Statistics for Ecologists Using R and Excel

Statistics for Ecologists Using R and Excel
Mark Gardener
Publisher:  Pelagic Publishing, Exeter
1st edition published:  2012
Page Count:  416
ISBN Number:  9781784271398

"Citizen Science" is a recently coined term that is everywhere now, but which describes an activity BTO volunteers have been doing for decades - going out and collecting data on birds, whether that be counting (BBS, GBW, WeBS), ringing or recording nests.

While collecting the data is (usually) the fun bit, it becomes so much more worthwhile if those data are collected for a purpose - to highlight patterns or changes in our bird communities. But nature, and ecology, are messy; usually we cannot just simply state some numbers based on the data we have collected, rather we have to summarise and analyse them in some way to make the numbers both more digestible and a meaningful, but also to help rule out other explanations. This requires time at the computer and data analysis - which, let's face it, is usually less fun! And more difficult.

This introduction attempts to ease the pain of that a bit by showing step by step how to do some simple statistics (similar to those presented in Jim Fowler's venerable BTO guide 22 ‘Statistics for Ornithologists’) in both R and Excel, with screenshots and code snippets for you to use directly. It also comes with a supporting website which has the data so you can follow along with the examples on your own computer.

The book does a good job of explaining how to do these tests, but largely misses a crucial step, the one which most people find most difficult - working out what are the interesting questions and how to collect data to answer them. But, assuming you have some data this a good place to start to learn how to make more sense of them - an activity that can, with time, become as richly rewarding as collecting them in the first place.

Rob Robinson