Remember taking a math test in, say sixth grade? There was that painful requirement that you show your work. If 2 + b = 7 and a – 5 = 10, what does a + b equal? Line up those little equations and hammer them out for the teacher, because she doesn’t care if you get the final answer, she wants to see how you got the answer.
Just like sixth grade all over again, the current generation of young ecologists* will have to deal with showing their work. Specifically, there is an abundance of data we are collecting and working with, much of which can be used for multiple purposes, from meta-analyses (See Christopher Lortie’s recent PeerJ pre-prints) to systematic reviews to reanalysis. Based on the era of big data, there is a considerable and ever-evolving discussion on how data should be shared, used and published within the ecological and larger research communities. . Some people find it to be an ethical issue, whether data is made publicly available. In the vein of elementary school math exams showing one’s work and data, various discussions have come up in the social media world lately:
WHAT: We are looking for early career ecologists to participate in a survey of statistical approaches. We will provide you with a small data set and we ask that you spend no more than a few hours analysing the data in any manner of your choosing. If you are interested, please reply to the address below and we will provide you with more information and the data promptly.
WHY: We are interested in the approach used by ecologists in the analysis of a standard ecological data for a commentary on statistical methods. The results may be published in summary form, and no personal identification will be disclosed for any reason. Our results will also be posted to this blog when available.
Left: Caitlin in Peru (photo credit Jess Goldman), Right: Caitlin on the Hill with the Massachusetts-Colorado BESC pack (Left to Right: Paul Tanger, Rebecca Certner, Caitlin McDonough MacKenzie, Jennifer Rood; photo credit Julie Palakovich Carr)
By Caitlin McDonough MacKenzie
In April, I had the honor of visiting the Congressional offices of my home state Massachusetts to lobby on behalf of science funding. I spent Monday morning tromping between snow drifts off the coast of Maine, but by Tuesday evening I was wandering under cherry blossoms along Washington DC’s tidal basin in a T-shirt. I was a week into my field season monitoring flowering phenology in Acadia National Park, but I had traded my down jacket and LL Bean boots for a pencil skirt and pumps, hopped on a tiny eight-seated Cessna at the Bar Harbor airport, and flown to Washington DC as an Ecological Society of America (ESA) Graduate Student Policy Award recipient. Continue reading →
Sunrise on the Colorado River at Lee’s Ferry, Arizona. Photo: L. Reynolds
By Lindsay Reynolds
The Colorado River supplies water to people and ecosystems in 9 western states in the US and Mexico, including almost 5.5 million acres of irrigated lands and nearly 40 million people1. The Colorado, with headwaters in the snowy Rocky Mountains and a path through some of the most arid regions in North America, is one of the most intensively managed river systems in the world. For many years now, research scientists have been warning of impending water shortages in the basin2,3. Last week, the non-profit conservation group American Rivers named the Colorado the most endangered river in the nation. Population growth in combination with limited water and the potential effects of a changing climate are leading down a road to a very dry future. Continue reading →
The ant: study species of choice. Photo Credit: Alex Wild
By Jane Zelikova
I love it when things come together. This is exactly what happened to me just the other day. To start at the beginning, I took an Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) graduate tropical biology course in 2003. It was a great course, I learned a lot, and I made some great friends. While a lot of my memories from the course are a bit murky (many many late nights working on projects, writing papers, and drinking cervesas has put a fog on the course), looking through the course book has brought some things back into focus. Turns out, my personal claim to fame was extreme organismal fidelity. You know those people who always ask a question related to their study organism, even if the subject being discussed is completely unrelated? For example, the seminar might be about jaw bone development in fish and the person I’m talking about asks about plant secondary chemicals …. and receives a blank stare from the speaker. Ok, apparently, the person asking those annoying and distracting questions was me, and my inquiries always (and I mean always!) came back to ants. At the end of the course, we gave each student an award and I got “The Taxonomic Fidelity Award” for my ability to guide any scientific discussion toward ant seed dispersal. That being said, it is not a huge surprise that my ability to turn things back to the ants has stayed with me, despite my scientific departure from the world of ants. Continue reading →
This past winter went by in a hurry. Workshops, data analysis and proposals, combined with a few weekend trips resulted in surprise and slight panic when I realized on Monday that it was already April 1st. We all tend to get caught up in work and our daily lives, and I sometimes question if I make enough time to appreciate the science I work on.
An urban squirrel feasting on its bird feeder treasures.
By Jerod A. Merkle
Human dominated landscapes can provide a food haven for certain species. Think squirrels and pigeons, animals many of us see almost every day. These species have adapted so well to human infrastructure and its seemingly endless bounty, that they can live their entire lives within cities with millions of people.
Of course, there are other species that also capitalize on foods available in urban areas. But they do so with much less visibility. In fact, they spend much of their time in more natural areas, only venturing into urban areas to feed. In this case, think of animals such as raccoons, coyotes, and bears. Although the act of moving from wildlands into urban areas is for the most part driven by food, our understanding of how animals make these decisions is still not complete. Understanding how and why these behaviors develop can help direct efforts to minimize human-wildlife conflicts.