relational database
  • Practical: make a form in your database

Day 2 - Afternoon:

  • Lecture: importing data into R and reshaping it
  • Practical: R reshape
  • Lecture: best practices for data sharing and re-use (i.e. re-using data collected by other researchers)


Requirements for attending the workshop

Having data collected and stored in some format (digital or hard copy). These data will be used to create the database

Having a (preliminary) idea of how you want to analyze the data (in other words, a research question)

Familiarity with Microsoft Excel or comparable spreadsheet programs

Familiarity with R: make sure you complete the lesson at this link before attending the workshop

Bring to the workshop:

  • Your own laptop with R and R-studio and one of the following database programs installed: Microsoft Access or the open source software MySQL
  • Your data
  • A list of potential questions that you wish to answer with your data

General information

Date: 16-17 March 2017

Schedule: more inforamtion on CUSO E&E web site

Venue: University of Bern

ECTS: 1.0 (Research tools)

Evaluation: Full attendance and active participation

Information: Please contact  the organisers (see CUSO E&E web site)

Registration fee: free

Travel expenses: For participants of the Interuniversity doctoral program in organismal biology (DP-biol ) who are not members of CUSO E&E: reimbursement of travel expenses from home University (usually Neuchâtel) to Bern University (see reimbursement conditions)



  • This course is free and open to all PhD students, however until 1 March2017 priority is given to PhD students of CUSO Doctoral Program E&E and  "Interuniversity doctoral program in organismal biology".
  • Post-docs are welcome as long as places are available.
  • Maximum number of participants: 20

Registration through the CUSO DP E&E web only: closed