The exercises in this unique book allow students to use spreadsheet programs such as Microsoft® Excel to create working population models. Tailored for conservation biology and landscape ecology applications, this volume contains basic spreadsheet exercises that explicate the concepts of statistical distributions, hypothesis testing and power, sampling techniques, and Leslie matrices. It contains exercises for modeling such crucial factors as population growth, life histories, reproductive success, demographic stochasticity, Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium, metapopulation dynamics, and many others. Building models using these exercises gives students "hands-on" information about what parameters are important in each model, how different parameters relate to each other, and how changing the parameters affects outcomes. The "mystery" of the mathematics dissolves as the spreadsheets produce tangible graphic results.
Each exercise grew from hands-on use in the authors' classrooms. Each begins with a list of objectives, background information that includes standard mathematical formulae, and annotated step-by-step instructions for using this information to create a working model. Students then examine how changing the parameters affects model outcomes and, through a set of guided questions, are challenged to develop their models further. In the process, they become proficient with many of the functions available on spreadsheet programs and learn to write and use complex but useful macros.