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Analysis of Organismal Form (CPD course)

Course overview

Morphometrics is a rapidly growing field, with quantitative analyses of the size and shape of organisms or their parts becoming more widely used in biological and medical research.

Our distance learning Analysis of Organismal Form CPD course provides an introduction to morphometrics and includes a survey of the methods for data acquisition and analysis, as well as applications in diverse subfields of biology and medicine.

The course covers topics such as:

  • data acquisition: the various kinds of data and the equipment used to collect them;
  • definitions of size and shape (distance measures);
  • geometric methods to measure shape from a configuration of landmark points 
    (Procrustes superimposition);
  • statistics of variation, scatter plots, basic multivariate statistics;
  • measurement error and outliers;
  • shape transformations and 'warping' - the thin plate spline;
  • analysis of outline shapes;
  • distinguishing between groups (taxonomy, clinical diagnosis, etc);
  • allometry and size correction;
  • influence of external factors on shape (ecomorphology, dose-response studies);
  • symmetric forms and measurement of asymmetry;
  • morphometric inferences on developmental processes, morphological integration, modularity;
  • genetics of shape: analyses of resemblance between relatives, QTL analyses;
  • phylogeny: reconstructing the evolution of shape and comparative morphometric analyses.

Examples will primarily be from the research in Chris Klingenberg's lab, but the course content should be broadly applicable in studies on diverse organisms (animals, humans, plants) and in the context of different research fields (basic biology as well as medical or other applications).

After completing the course, you will become better able to read and understand the current literature in the field and to conduct simple morphometric studies yourself, from the design of the study through data collection to the analysis and interpretation of results.

There is no formal award associated with this course; you will receive confirmation of participation in the course once you have completed it. There is no formal assessment, but feedback on learning is provided through online quizzes.

Fees, course duration and dates

The fee for our Analysis of Organismal Form course is £340.

Our course will run online from 7 November to 16 December 2016. The deadline for pre-registration for this year's course is 21 October 2016.

The course is equivalent to three hours of online lectures per week, with some work in small groups and general interaction with other participants via bulletin boards.

Teaching and learning

Practice exercises

As far as possible, practical exercises are provided to accompany the lecture content. These practice exercises consist of data sets and explanations on how to run the respective analyses using the MorphoJ software.

The same few examples are used for different analyses throughout the course, so you will see different aspects in familiar data sets. Participants who already have collected their own data are encouraged to use those for practice too, and there are opportunities for sharing results and experiences with other participants.

You are also welcome to use other programs if you prefer, but the main support is for MorphoJ.

Group work

You will work in small groups to produce a simple set of wiki pages that presents the various stages of a research project using morphometrics.

The aim of these presentations is to encourage discussions among the participants. Examples can be your actual research questions, questions that can be addressed with the examples provided in the course, or imaginary studies.

Because of the diverse backgrounds of the participants, the presentations usually give a broad and rich cross-section through the possibilities of morphometric research. In the last few years, the interactive component has been one of the most exciting aspects of the course.

Time requirement

The course is equivalent to three hours of online lectures per week, with some work in small groups and general interaction with other participants via bulletin boards.

There are no events at fixed times, so that you can freely choose when you want to log in (unless you want to do the group work using the chat facility). However, you should plan to log in to the course regularly during the six-week period (at least once every two days, better more often).

How to apply

You can sign up and pay for the course through the University's Online Store.

The deadline for pre-registration for this year's course is 21 October 2016.

If you need to pay in a different way or if you require a formal invoice (eg to obtain a reimbursement from your institution), please contact us.

If you need an invoice, include your full name and the full name and address of the institution that is paying your fees so that an invoice can be arranged. If you need to use this option, please do this as soon as possible, preferably well before October.

Contact us

You can get in touch with us to find out more about our Analysis of Organismal Form CPD course by emailing