Data Analysis in Ecology: Statistics for Ecologists & Field Biologists (5-week)


About the course

This part-time tutored online course in ecological statistics provides a thorough introduction to the key statistical principles and methods used by ecologists and field biologists. The course aims to create a rich workshop experience, encouraging direct student and tutor interaction and discussion.

You will receive highly practical expert training, helping you to

  • improve your ability to display ecological data
  • use descriptive and inferential statistics to analyse the results from field surveys and experiments
  • introducing you to QED statistics and the R statistical programming language

Who the course is for

Professional ecological consultants, environmental managers and rangers, research and postgraduate students, and volunteers that are seeking flexible study combined with expert training. The techniques covered are universal, and we use international case studies and examples.

Flexible online learning

Students typically study on this course alongside their work.

You can take this online course from anywhere in the world with a good internet connection.  You can log on at any time of the day and access our specially designed course materials, e-learning resources and tutor-led discussion forums. You will have access to the Bodleian Libraries’ online resources, which include an excellent range of e-books and e-journals, enabling you to conduct your research and reading in your own time.

Note also that we offer a less intense ten-week version of this course.

Chartered status

The course can help you to apply for Chartered Status (such as Chartered Environmentalist and Chartered Ecologist), and to meet relevant professional competency thresholds. Further information can be found in our Chartered status and essential skills guide.


Programme details

Topics covered

  • The use of statistics: What is statistics and why is it needed; planning surveys, experiments and collecting data; types of data
  • Descriptive statistics: Finding the average (mean, median, mode); standard deviation, variance and standard error; degrees of freedom and coefficient of variation; descriptive statistics with QED and R
  • Processing and presenting data: Displaying whole data sets; displaying summarised data; presenting data with Excel, QED and R
  • The normal distribution and data transformations: How to know if data are normally distributed
  • Hypothesis testing, confidence intervals and comparisons of two sample means: Confidence intervals and testing for equal variances; parametric vs. non-parametric tests; paired vs. non-paired tests; comparing means with equal or unequal variance; t-tests
  • Analysing frequencies: Chi-square test, goodness of fit and contingency tables; G-test
  • Finding correlation: Correlation, covariance and the correlation coefficient; Pearson product moment correlation coefficient; coefficient of determination; Spearman rank correlation coefficient
  • Regression analysis: Simple linear regression; residuals, confidence intervals, transformation of axes; reduced major axis regression
  • Introducing analysis of variance: One-way and two-way ANOVAs; post-hoc tests; randomised block design, latin square
  • When to use non-parametric statistics: Mann-Witney U-test; Wilcoxon test; Kruskall-Wallis test; non-parametric statistics; ANOVAs and General Linear Models; introduction to multivariate statistics

Teaching methods

Your course tutor will guide you through a series of key topics via reading materials, online activities, and discussion forums. Discussion forums are the primary space where students are able to interact with one another and their tutor to discuss questions, solve problems and share ideas just as they would expect to do in a face-to-face classroom setting.

Level and demands

The course is designed for Master’s-level students, and you are likely to be studying alongside students on our Postgraduate Certificate in Ecological Survey Techniques.

You can expect

  • To engage with and contribute to the course around ten to 15 hours per week (depending on whether it is taken for credit or not). Note that we also offer a less intense ten-week version of this course
  • Your course tutor will engage online for no less than six hours per week (usually distributed across each week and will focus on particular topics and activities).
  • Topics to be covered following a suggested calendar of activity (so that activities, discussion and reading are completed within the course week duration, and at an even pace).
  • The course can be taken with or without Masters-level credit. Credit enables students to demonstrate their academic achievement and can count towards further postgraduate study.


You can choose to study for academic credit or simply for the learning experience.

Accredited study

Students taking the course for credit submit an assignment of up to 2000 words or equivalent. The assignment is a portfolio of data analysis problems. 

We offer Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS) points for the course. By contributing to all the forums and successfully completing the assessment you will obtain 10 CATS-equivalent points (FHEQ level 7) which may count towards a Masters-level qualification. You will also receive a University of Oxford Certificate of Attendance.

For information on CATS points and credit transfer, including conversion to US academic credits and European academic credits (ECTS), please visit our CATS Points FAQ page.

Non-accredited study

Students taking the course not for credit do not submit an assignment.

By actively participating in at least one online course forum post per week, to the satisfaction of the course tutor, and successfully completing the course, you will receive a University of Oxford Certificate of Attendance.

Certificate of Attendance

You may receive a Certificate of Attendance whether you opt for accredited or non-accredited study (provided that you have met the requirements stated above).


Description Costs
Accredited study £1170.00
Non-accredited study £740.00
Student Rate £520.00


Dr Thomas Hesselberg

Course Director and Tutor

Thomas is a zoologist who has studied spiders, insects and worms for more than 15 years in both temperate and tropical climates. In addition to his teaching for the Department for Continuing Education, he is a lecturer in biological sciences at St. Anne's College.


Application/registration processing will close 6 weeks before the start of the course. Please contact with any related questions.

Apply to take the course not for academic credit

If you do not wish to take this course for academic credit you will need to register using the ‘Book now’ button under course details.

Apply to take the course for academic credit

If you are applying to take this course for academic credit you will need to click on the link below and complete the online application form and include a copy of your CV as an attachment.

You will also need to complete the reference section of the application form, and input the email address of your referee. Upon successfully submitting the application an email will be sent to your referee asking them to provide a reference in support your application for the course.

Please only complete this form if you wish to take the course for academic credit.

Online application form

Selection criteria

All candidates will need to:

  1. Hold a minimum qualification equivalent to a first Honours Degree (BA, BSc, etc). Non-graduates may be considered if they are able to demonstrate considerable experience in a relevant field. If in doubt, please email;
  2. Offer some first-hand knowledge and/or experience of field work or conservation issues;
  3. Satisfy the minimum required English language criteria set by the University, being either a native English speaker, or able to offer test results as specified. Applicants with borderline scores may be accepted on condition that they attend a language course and gain an acceptable score;
  4. Demonstrate an ability to be able to commit the necessary time to study;
  5. Have good access to a computer and a fast/reliable internet connection;
  6. Demonstrate an ability to work alongside fellow students and tutors as part of an online community and independently.

Apply to take the course at the discounted student rate

If you are applying to take this course at the discounted student rate, you will need to click on the link below and complete the online application form and include evidence that you are a current student. This could be either your student ID card (with the name of the institution and end date) or a letter or reference from your institution.

Please only complete this form if you wish to take the course at the discounted student rate.

Please contact with any related questions.

Online application form

IT requirements

This course is delivered online and uses the Department’s online assignment submission system (for the course asignment). In order to meet course requirements, students will need access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.

In addition to the IT Requirements outlined above, students are currently required to download and install R and QED Statistics. R is increasingly used by ecologists, biologists and environmental managers to handle data (full instructions on how to download this software is available from the R website). Access to QED Statistics is provided as part of the course, however this software is not compatible with Mac or Linux operating systems. Alternative software to QED Statistics is currently being researched; where possible, students are encouraged to use R in the Data Analysis course if they are using Mac or Linux systems. Students wishing to use QED Statistics on Mac or Linux systems are advised by the programme developer Pisces Conservation Ltd to consider Windows emulation software, such as Bootcamp, to run a Windows system on their machine. For further information and a full system specification please visit the Pisces Conservation Ltd website.