EEB 401 - Advanced Topics in Biology
Section: 001 Interrogating Data with Models
Term: WN 2010
Subject: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB)
Department: LSA Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
2 - 3
Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
Advisory Prerequisites:
Intended for senior concentrators. The prerequisites will be set by the instructor as appropriate for each section.
This course counts toward the 60 credits of math/science required for a Bachelor of Science degree.
May be repeated for a maximum of 6 credit(s).
Primary Instructor:

Ecologists are frequently taught statistical recipes that can be used to analyze data, e.g., correlation, regression, analysis of variance. These classical methods have been designed with analytical tractability foremost in mind. The assumptions on which they depend are such that they typically afford only an oblique perspective on the specific ecological questions we wish to answer. This is a pity, since hard-won data are effectively squandered when we can ask only crude questions of them.

Advances in computational power over the last decades have made more complex statistical procedures computationally feasible such that it is now possible to design statistical tests that directly answer the ecological questions we ask. This is evident from the fact that the ecological literature now abounds with references to likelihood, Bayesian inference, and information-based model selection. In this course, students will have the opportunity to design statistical approaches to answer their own scientific questions. We will study a number of examples in which we have to (1) refine scientific questions into statistical questions by means of mathematical models and (2) put these models to the test by bringing them into risky contact with data.

Course work will consist of readings from the text by Bolker (see below) and occasional supplementary texts, a number of computer labs, and a project. It is hoped that advanced graduate students will take this opportunity to use models to interrogate their data in new ways.

Text: B. M. Bolker, Ecological Models and Data in R, Princeton University Press, 2008.


  • at least one burning scientific question
  • willingness to engage with others in thinking about ecological questions
  • willingness to think and talk about the philosophy of science
  • some numerical or statistical computing experience (preferably in a numerical or symbolic computing environment such as R, Splus, Matlab, octave, Maple, Mathematica, etc.)
  • calculus and some exposure to probability
  • permission of the instructor

EEB 401 - Advanced Topics in Biology
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
NOTE: Data maintained by department in Wolverine Access. If no textbooks are listed below, check with the department.

ISBN: 0691125228
Ecological models and data in R, Author: Bolker, Benjamin M., 1967-, Publisher: Princeton University Press 2008
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