Eco Techniques

In this era of open science, we are launching an open course. Hosted by Virginia Commonwealth University, our vision is that this resource will grow and evolve over time, serving as a flexible platform for cross-institutional instructional collaboration in the ecological sciences. Our thematic focus is ecological techniques, delivered at VCU through a team-taught research training course held at VCU's Rice Rivers Center and in the surrounding Richmond area. Our objectives are to train students how to use and apply modern ecological field techniques in a team setting and within the context of foundational ecological concepts. If you would like to partner in this endeavor, adapt our materials to your site or course, or comment, please contact Chris Gough, Scott Neubauer, or Ellen Stuart-Haëntjens, co-directors.

Support for the course is generously provided by a gift from the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation.

"For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them." 


The inaugural Ecotechniques course, held Summer Session 2017, had 15 students and several contributing instructors.

Ecosystem Productivity

Ecosystem productivity is the foundation of food webs, the backbone of the carbon cycle, and drives many fundamental processes within ecosystems. Here, we learn how to quantify and interpret productivity in three different habitats -- aquatic, wetland, and terrestrial -- and discuss the context of these concepts to different areas of ecology.

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Data Visualization

Taking complex data and distilling pertinent information into easily accessible and interpreted visualizations is imperative to effectively communicating science to researchers and the public.

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Biological Diversity

Biological diversity has emerged as one of the most important, and controversial, themes of contemporary ecology. Here, we learn how to quantify biodiversity and how different measures of biodiversity shed light on ecological functioning.

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Experimental Design

Learning how to craft an experiment, run and interpret appropriate statistical tests, and write comprehensive research proposals to answer specific ecological questions is essential to effectively conducting research.

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Functional Traits

Functional traits of species are beginning to serve a critical role in understanding ecology across spatial and temporal scales for many different organisms if many different ecosystems. 

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Data Management

Increasingly, researchers are asked to document, archive, and share methods and data openly and transparently. As a placeholder, we link to the Rice Rivers Center data management policy. More to come.

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Want to participate?

This is the start, we hope, of a platform for openly and broadly sharing ecological techniques course materials and ideas, with recognition that our tool kit is broad and deep, and our focus and tools shift. We would love to hear from you, and discuss ways you and your institution can contribute.

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