Data Carpentry -for- Ecologists

ECOL 8030, 1 Credits, Spring 2017


Michelle Evans

Email (best way to contact me):

Phone: 7037259580

Times & Location

Mondays, 3:35-4:25, Ecology Building, Room 12


The syllabus and other relevant class information and resources will be posted at Changes to the schedule will be posted to this site so please try to check it periodically for updates.

Course Communications


Please sign-up on the class e-mail list.

Also sign-up to bring snacks. We need two people for each day.

Required Texts

There is no required text book for this class.

Course Description

Computers are increasingly essential to the study of all aspects of biology. Data management skills are needed for entering data without errors, storing it in a usable way, and extracting key aspects of the data for analysis. Basic programming is required for everything from accessing and managing data, to statistical analysis, to modeling. This course will provide an introduction to data management, manipulation, and analysis, with an emphasis on biological problems. Class will typically consist of short introductions or question & answer sessions, followed by hands on computing exercises. The course will be taught using R and SQLite, but the concepts learned will easily apply to all programming languages and database management systems. No background in programming of databases is required.

Prerequisite Knowledge and Skills

Knowledge of basic biology.

Course Objectives

The field of ecology is becoming increasingly quantitative and statistically driven; therefore, there is a need for researchers in the field to be trained in these skills. The objective of this course is to provide training in computer programming and R fundamentals, to enable students to pursue more complex and specific analyses needed to conduct research in the field of ecology today.

Students completing this course will be able to (adapted from White 2016):

Teaching Philosophy

This class is taught using a flipped, learner-centered, approach, because learning to program and work with data requires actively working on computers. Flipped classes work well for all kinds of content, but I think they work particularly well for computer oriented classes. If you’re interested in knowing more take a look at this great info-graphic.

Course Content and Format

This course is based on a flipped-classroom style course produced by Ethan White ( Each week will cover a different fundamental of computer programming, building upon knowledge gained in prior weeks. While much of the syllabus is planned out, the last month is flexible and the class will decide to include or exclude topics based on demonstrated needs and interests. Students will conduct background readings outside of class, while class will mainly consist of brief lectures followed by working on exercises, with the help of their peers. In this way, students not only learn the material, but how to collaborate and learn with others, important soft skills in the sciences. Guest instructors familiar with the material will also attend the class so as to have multiple instructors who can actively engage with students and collaborate on problem solving and trouble shooting.

Course Policies

Attendance Policy

Attendance will not be taken or factor into the grades for this class. However, experience suggests that students who regularly miss class struggle to learn the material.

Course Technology

Students are required to provide their own laptops and to install free and open source software on those laptops (see Setup for installation instructions). Support will be provided by the instructor in the installation of required software. If you don’t have access to a laptop please contact the instructor and they will do their best to provide you with one.

University of Georgia Policy on Academic Misconduct

As a University of Georgia student, you have agreed to abide by the University’s academic honesty policy, “A Culture of Honesty,” and the Student Honor Code. All academic work must meet the standards described in “A Culture of Honesty” found at: Lack of knowledge of the academic honesty policy is not a reasonable explanation for a violation. Questions related to course assignments and the academic honesty policy should be directed to the instructor.

Netiquette and Communication Courtesy

All members of the class are expected to follow rules of common courtesy in all email messages, threaded discussions and chats.

Grading Policies

Enrolled students will be graded as S/U based on their attendance and participation as a peer-learner (both actively learning and helping others). a. Enrolled students cannot have more than 2 unexcused absences. This will limit enrollment to students who can fully commit to participating in the class.

Course evaluation: Enrolled students will provide feedback to Michelle about the effectiveness of the course in meeting its objectives and what should be changed for future course content or formats. This will occur at the half-way point of the course as well as at the end of the course.

Course Schedule

This course is designed to be flexible to meet the needs of the students. Therefore, the schedule will be designed on the first day based on demonstrated needs.

The details course schedule is available on the course website at:

Disclaimer: The course syllabus is a general plan for the course; deviations announced to the class by the instructor may be necessary.