University of Florida

ABE 6933
Seminar on stochastic modeling in ecology and hydrology

Semester Taught - Fall

Catalog Description

Credits: 3

This course takes a problem-based approach to introduce stochastic modeling in context of ecology and hydrology.  The students will be asked to study selected papers in detail, through reading and in-class discussion, such that they understand how to set up the problems and derive some results and mathematical expressions reported therein.  In the first few lectures, some basic concepts in probability and stochastic processes will be discussed.  During the first part of the course, the instructor will lead the discussion.  Afterwards, the students may take turn to lead the discussion.  Depending on their interest and progress, the students may suggest papers on stochastic modeling in the field related to their own research during a later phase of the course.  Examples of topics to be covered include neutral model of biodiversity (in which birth, death, dispersal, and speciation are stochastic), soil moisture dynamics driven by stochastic (Poisson) rainfall, stochastic models of rainfall (pulse model), etc.


Graduate standing; basic calculus and college-level probability courses

Course Objectives

  • After taking this course, you should:

    • Understand and be able to derive the basic results in the papers covered in class.
    • Be able to apply these techniques to similar problems.
    • Be able to formulate problems and construct models to study the effects of stochastic fluctuation on the resulting outcomes.


Dr. Rachata Muneepeerakul
Office: Room 227 Rogers Hall
Phone: 392-1864 x227

Material/Supply Fees


Class Materials Required

(Notes: we would likely not have time to cover all papers listed below; we may cover them in a different order; and we may even switch to different papers, depending on the interest and progress of the class.)

Leigh , E.G. Jr. 2007. Neutral theory: a historical perspective. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 20: 2075-2091.
Volkov, I., J.R. Banavar, S.P. Hubbell, & A. Maritan. 2003. Neutral theory and relative species abundance in ecology. Nature 424: 1035-1037.
McKane, A.J., D. Alonso, & R. V. Solé. 2004. Analytical solution of Hubbell’s model of local community dynamics. Theoretical Population Biology 65: 67-73.
Chave, J. & E.G. Leigh Jr. 2002. A spatially explicit neutral model of b-diversity in tropical forests. Theoretical Population Biology 62: 153-166.
Rodriguez-Iturbe, I., A. Porporato, L. Ridolfi, V. Isham, & D.R. Cox. 1999. Probabilistic modeling of water balance at a point: the role of climate, soil and vegetation. Proceedings of the Royal Society, London, A 455: 3789-3805.
Laio, F., A. Porporato, L. Ridolfi, & I. Rodriguez-Iturbe. 2001. Mean first passage times of processes driven by white shot noise. Physical Review E 63, 036105.
Leigh , E.G. Jr. 1981. The average lifetime of a population in a varying environment. Journal of Theoretical Biology 90: 213-239.
Rodriguez-Iturbe, I., D.R. Cox, & V. Isham. 1987. Some models for rainfall based on stochastic point processes. Proceedings of the Royal Society, London, A 410: 269-288.



Class Participation 20%
Assignments 50%
Final Project 30%

Academic Honesty

All students admitted to the University of Florida have signed a statement of academic honesty committing themselves to be honest in all academic work and understanding that failure to comply with this commitment will result in disciplinary action. This statement is a reminder to uphold your obligation as a UF student and to be honest in all work submitted and exams taken in this course and all others.

Accommodation for Students with Disabilities

Students requesting classroom accommodation must first register with the Dean of Students Office. That office will provide the student with documentation that he/she must provide to the course instructor when requesting accommodation.

Use of Library, Personal References, PC Programs and Electronic Databases

These items are university property and should be utilized with other users in mind. Never remove, mark, modify nor deface resources that do not belong to you. If you're in the habit of underlining text, do it only on your personal copy. It is inconsiderate, costly to others, and dishonest to use common references otherwise.

Software Use

All faculty, staff and students of the University are required and expected to obey the laws and legal agreements governing software use. Failure to do so can lead to monetary damages and/or criminal penalties for the individual violator. Because such violations are also against University policies and rules, disciplinary action will be taken as appropriate. We, the members of the University of Florida community, pledge to hold ourselves and our peers to the highest standards of honesty and integrity.

UF Counseling Services

Resources are available on-campus for students having personal problems or lacking clear career and academic goals which interfere with their academic performance. These resources include:

  1. University Counseling Center, 301 Peabody Hall, 392-1575, personal and career counseling;
  2. Student Mental Health, Student Health Care Center, 392-1171, personal counseling;
  3. Center for Sexual Assault/Abuse Recovery and Education (CARE), Student Health Care Center, 392-1161, sexual assault counseling;
  4. Career Resource Center, Reitz Union, 392-1601, career development assistance and counseling.