REG-31806 Ecological Methods I


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Practical intensively supervised60
Course coordinator(s)dr. WF de Boer
Lecturer(s)dr. WF de Boer
prof. dr. ir. F van Langevelde
dr. ir. IMA Heitkönig
dr. WF van Hooft
dr. ir. FJ Sterck
RHJM Kurvers
dr. ir. MR Jonker
DJ Goedbloed
dr. M Peña Claros
Examiner(s)prof. dr. HHT Prins

Language of instruction:


Continuation courses:

Animal Ecology (REG-30306), Thesis FEM, NCP, REG


Students learn how to plan and analyse ecological field research projects on plants, animals, or their interactions, through a well developed cycle of hypothesis testing, with emphasis on the choice and application of statistical techniques for ecological data analysis.

Learning outcomes:

At the end of the course the student will be able to:
- formulate appropriate null hypotheses for ecological research questions;
- know the limitations and constraints of the different statistical tests, and alternative solutions;
- make an appropriate choice for statistical tools to test the ecological data at hand;
- analyse ecological data using appropriate statistical procedures;
- interpret the statistical results in an ecologically meaningful sense;
- independently carry out both univariate and multivariate analyses.


- this course deals with the choice and application of univariate and multivariate statistical techniques and tests, for the interpretation of ecological field data. The choice of appropriate test will be given attention in relation to the type of data under investigation. The necessary theoretical statistical background is expected to be present. The use of software (Excel, SPSS, Canoco, Ecological packages) for the analysis of field data will be highlighted and exercised. Attention will be paid to the sequence: hypothesis, choice of tests, interpretation of statistical results, and ecological meaning of outcome with respect to the hypothesis;
- students will attend lectures explaining the general approach of a sound ecological research proposal based on hypothesis testing, and on each of the main statistical techniques. Emphasis will be placed on the use of data from plant-animal interactions and studies on individual plant or animal species;
- introductory lectures will be followed by PC-based exercises to practice the application statistical techniques to ecological data, where students work in pairs. Most of the exercises will be discussed interactively with the entire classroom at the end of each practical session, and correct answers will be made available then;
- the 5th week of the course is reserved for applied statistics: survival analysis, transect data analysis, species richness analysis, geo-statistics, and capture-recapture data analysis;
- once the main techniques are mastered and tested, student groups will each analyse a large, real-life dataset, using both univariate and multivariate statistical techniques to obtain an ecological interpretation. The ecological datasets are supplied by the lecturers of the course, in co-operation with PhD-students, covering plant, forestry, and animal topics.


- the final exam consists of three parts that will be marked separately; exemption for individual parts of this examn can not be obtained by passing the respecture test during the course;
- the knowledge of univariate and multivariate statistical tests and their applications will be examined separately and individually in two tests;
- the knowledge on applied statistics will be evaluated in a separate multiple-choice test;
- the results of the analyses of the large ecological dataset will be presented in a plenary session using PowerPoint. The presentation will be evaluated based on the clarity and balance of the various components, the appropriateness of the statistical techniques applied, the data analyses, and the ecological interpretation of the results.
Each of the four marks contributes equally to the final mark.



Compulsory for: BBIBiologyBScD: Ecology and Biodiversity1MO
Restricted Optional for: BBNForest and Nature ConservationBSc1MO
MBIBiologyMScD: Ecology1MO
MFNForest and Nature ConservationMScC: Ecology1MO
MFNForest and Nature ConservationMScB: Management1MO