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BOT 440/540 Field Methods in Vegetation Science

About the course

What you should know before starting Field Methods in Vegetation Science

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The formal prerequisites for BOT 440 are "a course in ecology, a course in statistics" and for BOT 540 "a course in ecology, ST 511 or equivalent." Because course content can differ considerably, the following list of recommended knowledge and skills should give you a better idea if you have the right preparation to be successful in the course. If you do not know something, but know where you can look it up, you should still be OK. You can also visit the Background chapter of the course; if you are comfortable with the material there, you are probably ready to tackle the course material.


  • You are familiar with some of the following terms: vegetation, biomass, productivity, frequency, cover, species diversity, DBH (diameter at breast height)
  • You know the scientific name of a few plant species (the names aren't important, but this is a good indicator of whether you have sufficient botanical background)
  • You know that one way to define a plant population is as a group of individuals of the same species growing in the same area
  • You know that one way to define a plant community is as a group of plant species growing in the same area


  • You understand the concept of uncertainty and how it leads to variability in our observations of nature
  • You know that taking several observations is essential for being able to make confident statements about nature.
  • You realize that in a sampling study these equivalent observations are called replicates (the term replication is used in a slightly different way in experiments)
  • You understand and can calculate a confidence interval
  • You can use a t-table or computer program to look up t-values
  • You can conduct a one-sample t-test


  • You can work outdoors
  • You can navigate the Web
  • You can send e-mail messages with attachments
  • You can work with a spreadsheet program or the equivalent (this will make completing the assignments a whole lot easier)


  • You are prepared for a self-paced course.

For BOT 540 students

  • You have read at least some scientific articles in ecology, to give you a professional perspective
  • You are willing and able to assess the success of your use of the field methods in the course
  • You can check for normality of errors
  • You can conduct a two-sample t-test
  • You aren't scared of learning about the interquartile range
  • You are facile in using a spreadsheet program or its equivalent, so you can handle the extra number crunching in BOT 540
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and Mark V. Wilson

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