Confronting models with data

The Ecological Detective by Ray Hilborn and Marc Mangel is an excellent source for learning how to analyse ecological data with sophistication. Traditionally, ecological data is analysed from the binary perspective of hypothesis testing. The goal of such testing is to either accept or reject a null hypothesis. Although it is well entrenched in ecological training and publication, this hypothesis testing has repeatedly been attacked by statisticians and many ecologists.

Without entering into this debate now, Hilborn and Mangel present an alternative of constructing models of the biological system of interest and then testing the model with collected data. This approach offers a much more nuanced and powerful way of understanding ecological processes. No longer is the ecology simply used to accept or reject a null hypothesis. Rather, a deeper understanding is required that leads to greater insights into the process.

As part of reading through the Ecological Detective, I worked through the pseudo-code examples provided and implemented them in Mathematica. I’’ve decided to make these files available: My hope is that someone else will find them useful. I would be particularly interested in discussing these files and the book with anyone interested. I should point out that this was my first use of Mathematica, so I would appreciate any feedback on how to use it more effectively.