Analysis of Environmental Data (ECO 602 & 634)

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Course syllabus


This course provides students with an understanding of basic statistical concepts critical to the proper use and understanding of statistics in ecology and conservation science and prepares students for subsequent ECo courses in ecological modeling.

The lecture (ECO 602) covers foundational concepts in statistical modeling and lays out the “landscape” of statistical methods for ecological modeling. Specifically, lecture focuses on the following:

  • Foundational concepts in statistics.–Understanding the conceptual foundations of statistics in environmental research; emphasis is on conceptual underpinnings of statistics not methodology, with a focus on defining statistical models and the major inference paradigms in use today.
  • Landscape of statistical methods.–Understanding the complex “landscape” of statistical methods and choosing the “right” method(s) for the problem; emphasis is on laying down a road map to help students determine the method or class of methods most applicable to a particular problem, not on the actual methods themselves.

The lab (ECO 634) introduces the statistical computing language R and provides hands-on experience using R to screen and adjust data, examine deterministic functions and probability distributions, conduct classic one- and two-sample tests, utilize bootstrapping and Monte Carlo randomization procedures, and conduct stochastic simulations for ecological modeling. Specifically, lab focuses on the following:

  • R programming language and statistical computing environment.–Learning the R language and statistical computing environment, which serves as the computing platform for all ECo statistics courses; emphasis is on learning fundamental R skills that will allow students to grow and expand their expertise in subsequent courses or on their own.
  • Basic statistical methods.–Using R to conduct basic statistic procedures, including data screening and adjustments, classic one and two sample tests, resampling methods and stochastic simulations.

Who Should Take This Course

This course is required for all Master's level graduate students in the Environmental Conservation Department (ECo) and is likely to be of equal interest to graduate studenets in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology (OEB). Lecture is required for all ECo Master’s level graduate students. Lab is optional, but is highly recommended for all thesis degree students and is prerequisite for all higher level ECo stats courses. Students are expected to have had at least one undergraduate course in statistics.


Bolker BM. 2008. Ecological Models and Data in R. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ. 396 pp.


Graduate standing in ECo or OEB, or permission from instructor, and the equivalent of at least one undergraduate course in statistics.

Course Content

Use the links on the left to access course content, including lecture slides and notes, assigned readings, and all materials associated with the lab projects (e.g., software, datasets)

For more information, please contact:
Dr. Kevin McGarigal
Department of Environmental Conservation
University of Massachusetts
304 Holdsworth Natural Resources Center
Box 34210, Amherst, MA 01003
Fax: (413) 545-4358; Phone: (413) 577-0655

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