GEOL 351/651
Statistics for Geoscientists, Fall 2016
last updated December 22, 2016
(reload for updates as the semester progresses)
UMD Course evaluation system is open Dec 1 - Dec 13

                    351/651, images of figures from (L-R) Evans et al
                    (1999), Evans (2008), Evans et al (2002),
                    Anchukaitis et al. (2006)
Overview Goals Logistics
Schedule Assignments Policies Resources


Based on conceptual illustrations, quantitative problems, and critical discussion of the scientific literature, we will take a practical approach to the introduction of basic methods in statistical analysis and inference as applied across the geosciences.   

Overarching Questions


By the conclusion of the semester, students should be able to:



Location and Time: PLS 1111, MWF 10:00a-10:50a.  Occasionally we may meet W at CHM1215, and these meetings will be announced by email and in class at least the preceding Monday.  Rules for use of CHM 1215 (Geology Senior Computing Room):

Instructor: Michael Evans , Department of Geology and ESSICChemistry Bldg, Rm 1212B.  ph 301-405-8763;  email: mnevans at

Office hours:
M 11a-12p and W 12p-1p, in GEOL 1215, or by appointment.  We will also set up a class email list; please also use email for questions or more information between class meetings.  I will try to answer emails within 24 hours, and reserve the right to usefully copy the class on replies of interest to all.
Course Description:  Prerequisites: Math 115 or equivalent; or permission of instructor.  Practical approach to basic statistics applied in the geosciences. Experimental design, elementary statistics and probability, sequence analysis, spatial analysis, linear regression, nonparametric statistics, bivariate, multivariate and principal components analysis of variance, hypothesis testing.  Problem sets and participatory discussion of statistical applications in the current literature.

Reading and course materials:

top (weeks of 9/7-10/10; 10/24-11/21)

Assignments and Assessment (subject to revision)  


Further background and computing software is available from the following excellent sources, some of which I have available for short-term loan and/or can arrange access for you.  Please note that links to commercial vendors are convenient descriptors but are not intended to be sales endorsements.



Thanks to: Mike Brown, Bill McDonough, Ric Arevalo, Rich Walker and participants in the Fall 2010, 2012 and 2014 offerings for ideas, suggested topics, and weekly, mid-course and post-course feedback.

Course Related Policies (from the Office of Student Affairs)

Information about your University-wide rights and responsibilities, including information on:

A single downloadable pdf of course related policies from the Office of Student Affairs is available here.

Provisional Schedule (subject to revision)
Jump to week of:
Oct. 17th
Nov. 14th
Dec 12th
Week of
Aug 29
Introduction and Overview (your ideas, my slides), pre-course assessment (Mon); Introduction to Programming and Matlab/Octave (Weds); the scientific method and statistics (Fri).
MD10, Ch 1,2; DIT matlab tutorial and elements of coding practice; Dietz (1961); Lehrer (2010). PS1 due Friday 9/2 at beginning of class.  An exemplary student response is here.
Sept 7 (no class Sept 5th) Collecting, Describing and Displaying Data (Weds); Ethics in Science (Fri). MD10, Ch. 3,5: discussion questions are here. For GEOL 651 participants: Walter et al (2010)
PS2 due Friday 9/9; my code; exemplary response.
Sept 12
Add/drop deadline, 9/12
Experimental Design (Mon/Weds/Fri)
MD10, Ch. 4: discussion questions are hereFor GEOL 651 participants: Kessler et al (2011)
PS3 due Friday 9/16; exemplary response.
Sept 19

Probability and Inference: Theory and Practice (Mon/Weds(corrected)/Fri)
MD10, Ch. 6,7: discussion questions are hereFor GEOL 651 participants:
Li et al. (2007)
PS4 due Friday 9/23; my code; results figure; exemplary response.
Sept 26
Parametric tests (Mon/Weds/Fri)
MD10, Ch 8,9; Evans (2008); discussion questions are here.

PS5 due Friday 9/30; my code; exemplary response.
Oct 3
Rosh Hashanah, 10/2-10/4
Analysis of Variance (Mon/Weds/Fri)
MD10, Ch 10-11; Appleton and Miles (2010); discussion questions are here. PS6 due Friday 10/7; my code; exemplary response.
Oct 10
Yom Kippur, 10/11-10/12
Linear regression and correlation (Mon/Weds/Fri)
MD10, Ch. 15-16; Evans et al. (1999); discussion questions are here.
PS7 due Friday 10/14; my code; question 3c results figure; exemplary response.
Oct 17
Review (Mon); Midterm exam (Weds); midterm discussion (Fri) and mid-semester course evaluation (Fri)
Discussion questions are here.  Review lecture notes, problem sets, and readings to date.  Practice midterm is here.
my practice midterm solutions; my midterm solutions; exemplary responses.
Oct 24 Error propagation (Mon/Weds/Fri) with Mathias Trachsel; mid-semester evaluation response by email.
Taylor Ch 3 (1982); Kleine et al (2002); discussion questions are here. PS8 due Friday 10/28; my solution notes for question 1; my code for question 3; Mathias's q3 code for dependent errors; exemplary response.
Oct 31
Non-parametric statistics (Mon/Weds(revised)/Fri) matlab code for reproducing the additional KW test example shown in Friday notes is here.
MD10, Ch. 17-19; Yang et al (2009); discussion questions are here. PS9 due Friday 11/4; my code; exemplary response.
Nov 7
Multivariate analysis (Mon(revised)/Weds/Fri) matlab code for reproducing the 2-D example illustrated in these notes is here.
MD10, Ch. 20; Blondes et al (2008); discussion focus questions are here.
PS10 due Friday 11/11; my code; exemplary response.
Nov 14

Sequence analysis (Mon/Weds/Fri)
MD10, Ch. 21; Gillet et al (2010); discussion focus questions are here.
PS11 due Friday 11/18; my code; exemplary response.
Nov 21
Thanksgiving recess, 11/23-27
Statistical prediction (Mon)
Lecture notes; discussion focus questions are here. PS12 due Mon 11/28; my code; exemplary response.
Nov 28
UMD Course evaluation system is open Dec 1 - Dec 13
Independent projects, Part I: introduction, consultations and help (Mon/Weds/Fri); note: Weds class meeting is unstructured, but is time available for you to meet with the instructor for help on choosing your independent study dataset and analysis/inference approach.
Course syllabus; MD10 and assigned readings to date.  See also Ch 23, "Choosing a test".
PS13 due Fri 12/2; exemplary response.
Dec 5

Independent projects, Part II: help (Mon/Weds); Project presentations (Fri).  Note: Mon and Weds class time are available for you to meet individually with the instructor for help executing or interpreting your original analysis results.  background reading for your independent study
PS14 due Fri 12/9; exemplary responses.
Dec 12-20
Dec 12 - last day of classes
Semester summary (Mon); take-home final exam assigned; exam wrap-up (Tues).
Office hours to be held Mon and Weds as usual this week.
Review all course materials; also see MD10, Ch. 23

Take-home final exam assigned Mon, Dec 12th; due in class as hard copy Tues, Dec 20, 9a; suggested solutions; exemplary responses.

[note to self: to make time for term projects, removed Spatial Analysis (MD10, Ch 22; Sheppard et al 2007; PS13 from the syllabus; nonlinear analysis (PS14; from my notes and Huang and Turcotte 1990).  Students may want to study that material OYO  - please see me if you are interested.]