|| We examine stochastic effects, in particular environmental variability, in population models of biological systems. Some simple models of environmental stochasticity are suggested, and we demonstrate a number of analytic approximations and simulation-based approaches that can usefully be applied to them. Initially, these techniques, including moment-closure approximations and local linearization, are explored in the context of a simple and relatively tractable process. Our presentation seeks to introduce these techniques to a broad-based audience of applied modellers. Therefore, as a test case, we study a natural stochastic formulation of a non-linear deterministic model for nematode infections in ruminants, proposed by Roberts and Grenfell (1991). This system is particularly suitable for our purposes, since it captures the essence of more complicated formulations of parasite demography and herd immunity found in the literature. We explore two modes of behaviour. In the endemic regime the stochastic dynamic fluctuates widely around the non-zero fixed points of the deterministic model. Enhancement of these fluctuations in the presence of environmental stochasticity can lead to extinction events. Using a simple model of environmental fluctuations we show that the magnitude of this system response reflects not only the variance of environmental noise, but also its autocorrelation structure. In the managed regime host-replacement is modelled via periodic perturbation of the population variables. In the absence of environmental variation stochastic effects are negligible, and we examine the system response to a realistic environmental perturbation based on the effect of micro-climatic fluctuations on the contact rate. The resultant stochastic effects, and the relevance of analytic approximations based on simple models of environmental stochasticity, are discussed.