PATN Training Course

Over the past two days a group of botanists, ecologists and environmental scientists from a range of companies gathered together at Gaia Resources for a PATN training class – taught by father of PATN Lee Belbin.  If you want to know more about PATN have a look at the wealth of information that Lee has published at

Some of you might know PATN already, but for those amongst you who don’t, PATN does pattern analysis. It is comprehensive and extremely versatile and excels at extracting and displaying patterns in any type of complex (multivariate) data, yet I found it simple to use.  PATN is different from statistical packages such as SPSS or SAS as it specialises in the exploratory aspects of statistics (such as pattern finding and hypothesis generation). The results produced by PATN can then be used in any statistical software to do hypothesis testing.

So why would you do pattern analysis?

  • If you can identify patterns in your data you can actually start to understand the variation and the processes that cause that variation in your dataset, and
  • PATN helps you to locate errors in your data, to summarise complex information, to create an independent perspective of what your data tells you and also to reduce noise in your data.

In Day 1 of the class we covered lots of theory to create a basic understanding of how PATN works and to then being able to use it appropriately. This included the entire process of how to analyse data in PATN. We also learned about intrinsic and extrinsic variables, variable scales, transformation and standardisation, association measures, hierarchical and non-hierarchical classification techniques and much more until our heads were steaming. Whilst I know these terms from my GIS and Remote Sensing background PATN still requires a quite different approach of thinking which is why this class was a big learning curve for me.

Day 2 was more hands on. Many of us had brought in our own data to analyse and so that’s what we did. For some of us this was pretty straight forward and first results were quickly produced. For others however, the analysis was a bit more complex and problems in the data sets became obvious. This was a really good outcome as it helped people to gain a better understanding of their data which really is what PATN is all about: understanding, interpreting and evaluating what your data is telling you. Also, a really nice group dynamic developed during the day and those attendees among the group with more experience helped out the beginners.

Although this was a strenuous two days we made sure to stay on top of it all by regularly regaining energy from the local coffee suppliers and having lunch at Siena’s each day.  Debbie and Tom did a lot of running around to make sure this all ran smoothly. And of course Lee did a fantastic job of teaching us so much information in just two days, and really giving us a great start in using PATN.

Gaia Resources hopes to run more of these courses in the future, so keep an eye out for more details or drop us a line if you are interested and we’ll organize another course.

Feel free to leave us a comment below or email me directly,


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