Workshop: Introduction to Structured Decision-Making and Spatial Planning

Event Date: 
Saturday, September 22, 2018 - 10:00am to Sunday, September 23, 2018 - 5:00pm
Kroon 321 See map
195 Prospect St
New Haven, CT 06511


This two-part short course, instructed by Hugh Possingham and Jennifer McGowan (The Nature Conservancy), will assist participants to formulate and solve general conversation problems using structured decision-making with a technical focus on training in the spatial decision-support tool, Marxan. The short course will include a half-day symposium on Spatial Reserve Design.


Marxan is one of the most widely used decision support tools in conservation and resource use planning. It is a flexible tool, probably best known to support marine/maritime spatial planning by recommending options for a network of protected areas and/or other spatial management regimes. The software supports spatial prioritization by accounting for a broad range of considerations, stakeholder values, and potential tradeoffs in a spatially and economically efficient manner. Marxan produces objective, transparent, and repeatable results. Developed by Ian Ball and Hugh Possingham from the University of Queensland, Australia, the software is free to download and use (


Saturday, September 22nd - Day 1 – Structured Decision-making 

  • Topic 1: What is decision science and why would I use it?
  • Examples of using structured decision-making in the real world including: an introduction to spatial action mapping, cost-effectiveness, multi-criteria decision-analysis, and value of information theory (why monitor?)
  • Topic 2: Solving participants problems
  • Before the workshop, participants will be asked to describe a spatial or non-spatial conservation problem they are working on and we will formulate and solve the problem using structured decision-making. 

Sunday, September 23rd - Day 2 – Marxan

  • Topic 3: What is Marxan?
  • Trends and key concepts in systematic conservation planning
  • When and how decision support tools are useful
  • Topic 4: Goals, Objectives, and Targets
  • Topic 5: “Costs” – the social, economic, and cultural sides of Marxan
    • How cost layers have been developed to address socio-economic interests and values
    • Examples of costs that have been used in Marxan
  • Topic 6: Introduction to Marxan input files and parameters
  • Design a reserve by hand activity
  • Intro to British Columbia, Canada case-study
    • Defining planning units, creating proper feature data format, inputting targets
    • Creating input files
  • Topic 7: Introduction to Zonae Cogito
  • How the software works and hands-on exercises
  • How Marxan finds efficient solutions (simulated annealing)
  • Topic 8: Introduction to Marxan output files
  • Understanding Best Solution and Selection Frequency results
  • Interpreting output tables
  • Topic 9: Advanced Marxan (time permitting)

Registration for this event is now CLOSED​.