Demystifying computer science for molecular ecologists

Mol Ecol. 2015 Jun;24(11):2619-40. doi: 10.1111/mec.13175. Epub 2015 May 7.


In this age of data-driven science and high-throughput biology, computational thinking is becoming an increasingly important skill for tackling both new and long-standing biological questions. However, despite its obvious importance and conspicuous integration into many areas of biology, computer science is still viewed as an obscure field that has, thus far, permeated into only a few of the biology curricula across the nation. A national survey has shown that lack of computational literacy in environmental sciences is the norm rather than the exception [Valle & Berdanier (2012) Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America, 93, 373-389]. In this article, we seek to introduce a few important concepts in computer science with the aim of providing a context-specific introduction aimed at research biologists. Our goal was to help biologists understand some of the most important mainstream computational concepts to better appreciate bioinformatics methods and trade-offs that are not obvious to the uninitiated.

Keywords: bioinformatics; computer science education; computing methodologies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Computational Biology*
  • Computer Literacy
  • Ecology / education*
  • Programming Languages