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Title: Applied statistics in ecology: common pitfalls and simple solutions

Author: Steel, E. Ashley; Kennedy, Maureen C.; Cunningham, Patrick G.; Stanovick, John S.;

Date: 2013

Source: Ecosphere. 4(9): article 115. 13 p

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: The most common statistical pitfalls in ecological research are those associated with data exploration, the logic of sampling and design, and the interpretation of statistical results. Although one can find published errors in calculations, the majority of statistical pitfalls result from incorrect logic or interpretation despite correct numerical calculations. There are often simple solutions to avoiding these problems that require only patience, clarity of thinking, probabilistic insight, and a reduced reliance on out-of-the-box approaches. Some of these trouble spots are inherent to all statistical analyses and others are particularly insidious in ecology where true controls or replication are challenging, small sample sizes are common, and correctly linking mathematical constructs and ecological ideas is essential. Here we summarize the most common statistical pitfalls observed over nearly a century of combined consulting and research experience in ecological statistics. We provide short, simple solutions.

Keywords: confidence intervals, errors, experimental design, graphing, mistakes, p values, statistics education

Publication Notes:

  • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.



Steel, E. Ashley; Kennedy, Maureen C.; Cunningham, Patrick G.; Stanovick, John S. 2013. Applied statistics in ecology: common pitfalls and simple solutions. Ecosphere. 4(9): article 115. 13 p.


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