Biology 322

This course is designed to give participants experience in the design and execution of ecological field experiments, and to enhance awareness and appreciation of the natural history and ecosystem dynamics of the eastern sierra nevada.  Fieldwork will be performed during four weekend trips to the Whittell forest and wildlife area (“Little Valley”) located in the carson range 25 miles south of reno. There will also be seven evening meetings on campus for discussion of relevant topics and presentation of students’ research results. Specialists in several related fields (e.g., ornithology, forest management, bear biology) will give guest lectures.

Learning goals: After completing this course students will have the foundational skills necessary to critique, design, and execute a hypothesis driven experiments.  Specifically students will be able to:

  • Explain importance of elements of experimental design (e.g. replication, confounding factors, etc.) in testing hypotheses
  • Develop a hypothesis based upon observation of the natural world, and design an experiment to test that hypothesis
  • Analyze experimental data using basic parametric statistics, and interpret the results
  • Present and evaluate the findings of field-based ecological experiments

Syllabus (PDF download)

Camping supplies checklist (download): Students are responsible for bringing their own camping supplies each week.

Weekly Schedule (download): subject to change throughout the summer semester

Week Date Class Topic Homework Assignments Due
1 Wed – May 18 Introduction, Field Notebook & Camping Preparation Assigned reading for paper critique; Prepare for camping
May 21 – May 22 Natural History of Little Valley; Introduction to different systems & data collection Field notebook; Paper critique due next class lecture 50 Questions & Form Groups
2 Wed – May 25 Experimental Design & Paper Critique Discussion Experimental Design Worksheet – come up with 3 ideas Paper Critique Due
3 Wed – June 1 Intro to R and Data Manipulation & Group Pre-Proposal Ideas Project Proposal; Prepare for camping 3 project ideas
June 4 – June 5 Class Project; Guest lecturer: Lindsay Dimitri & Carl Lackey Field Notebook; Project proposal due next class lecture
4 Wed – June 8 Statistical Assignment Prepare for camping Project proposal due
June 10 – June 12 Group Project Experimental Design Setup & Initial Data Collection Field Notebook; Stats assignment due next class lecture
5 Wed – June 15 Data simulation, Group Project Data Analysis & Presentation Review Group presentation; Prepare for camping Group Stats Assignment
June 17 – June 19 Group Project Data Collection Field notebook; group presentation due next class lecture
6 Wed – June 22 Final Group Research Project Group research paper & Field notebook Group Research Project Presentation
Friday – June 24 No formal meeting Final Research Paper & Field Notebook


Week 1: Introduction, Field Notebook

Week 2:Experimental Design

Week 3: No slides, TryR exercises noted below

Week 4: No Slides, R homework assignment

Week 5: Writing paper



Paper critique: Your paper critique is due by email to both Andrea and Jake by the beginning of class (6:00 pm) on May 25. Template/InstructionsExamplePaper 1Paper 2Paper 3

Pre-Proposal: Your group pre-proposal is dues to email (please send via standard email carrier rather than canvas) by the beginning of class (6:00 pm) on June 1.  Template

Try R exercises:  Please email a screenshot of your completed Try R exercises (through Chapter 6) by 6:00 pm, June 8.  The exercises are available at  You may optionally complete Chapter 7 for 5 points extra credit on your statistic assignment.

Full Proposal: Your group full proposal is dues to email (please send via standard email carrier rather than canvas) by the beginning of class (6:00 pm) on June 8. Example ProposalFinal Proposal Template

Stats Assignment:  Your stats assignment can be worked on in small groups, but each individual should turn in an individual assignment by email (6:00 pm June 15).  The necessary files can be found at: Stats Assignment Files

Final Paper: Your final paper is due to Andrea and Jake by 12:00 AM (midnight) June 24. BIOL 322 Report Rubric, Template.

Class photos (courtesy of Amy Hoffman and Jake Johnson)