Applied Multivariate Statistics for Ecological Data (ECO 632)

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Course syllabus


This course provides students with an understanding of how to apply multivariate statistical methods in ecology and conservation. Emphasis is on developing a conceptual and practical understanding of how to apply these techniques. Most of the examples are from wildlife and fisheries ecology; however, the information is applicable to any related discipline. This course is intended to provide the ecologist and conservation scientist with the following:

  • An introduction to the use of multivariate statistics in ecological research;

  • A conceptual organization of the various multivariate techniques, with respect to the types of research questions and data sets appropriate for each technique; and

  • A "laypersons" working understanding of how to use and interpret the results of each technique, including, for each technique, a conceptual overview, list of assumptions, diagnostics for assessing the assumptions, sample size requirements, mechanics of performing the analysis using R, and how to interpret the statistical output of the analysis.

Beyond these overall content goals, this course is intended to:

  • Provide students with an opportunity to work and learn in an interdisciplinary environment;

  • Provide students with an opportunity to engage in active, student-directed learning.

  • Provide students with an opportunity to refine their written and oral communication skills.

Who Should Take This Course

This course will be primarily of interest to graduate students in the Environmental Conservation Department (ECo) and Organismal and Evolutionary Biology (OEB) program, although students from a variety of other departments may benefit as well. To accomplish the course goals and objectives, we use a project-based learning approach. Students work in teams on several group projects, and there is a heavy emphasis on demonstrating mastery of the proper use and interpretation of the various techniques.


McGarigal, K, S.A. Cushman, and S. Stafford. 2000. Multivariate Statistics for Wildlife and Ecology Research. Springer-Verlag, New York.

McCune and Grace. 2002.


Graduate standing in ECo or OEB, and the Analysis of Ecological Data (ECo 697?), or permission from the instructor.

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

Copyright 2000 University of Massachusetts Amherst, Massachusetts, 01003. (413) 545-0111. This is an official page of the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus. All material in this website is made available according to the Fair Use Statute of the U.S. Copyright Act