Posted by: Jeremy Fox | February 16, 2012

Mathematics and ecology survey

The International Network of Next-Generation Ecologists is surveying ecologists about their knowledge of mathematics and their views on how to incorporate mathematics into the training of ecologists. It’s a short survey (it took me less than a minute), go take it here.


  1. Fantastic! Four new posts means a good reading day. About the survey, if ecology students need more math and statistics *and* a background in the philosophy of science, the training should probably start earlier than undergrad, don’t you think? Thanks for the great links.

    • Yes, graduate training is all about allocation of limited time and the associated trade-offs and opportunity costs. Fortunately, it actually doesn’t take too much time to at least identify and raise many conceptual issues, like the one I raised earlier today about creating “significant” statistical results from nothing. You don’t need a whole bunch of stats courses to recognize and think sensibly about that issue, but can run into serious problems if you don’t recognize the issue at all.

      So I do think we could get a lot of “bang for the buck”, in terms of improving the statistical practice of ecologists, if undergrads and grad students spent just a bit less time learning technical details, how-to-get-R-to-do-analysis-X, and the latest fancy techniques, and just a bit more time thinking about philosophical fundamentals. I do *not* have more or different formal statistical training than the average ecologist, or more training in philosophy of science (the few philosophy courses I took as an undergrad were mostly ethics and political philosophy). But I do have a pretty firm grasp of the conceptual fundamentals, some of it acquired from “pleasure” reading on my own time. Far from being irrelevant to day-to-day practice, these fundamentals actually help me deal with all kinds of everyday statistical judgment calls.

  2. Thanks for your reply. I’m sort of a novice, in my opinion, about ecology, statistics, and philosophy, so I hope my contribution is appropriate, but I feel your blog, along with the others I regularly read, paints a really great picture of how ecologists approach their work. I certainly would never have pursued statistics except that I was introduced to hypothesis testing through my undergraduate ecology class, and the effect was to make both disciplines more interesting and comprehensible – likewise, reading John Wilkins’ “Species” made me more interested in the philosophy of biology and ecological modeling – which led me back to the Oikos blog. Such a great synergy going on here.

  3. […] to the Oikos Blog by Jeremy Fox for making me aware of this. The Oikos blog is fantastic and has some highly relevant […]

    • Thanks for this. I just re-blogged it. FWIW, Marty Krkosek is a great guy too! (re: the Bamfield course)

  4. Thanks to the Oikos blog for covering the survey on math in ecology

    So far more than 500 have responded.

    – INNGE Working Group

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