WIS 6934 Ecological Dynamics and Forecasting

Instructor Dr. Morgan Ernest (she/her) Dr. Ethan White (he/him)
Office Location on-line online

Times and Locations

Tuesday, Period 5 (11:45-12:35), MCCB 2102

Thursday, Period 5 (11:45-12:35), MCCB 2102

Course Objectives

The goal of this class is to provide students a basic understanding of how populations and communities change through time and to provide fundamental concepts of how to forecast those changes. By the end of the semester, students will:

  1. Have an appreciation of the dynamics and time scales of change that populations and communities exhibit.

  2. Understand the basic concepts of forecasting that apply across fields and the challenges within ecology

  3. Apply time series concepts to working with ecological time series data

  4. Be able to fit models to data and use those models to make forecasts

General Course Structure and Expectations

This course is a mixture of class discussion of the primary literature and hands-on experience involving data and computing. Completing assigned readings, intellectual engagement with topics, discussion participation, and completion of assignments are the main ways students will learn in this class. Tuesdays are typically concept discussion days. Thursdays will be a mix of tools or concept discussion.

Course Participation

The course is designed so that students may participate synchronously or asynchronously in the course. Students may shift between synchronous and aynschronous participation as needed.

Paper discussions:

Synchronous participation: During the assigned course time, synchronous discussions of assigned papers will occur over zoom. In-class group discussion about the assigned papers paper. This discussion is generally centered around the discussion questions that are provided in advance but may also expand beyond them. Our goal is to produce a classroom environment where everyone is comfortable participating in class discussions. We will try to manage discussions so that everyone has a chance to contribute and make sure that folks who are less comfortable interjecting get a chance to participate. We welcome your help in making sure that everyone in the class gets a chance to contribute.

Asynchronous participation: Students may opt to participate asynchronously by providing written responses to the assigned class discussion questions and submitting those responses to the instructors. Instructor notes will be provided via the course website so that students participating asynchronously have access to information being discussed in class. The Canvas discussion board can also be used to ask questions and generate discussion with the class related to the topic material.


Most weeks we have an R-tutorial session on Thursdays. R-tutorials consist of a video that all students (synchronous and asynchronous) students are required to watch before the thursday class time. Synchronous class time on R-tutorial thursdays is dedicated for students to ask questions, get clarification, or help with their r code. Asynchronous students are encouraged to post their questions to the course discussion board on canvas.

Course Grading

  • 50% of grade will be based on paper paper discussion
  • 50% of the grade will be based on completing R tutorials

Attendance Policy

Two class days can be missed without impacts on your grade without the need to submit make-up work, though we recommend that students attempt any missed class activities on their own time because additional class activities or discussions may rely on that knowledge.

Additional missed days can be made-up by submitting make-up work. Class activities can be made-up on the student’s time by doing the activity and submitting the code/data. Missed discussions can be made up by providing written responses to the discussion questions on the readings for the day(s) missed. Two to three sentences per question is an approximate guideline for the length of response to each question, but feel free to write more or less as appropriate.

Course Materials

  1. All reading materials are made available through the course website. If you are off campus you may need to use the UF VPN to access some of them.

  2. Computers: Computers with R and Rstudio installed are required for the R-tutorial part of the course

UF Policies

University Policy on Accommodating Students with Disabilities

Students requesting accommodation for disabilities must first register with the Dean of Students Office ( The Dean of Students Office will provide documentation to the student who must then provide this documentation to the instructor when requesting accommodation. You must submit this documentation prior to submitting assignments or taking the quizzes or exams. Accommodations are not retroactive, therefore, students should contact the office as soon as possible in the term for which they are seeking accommodations.

University Policy on Academic Misconduct

Academic honesty and integrity are fundamental values of the University community. Students should be sure that they understand the UF Student Honor Code at

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.

Getting Help

Other resources are available at for:

  • Counseling and Wellness resources

  • Disability resources

  • Resources for handling student concerns and complaints

  • Library Help Desk support

Should you have any complaints with your experience in this course please visit to submit a complaint.

Most importantly, if you are struggling for any reason please come talk to us and we will do our best to help.

Grading scale

  • A 93-100

  • A- 90-92

  • B+ 87-89

  • B 83-86

  • B- 80-82

  • C+ 77-79

  • C 73-76

  • C- 70-72

  • D+ 67-69

  • D 60-66

  • E <60

Course Schedule

The details course schedule is available on the course website.

Disclaimer: This syllabus represents our current plans and objectives. As we go through the semester, those plans may need to change to enhance the class learning opportunity. Such changes, communicated clearly, are not unusual and should be expected.