Making It Fit: Using Excel to Analyze Biological Systems
Gulf Coast Research Laboratory
The University of Southern Mississippi
Fish and Wildlife Conservation
In this case, students read about a biologist who needs to determine how to analyze age-at-length data, a common situation in fisheries biology. The fictional Dr. Latimer is tasked with fitting non-linear models to the data, and the case develops as he draws parallels between linear and non-linear models. After learning the terminology and concepts through a series of exercises, students use Excel's built-in Solver algorithm to fit models to the data. Intended for use in a fisheries biology, ecology, or management class, the case is targeted to junior and senior level undergraduate students who have some experience using spreadsheets on microcomputers and some knowledge of ichthyology.
- Understand the similarities of non-linear and simple linear regression.
- Appreciate the importance of non-linear regression to describe natural phenomena.
- Learn how to use the "Solver" algorithm in Microsoft Excel.
- Become familiar with basic computer programming in Microsoft Excel.
- Understand fish growth and gain exposure to the most commonly used model to describe it<./li>
KeywordsFisheries management; ichthyology; yellow tang; Zebrasoma flavescens; fish; fish growth; age determination; von Bertalanffy growth function; non-linear regression; Microsoft Excel; Hawaii
Topical AreasScientific method
Educational LevelUndergraduate upper division
Type / MethodsDiscussion, Interrupted
Subject HeadingsNatural Resource Management | Wildlife Management | Ecology | Biology (General) |
Simulated age and growth data for yellow tang, the species of fish used in the case study, are included in the supplemental Excel spreadsheet provided here (Age_Length.xls).