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Computer Recommendations for Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Students - A Simple Guide for Undergraduate and Graduate Students

Wildlife Ecology is a dynamic field and computers play a critical role in our daily lives as ecologist, wildlife managers, and conservation biologists. WEC courses and research activities require students to use computers for learning and research. While UF does provide computer labs for students to use, many students also choose to purchase their own computer for personal use to complete class assignments and entertainment. UF has special pricing arrangements available for computers (Windows based and Mac) and popular software (including Microsoft Office) that are much cheaper than those available from other retailers (detailed below). This page provides some general recommendations to consider if you decide to purchase a computer, as well as links to computer resources on campus including software and hardware special arrangements available to UF students. Note, we are not endorsing any products or services in this document, but instead just providing some general recommendations.

UF Guidelines

The official UF computing guidelines which supersede this document and relate to all aspects of hardware, software, and network information are available here

The following is the official UF policy on the student computer requirement:

Access to and on-going use of a computer is required for all students. The University of Florida expects each student entering a UF Online program, to acquire computer hardware and software appropriate to his or her degree program. Competency in the basic use of a computer is required. Course work will require use of a computer and a broadband connection to the internet, academic advising and registration can be done by computer, official university correspondence is often sent via e-mail and other services are provided that require access through the Internet.

While the university offers limited access to computer software through its virtual computer lab and software licensing office, most students will be expected to purchase or lease a computer. Cost of meeting this requirement may be included in financial aid considerations.

The basic expectations in WEC courses:

At the most basic tech levels, from day 1 at UF you will be expected to use email, basic word processing, find information on web pages, copy and carry files with you (i.e., on a jump drive/memory stick) download files such as a homework assignment from a web page (often a course web site), complete the assignment, and submit that assignment to the same page.

Know your Gatorlink name and password

Your Gatorlink name and password are you keys to most UF computing resources.

Know how to save files and back files up

You will commonly need to copy files from the web such as a Word document as a homework assignment, complete this assignment, and then re-submit the assignment. If you are using your personal computer then it is a good idea to create folders for different courses, and then create subfolders for different assignments. If you are working in a computer lab, then you will need to save your files somewhere that you can access them later. You should note that the IFAS computer lab computers reset themselves automatically at midnight, so if you have saved a file to a computer in the computer lab’s hard drive, that file will likely not be there the next time you log in.

Choices for file saving and backup:

Know what software deals are available to you

UF has bulk licensing agreements for a variety of widely used software packages that offer huge savings to students. As an example, you can buy fully licensed versions of Microsoft Office for Windows or Mac for $15 that you can install on your personal computer. More information on these types of software deals is available here

The UFApps service also provides a way for students to run software free of charge on their personal computers. More info can be found here

Use anti-virus software

Microsoft Security Essentials is the recommended Antivirus solution, and can be downloaded for Windows 7. This software is called Windows Defender in Windows 8 and 10, and is already installed by default.

I need help...

The UF Computing Help Desk is Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week: You can also walk in to the HUB on campus for help with your laptop or other questions.

If you need more advanced help or repairs then you should contact your computer manufacture or a local computer store for repair (as an example

Windows or Mac?

This is an unanswerable question and WEC students and faculty use both platforms. There are definite strengths and weaknesses in both computer platforms. Most of the computer labs on campus are Microsoft Windows based computer labs. There are also some software programs that you are likely to use in your courses such as ESRI GIS products ( that may not run on an Apple Operating system. Most recent Mac computers can also run the Windows operating system (Windows 10). This allows you to run Windows specific programs on your Mac. Information on how to do this is available via the web page. Because of UF’s software agreements with Microsoft you can buy a copy of Windows 10 for $15 ( and then you can turn your Mac into a PC also. Or you can just buy a PC. UF has PC pricing deals with Dell available here and the UF discounting page for Macs is available here|4319426&cid=AOS-US-CAMPUS-ShopNow

This is not an endorsement of Windows based computers over Mac. Whatever computer you have it is very important that you familiarize yourself with it and to make sure you are comfortable using it. That way you can focus on using your computer to help you learn the material in your courses and not focus on learning how to use your computer. Your WEC instructors will likely not be able to help you troubleshoot IT problems. So for example if you want to use Bootcamp to run Windows 10 on your Mac so you can use a specific software in a course, you should have this setup and running before the course starts.

Basic hardware requirements

These are hard to specify as technology changes so fast. Basically a dual-core chip computer with at least 4 gigs of RAM should be adequate for most course applications. Here are some guidelines provided by the UF Computing help desk