EEB 401 - Advanced Topics in Biology
Winter 2013, Section 002 - Modeling and Programming in Ecology
Instruction Mode: Section 002 is (see other Sections below)
Subject: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB)
Department: LSA Ecology & Evolutionary Biology


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:


The ability to translate between qualitative hypotheses and their more exact expression in the form of mathematical equations, and to analyze these equations to determine behavior under those hypotheses, are becoming essential skills for all biologists. Biology students do not always have the time to take the multitude of math courses needed to gain modeling skills, and there is value to learning at least basic modeling skills directly in the context motivating the biology student.

The key goals of the course are to teach students how to

  1. ) understand and develop basic mathematical models of ecological and evolutionary phenomena, and
  2. analyze those mathematical models using a combination of “pencil and paper” and computational approaches.

More specifically, the course will teach students to read, derive, and analyze simple continuous and discrete time models of biological systems (especially ordinary differential equations and simple recursion relations), and help students gain a basic understanding of assumptions behind some more complex model formulations. It will focus on models that encapsulate central concepts in ecology and evolutionary biology, in particular models of the ecological dynamics of single and interacting populations, models of mass balance and resource uptake in ecosystems, and models of natural selection and genetic drift.

In addition, the course will teach students some basic skills in Mathematica and R for analyzing and simulating the models discussed in the class.

Textbooks and software:

  1. S.P. Otto and T. Day, A Biologist’s Guide to Mathematical Modeling (required).
  2. Student version of Mathematica. (Required — used during class on student laptops. Wait until January to buy pending a deal on the price.)
  3. R. (Freely available for download. Optional.)

Course Requirements:

The course will assume only a background in calculus and at least one advanced class in ecology and evolutionary biology or related fields.

Intended Audience:

Advanced undergraduate and beginning graduate students studying ecology and evolutionary biology or related fields.

Class Format:

The course cannot cover all of the topics mentioned above in depth, but instead will draw from this range of topics in selecting simple example models to work through, letting the interests of students registered in a given year help guide selection of some of the models.


EEB 401 - Advanced Topics in Biology
Schedule Listing
002 (LEC)
 In Person
TuTh 10:00AM - 12:00PM

Textbooks/Other Materials

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Syllabi are available to current LSA students. IMPORTANT: These syllabi are provided to give students a general idea about the courses, as offered by LSA departments and programs in prior academic terms. The syllabi do not necessarily reflect the assignments, sequence of course materials, and/or course expectations that the faculty and departments/programs have for these same courses in the current and/or future terms.

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