Introduction to Marxan


Using Marxan, planners can identify an efficient system of reserve sites, or other types of zoning patterns, that include a suite of biodiversity or human use targets at a minimal cost. Marxan provides a unique method for designing site networks that is systematic and repeatable, and is the most used conservation planning tool worldwide. Introduction to Marxan courses have been offered in many locations throughout Canada and the US since 2010, and worldwide since 2011 (including trainings in Spanish). To register for an upcoming course, click here.

This hands-on technical course provides participants with the basic knowledge and skills necessary to use Marxan in a marine conservation planning exercise. The following topics are covered in the Introduction to Marxan:

  • Key concepts in systematic conservation planning
  • Creating planning units
  • Creating the essential Marxan input files
  • Parameter setting in Marxan
  • Understanding and using Marxan results
  • Zonae Cogito (front-end software to facilitate Marxan use)
  • A brief introduction to Marxan with Zones


The course time is split between lecture (~30%) and hands-on exercises (~70%). Experience with ArcGIS and MS Excel are prerequisite.

Normally, two-day courses focus on input file creation (using ArcGIS or QGIS) for the first day and exploration with Zonae Cogito software for the second day. However, groups that are very competent in GIS may complete the first day’s activities before the course and attend a modified version focusing on Zonae Cogito exploration and other more managerial and/or intermediate topics. Please contact us for more information.

To learn and register to any of our upcoming click here, or contact Heather (hcoleman (at) or Norma (nserra(at) for more information.

Click here for a general course agenda.

Click here to access PacMARA Wiki site for Marxan training resources.

Click here to download an overview and frequently asked questions about Marxan and PacMARA’s capacity-building program.

Fees and Course Registration Policy

The regular price for the course is $745 for a two-day training (including breaks and lunch). We offer an early bird discount of $695 for all regular-priced registrants (i.e. non-students) who register up to two weeks before the course.  At the door registration may also be available in some courses.

For students, we offer a special discount rate of $475 for the first 5 students to register, and $545 for the next 5 students to register. After that a full registration fee will be applied to students as well as other participants. Click here for registration details or contact hcoleman(at) or nserra(at)

Registration cancellation policy:

  • Up to 3 weeks before a course: full refund less $30 administration fee;
  • 1-3 weeks before a course: 50% refund;
  • Less than 1 week before a course: no refund unless a replacement is found.

Course cancellation policy:

PacMARA reserves the right to cancel Marxan courses at any time. Generally, courses will be confirmed at least two weeks (and no later than one week) before the start date of a course. If PacMARA must cancel a course due to low attendance or unforeseen circumstances beyond the control of PacMARA, you are entitled to a full refund of the course fee, or your course fee can be credited toward a future course. PacMARA is not responsible for travel fees, or any expenses incurred by you as a result of such cancellation. Every effort will be made to avoid cancelling any planned course, but please understand that as a charitable organization we must cover the costs involved.


About Marxan

Marxan (Ian Ball and Hugh Possingham, 2000) is a software program used to support the design of marine and terrestrial reserves worldwide. It is maintained by the University of Queensland in Australia.

Using Marxan, conservation planners can identify an efficient system of conservation sites that include a suite of biodiversity targets at a minimal cost. Marxan provides a unique method for designing reserves that is systematic and repeatable. It is the most utilized conservation planning tool worldwide; over 60 countries, 1100 users, and 600 organizations use Marxan to support the design of terrestrial and marine reserves. For example, it has been used to help zone the Great Barrier Marine Park, design marine reserves in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, and set spatial priorities in the Romanian Carpathians to protect large carnivores. Marxan is available at no charge from the UQ Spatial Ecology Lab: Download Marxan Software.

Click here for further Marxan information and resources.

About the Instructors

In July 2010, the first set of North American certified (by the University of Queensland) trainers were trained by Lindsay Kircher, a leading instructor from UQ. These trainers include Daniel Farr from the University of Alberta, Chris McDougall from the Haida Oceans Technical Team, Dave Nicolson from Black Coffee Consulting, Danijela Puric-Mladenovic from the University of Toronto/Ministry of Natural Resources, and Krista Royle from Parks Canada.

In December 2011, PacMARA held a Train the Trainers course in Edmonton, led by Dan Farr and Leif Olson. Five people* were successfully trained, including Norma Serra from PacMARA, Tim Wilson from Compass Resource Management Ltd, Lindsay McBlane from Parks Canada, Trevor Weins from Apropos Information Systems Inc, and Tom Habib from University of Alberta.

For a complete list of our instructors and their backgrounds, click here.