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

As a student at the University of Florida, you have committed yourself to uphold the Honor Code, which includes the following pledge: “We, the members of the University of Florida community, pledge to hold ourselves and our peers to the highest standards of honesty and integrity.”  You are expected to exhibit behavior consistent with this commitment to the UF academic community, and on all work submitted for credit at the University of Florida, the following pledge is either required or implied: "On my honor, I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid in doing this assignment." 
It is assumed that you will complete all work independently in each course unless the instructor provides explicit permission for you to collaborate on course tasks (e.g. assignments, papers, quizzes, exams). Furthermore, as part of your obligation to uphold the Honor Code, you should report any condition that facilitates academic misconduct to appropriate personnel. It is your individual responsibility to know and comply with all university policies and procedures regarding academic integrity and the Student Honor Code.  Violations of the Honor Code at the University of Florida will not be tolerated. Violations will be reported to the Dean of Students Office for consideration of disciplinary action. For more information regarding the Student Honor Code, please see:  

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.