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Mini Cases on Choosing Appropriate Statistical Tests for Ecological Data

Co Authors:

Alyssa M. Gleichsner
Biological Sciences
State University of New York College at Plattsburgh

Elizabeth A. Flaherty
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources
Purdue University


This set of mini cases on the ecology of eastern cottontail rabbits is designed to give students practical experience using statistics in a scientific context. Given a dataset and experimental design, groups of students are asked to play the part of a wildlife management researcher to determine the results for each study. Students practice the scientific process and gain experience making hypotheses and predictions, choosing an appropriate statistical test, interpreting and displaying results, and presenting data to others. Students choose between four basic, commonly used, statistical tests (t-test, one-way ANOVA, linear regression, and Chi-square test), and justify their choices. This activity was developed for undergraduate level students and is applicable to biology courses, particularly those dealing with ecology or management. The case is designed for student groups, but could be modified into clicker questions or individual assignments.

  • Write a hypothesis set (including the null hypothesis) based on the provided research scenario.
  • Choose an appropriate statistical test for the data presented.
  • Explain why the selected test is appropriate and run the test on the data provided.
  • Evaluate the results and reject or fail to reject the null hypothesis.
  • Work in groups and explain statistical concepts to others.
Keywords: statistics; wildlife management; graph choice; graphing; statistical analyses; statistical tests; t-test; ANOVA; regression; ecology; hypothesis; prediction, cottontail
Topical Area: N/A
Educational Level: Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division, Graduate
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Analysis (Issues), Mini-Case
Language: English
Subject Headings: Statistics   Biology (General)   Ecology   Environmental Science   Natural Resource Management   Wildlife Management  
Date Posted: 8/29/2016
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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