US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in The Wildlife Society Bulletin, Vol. 29, No. 4 (Winter, 2001), pp. 1055-1060.


Quantitative methods are playing increasingly important roles in wildlife ecology and, ultimately, management. This change poses a challenge for wildlife practitioners and students who are not well educated in mathematics and statistics. Here we give our opinions on what wildlife biologists should know about statistics, while recognizing that not everyone is inclined mathematically. For those who are, we recommend that they take mathematics coursework at least through calculus and linear algebra. They should take statistics courses that are focused conceptually, stressing the "why" rather than the "how" of doing statistics. For less mathematically oriented wildlifers, introductory classes in statistical techniques will furnish some useful background in basic methods but may provide little appreciation of when the methods are appropriate. These wildlifers will have to rely much more on advice from statisticians. Far more important than knowing how to analyze data is an understanding of how to obtain and recognize good data. Regardless of the statistical education they receive, all wildlife biologists should appreciate the importance of controls, replication, and randomization in studies they conduct. Understanding these concepts requires little mathematical sophistication, but is critical to advancing the science of wildlife ecology.