Methods in Field Ecology


 Instructor: Dr. Scott Solomon, Rice University

Course Description
This course is designed as an introduction to the general methods of conducting ecological research in an outdoor setting. Our focus will be on the species and ecosystems of the Rocky Mountains.  You will also gain essential skills for future coursework or research in ecology more broadly. The course will work with a variety of study systems and species. Emphasis will be placed on the scientific method generally and, more specifically, how it is applied to the process of ecological research. In so doing you will gain skills in: developing ecological questions; formulating testable hypotheses; designing experiments; collecting and analyzing data; and presenting results in both oral and written formats. These skills will be learned through a hands-on process in which you conduct a series of collaborative investigations using the natural environment around Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory.

Our work will be based around a series of guided field studies that test core hypotheses in the science of ecology. These studies will span multiple scales of inquiry, from populations to ecosystems. Through these studies you will gain familiarity with a broad spectrum of taxonomic groups (e.g. plants, insects, vertebrates) and ecosystem types (e.g. meadows, forests) and the different methods used in their study. The classroom work and assignments associated with each study will train you in hypothesis formulation, experimental design and statistical analysis, reading and discussion of scientific literature, and the oral, written and visual presentation of results.

Course Schedule
This course will usually meet two days per week from mid-June to early July.

Prerequisites: None

RMBL Community Members may sit in on any given course session, with advance permission from the instructor and space permitting.

Field Ecol Class
Field Ecology Students Learn to Trap Ground Squirrels (Spermophilus lateralis).
Photo by Dr. Emily Mooney