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Researchers in other fields such as palaeontology, archaeology and the social sciences also use many of these methods. At the core of all the methods is the exploration and quantification of the effects of the explanatory or environmental variables on the observed dependent variables. ECOM is focused on the analysis of ecological data so the dependent variables are termed biological variables and would typically be an array of species abundances in different samples. The environmental data set comprises observations of the explanatory variables for these samples and would typically hold information on physical variables such as temperature, salinity, altitude, nutrient status etc. However, it may be that the independent variables are themselves biological variables. For example, the insect community might be determined by a variables that measures the density of the tree canopy.
Data can be organized using Windows programs such as Microsoft Excel and the output from ECOM is displayed, exported and printed using standard Windows techniques. The result is a program that is easily learned and used by both students and professional ecologists. It is particularly useful for ecological teaching because it allows students to quickly enter data, try different transformations and explore a range of methods within a familiar Windows setting.