REG-32306 Ecological Methods II


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Field practical66
Excursion (one day)6
Course coordinator(s)dr. WF de Boer
Lecturer(s)dr. K Matson
dr. WF de Boer
dr. M Holmgren
prof. dr. ir. L Mommer
prof. dr. ir. L Poorter
Examiner(s)prof. dr. HHT Prins

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

REG-31806 Ecological Methods I.

Continuation courses:

Thesis FEM, NCP or REG.


Students learn how to design, plan, carry out, analyse and present ecological field and lab research projects. The emphasis is on the formulation of a challenging and testable hypothesis, the experimental design, and the appropriate choice and application of statistical techniques for ecological data analysis. Students will carry out their own field research project, combining experimental and correlative studies, based on a prior written research proposal. These research projects are hypothesis-driven, and serve as a good preparation for an MSc thesis projects.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- formulate ecological hypotheses;
- judge the variation, replication and sampling in experiments;
- design field and lab experiments for testing hypotheses;
- assess the measurements that best test the hypotheses;
- create a research proposal;
- apply statistics properly for a given hypothesis and data set;
- summarise the ecological consequences of experimental results.


The design of research proposals will be addressed: background of ecological theory, formulation of objectives and hypotheses, choice of sampling design (sample size, replicates, block-design), sampling techniques (samples, transects, observations). Emphasis is put on the choice and application of sampling design and sampling techniques, as a logical sequence to the statistical techniques mastered in the preceding course, Ecological Methods I;
- Knowledge will be acquired of various ecological field methods: their applications, use and restrictions. These methods include the sampling of forests, herbaceous vegetation and animal populations. They will be presented in introductory lectures, illustrated in field practicals, and applied in a practical situation. Data thus obtained will then be statistically analysed and interpreted;
- students will design a research proposal in close consultation with staff. The proposal includes a clear problem definition, hypothesis, justified methods and sampling techniques, proposed statistical data analyses, and a time schedule;
- students will carry out their proposed research in small groups in or around Wageningen, including the application of research methods, logistical organisation, solving problems in the field, and data collection. Supervisors will back-up, advise, and monitor research progress;
- students will analyse and interpret their own data, using appropriate (univariate and multivariate) statistical methods and software (SPSS, Canoco). Research findings will be presented during a plenary session with an emphasis on the choice and application of field methods, and of statistical techniques for hypothesis testing.


- written exam with multiple choice questions (20%) on experimental design and methodology;
- critical evaluation of an existing research project (15%);
- research project proposal with an emphasis on experimental design (15%);
- execution of research project, data analysis, and presentation (50%).


Book: Ruxton & Colegrave (2006). Experimental Design for the Life Science. Oxford Univ. Press.

Restricted Optional for: MFNForest and Nature ConservationMScC: Ecology6WD