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) |
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Teaching notes are intended to help teachers select and adopt a case. They typically include a summary of the case, teaching objectives, information about the intended audience, details about how the case may be taught, and a list of references and resources.
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).