Quantitative Ecology

Requirements for Ecology students who wish to pursue the option in quantitative ecology


Ecology has entered a phase of development wherein much of the subject matter is approached by quantitative reasoning. This may occur through application of deterministic or stochastic models to theoretical questions in ecology, or it may occur through sophisticated use of applied statistics for experimental design and hypothesis testing. Ultimately, we may expect a greater fusion of these approaches as new generations of researchers become better educated in quantitative methods. Thus, there will be a demand not only for the practitioners of quantitative ecology but also for field ecologists who are more accomplished in quantitative techniques.

The importance of quantitative ecology is apparent in recent developments of employment opportunities, both at academic and applied levels. A large fraction of job descriptions require mathematical modeling or statistical capability in addition to the ecological subject matter; this is a trend that will, undoubtedly, continue. The trend is visible in the increasing devotion of journals to the quantitative aspects of ecology.

Penn State has a tradition of producing leaders in the field of quantitative ecology. In order to centralize and formalize the student's education in this area, the Quantitative Ecology Option for the MS or PhD in Ecology has been instituted. Graduation with this option will document the student's preparation and competence to contribute to this increasingly important area of science.

Requirements for the MS or PhD in Ecology with Quantitative Ecology Option

  1. The student shall meet normal criteria for the M.S. or Ph.D. in Ecology.
  2. The student's research adviser shall be a member of the Quantitative Ecology subset of the Ecology Program Faculty. Other committee members may be chosen as needed, providing that Ecology Program members comprise the majority.
  3. In addition to the normal Ecology Program requirements, the student shall be required to take:
    • BIOLOGY 519 - Ecological and Environmental Problem Solving (4) and WFS 597B - Quantitative Methods in Ecology (3)
    • A minimum of eight (8) credits from the list of approved courses, chosen in consultation with the student's committee.
    • Any other course work or other training deemed appropriate by the student's committee.
  4. The student's M.S. or Ph.D. thesis shall, in substantial measure, contain new results in the area of quantitative ecology, as judged by the student's committee and the option coordinator.


Approved courses for Quantitative Ecology include:


  • 428 Population Genetics (3)
  • 505 Statistical Methods in Evolutionary Genetics (3)

Environmental Resource Management

  • 412 Resource System Analysis (3)


  • 455 Remote Sensing and Spatial Data Handling (3)
  • 550 Multivariate Analysis in Forestry Research (3)
  • 555 Multispectral Remote Sensing (3)


  • 425 Computer-Assisted Cartography (3)
  • 454 Spatial Analysis I (3)
  • 455 Spatial Analysis II (3)
  • 480 Spatial Data Structures and Algorithms (3)
  • 509 Population Geography Seminar (3)

Management Science

  • 451 Linear Programming and Applications (3)
  • 452 Nonlinear Programming (3)
  • 527 Decision Making under Uncertainty (3)
  • 532 Simulation (3)
  • 550 Seminar in Mathematical Programming (3)
  • 565 Forecasting (3)


  • 412 Fourier Series and Partial Differential Equations (3)
  • 451 (CPSC 451) Numerical Computations (3)

Plant Pathology

Courses under consideration by the Ecology Program Committee (not yet approved) 


  • 423 Social Demography (3)
  • 523 Population Theory and Policy (3)


  • 414 Introduction to Probability Theory (3)
  • 415 Introduction to Mathematical Statistics (3)
  • 416 Stochastic Modeling (3)
  • 427 Environmental Monitoring and Assessment I (3)
  • 428 Environmental Monitoring and Assessment II (3)
  • 503 Design of Experiments (3)
  • 504 Analysis of Discrete Data (3)
  • 505 Applied Multivariate Statistical Analysis (3)
  • 510 Applied Time Series Analysis (3)
  • 513 Theory of Statistics I (3)
  • 514 Theory of Statistics II (3)
  • 515 Stochastic Processes I (3)
  • 525 Survival Analysis I (3)
  • 534 Dynamic Programming (3)
  • 548 Envirometrics (3)

Wildlife and Fisheries Science

  • 529 Fish Population Dynamics (3)
  • 551 Wildlife Biometrics and Population Analysis (3)