EEB 480 - Computer-Aided Inferences in Evolution and Ecology
Section: 001
Term: WN 2009
Subject: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB)
Department: LSA Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Requirements & Distribution:
Advisory Prerequisites:
Senior natural science concentrator or Graduate student.
This course counts toward the 60 credits of math/science required for a Bachelor of Science degree.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

EEB 480 teaches METHODS for formulating hypotheses and for generating predictions from them so that they may be tested with data. These methods will enable you, as a natural scientist, to participate responsibly in the design of your experiments and observations, and in the making of inferences from the data they provide, free of the burden of unwanted mathematical assumptions.

During the early part of the last century, the inventors of statistics cleverly incorporated mathematical assumptions and techniques in order to avoid impossibly large amounts of computation that would otherwise have been required. They brought a new level of rigor to inference-making processes, which made a major contribution to the methods of natural scientists. However, there are two serious problems with this approach to statistics: 1) the mathematics became too sophisticated for most otherwise excellent natural scientists to master, 2) many of the assumptions were NOT what natural scientists wanted to include in their hypotheses. As a consequence of these problems many natural scientists tend to leave hypothesis formation, experimental design, and data analysis until after they have collected their data, when they ask a statistical advisor for help. But NOW, with personal computers, we can do vast quantities of calculations rapidly and painlessly. So take EEB 480 and claim power over, and responsibility for, your own scientific arguments.

EEB 480 is intended primarily for students who aspire to careers related to the practice of research in organismal natural science, both experimental and/or comparative, such as ecology, evolution, anthropology, paleontology, natural resource management, among others. Post-doctoral fellows are also welcome. Prerequisites include some comfort with scientific and quantitative reasoning, and a willingness to learn (or a prior knowledge of) some basic computer programming.

In EEB 480 you will learn about basic probability concepts, and how to use them to formulate testable hypotheses to explain natural phenomena. You will learn how to use EXCEL macros to describe your hypotheses so that predictions can be calculated by simulation using your personal computer. Such a prediction takes the form of a probability distribution that quantifies how consistent with your hypotheses is some aspect of your data. Computational methods such as these avoid the need for inappropriate assumptions and mysterious mathematical techniques, and enable you to understand every step of your own argument.

The course presents two hours of explanatory lectures and two hours of computer workshops and discussions per week. During the first part of the course, participants prepare small weekly projects to present and discuss with each other and Prof. E. During the second part of the course, each student formulates an hypotheses, based on his or her own research project, and simulates predictions.

EEB 480 - Computer-Aided Inferences in Evolution and Ecology
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
WF 4:00PM - 6:00PM
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