Statistics for Environmental Science—Spring 2012

ECOL 562, ENST 562

Course Details

Instructor: Jack Weiss, Curriculum for the Environment and Ecology, 317 Whitehead, 962-5930,

Meetings: Four hours per week: one hour each on Monday and Wednesday, two hours on Friday

Meeting Times: MW 2:00-2:50 pm, 247 Phillips Hall and
F 2:00-3:50 pm, 220 Peabody Hall

Text: Various online e-books and articles freely available through the UNC library system

Software: R, a freeware implementation of the S language. The R home page is The software can be downloaded from You may enjoy using the nice code editor Tinn-R that color-codes R text (Windows). It is also freeware and can be downloaded from the following location:

Course Website:

Office Hours: I'm available after class on MWF and at other times by appointment. My office is 317 Whitehead Hall. This is the former dormitory at the corner of South Rd. and Columbia St.

Evaluation: Weekly homework and final exam

Registration Details: Seats are reserved separately for ECOL 562 (15 seats) and ENST 562 (15 seats). If the course is closed for one of these listings, try registering for the other one.

Overview of the Course

An introduction to statistical methods for ecology and environmental science. This is a topics course. Our emphasis here is on breadth rather than depth. (The other graduate course I teach takes an in-depth approach to the topics covered in the first third of this course.) Familiarity with the standard parametric approaches of statistical analysis such as hypothesis testing is assumed. The course is intended to serve as a transition between what is typically taught in an undergraduate statistics course and what is actually needed to successfully analyze data in ecology and environmental sciences. The ideal enrollee is an upper level undergraduate or beginning graduate student who has already taken an introductory statistics course and wishes to see the modern application of statistics to environmental science and ecology.


The prerequisites are modest, a one semester undergraduate or high school course in statistics (the equivalent of UNC Stat 31) and some exposure to the concepts of calculus. If you have never studied statistics, this is probably not the course for you. Having said this I think it is quite possible to obtain the requisite background through self-study before the course begins. I expect you to be familiar with (as in heard of and can quickly relearn) the following concepts:

Just about any elementary statistics text covers this material. The book Introduction to the Practice of Statistics by David S. Moore and George P. McCabe, the text that is used in undergraduate statistics courses at UNC, is an adequate choice as is any other text written at this level. Personal favorites of mine include Statistics with Applications to the Biological and Health Sciences by M. Anthony Schork and Richard D. Remington (any edition) and Biometry by Robert R. Sokal and F. James Rohlf.

Statistical Software

No familiarity with statistical software is assumed. We will be using R, an implementation of the S language, available for free download at R runs on all major operating systems, including Windows, Unix, and Mac OS X. R is a state-of-the-art modern statistical package actively supported by the worldwide scientific community. It is not easy to use but it has become the de facto standard for scientific research. Our Friday sessions in Peabody Hall will focus primarily on the use of R.

Course Content

This course covers a number of statistical methods that have proven useful in analyzing environmental data. The topics this semester will include the following.

Jack Weiss
Phone: (919) 962-5930
Address: Curriculum for the Environment and Ecology, Box 3275, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 27599
Copyright © 2012
Last Revised--Jan 8, 2012