Field supplies for the summer starting to come in…
LET’S ROLL OUT SOME TRANSECTS!
WARNING: This blog entry contains me awkwardly groping with math. It’s not pretty. It’s not done elegantly – indeed, for problems of even moderate complexity I fired up maxima (which is totally awesome!) rather than screw up the algebra on paper. And there are a few leaps that I make that I’m sure someone could write a proof for, but, well… While I fall somewhere in the middle of the theoretical – experimental axis of scientists, that doesn’t mean it’s something I do every day, so, expect some turbulence. I welcome comments and suggestions.
And, indeed, despite my lit searching, I’m not entirely convinced that someone hasn’t done this before, so, I may be re-inventing a very old wheel. But I thought it might be interesting to post these thoughts, if only for my own processing of recent research results.
I also admit, showing some (clumsy) mathematical thoughts publically makes me feel, well, like I’m not wearing any pants. Oh well. Onwards! With or without pants!
So, I was intrigued by Kyle’s comment on my entry about the AJB diversity function paper. He said that surely theory must lead us to conclude that, due to only a limited number of species being able to pack into a space, a plot may never achieve some theoretical maximum amount of productivity as predicted by some curve.
This led me to think more about diversity effects, and why are they saturating, anyway? Should they be? It’s not Kyle’s original question, but, it’s an interesting one and leads down similar theoretical pathways (I think).
So I decided to go back to basic competition theory – the Lotka-Volterra competition equations. Continue reading
Hey, all! For the rest of the month, I’m the Scientist in Residence over at The Deep Sea News! Muchas gracias to Rick, Miriam, Kevin, and the rest of the crew for bringing me on board. My first post is up where I discuss some of my work on How are extinctions and invasions shaping food webs?
More posts to come!
Why does it take so long for awesome cutting-edge statistical to make their way over to ecology? There are a myriad of techniques out there that have been around for 20, 30, 40, or more years that could help so many ecologists from banging their head into a wall over and over and over and…well, you get the point. But, it takes quite a while for them to percolate over to us. This is not for lack of user-friendly tools, often. Rather it has to do with the connectivity of disiciplines.
For example, I was having a lovely conversation with Jim Grace the other day about using Structural Equation Modeling for predictive purposes, and we ended up chatting a little about history. SEM as it is done currently – using maximum likelihood approaches to fit a model to a covariance or correlation matrix – really dates to the late 1960s and early 1970s. Before then, scientists in a number of disciplines used a wide variety of approaches to examine path models (a là Sewall Wright’s Path Analysis), or perform Factor Analysis, or approach other multivariate models that often included latent variables. These techniques were fairly heterogeneous, even though they attempted to do roughly similar things.
And yet, despite the fact that this seminal work was published in the 70s, there are Ecological papers well into 90s that use piecewise regression models to fit path analyses. Why?
The answer can be summed up by this beautiful diagram detailing the connectivity of science in 2004 from the ever-interesting eigenfactor.org (and hat-tip to Jim for pointing it out to me).
Basically, these methods were developed for economics, and saw their first heavy use there and and sociology, political science, education, and psychology. In terms of connectivity, Ecology & Evolution sites on the other side of a doughnut hole of communication (with the occasional exception of psychology). Historically, the fields where the newest techniques are being developed are rarely examined by ecologists, and it is to our loss. Fortunately, I think this is a historical trend. With the rise of search engines, message-boards, and copious mailing lists, I do wonder if a connectivity graph from 2004-2010 would be much tighter.
Connectivity can only be a boon for science. With environmental issues beginning to impinge on every endeavor, it has become more important than ever to survey the breadth of what is out there.
So, hey, sign-up for alerts for a journal that you think will have no relevance to you. Who knows what might drop into your inbox.
I just learned that Lawrence Slobodkin passed away last week. Slobodkin was one of the authors of the infamous HSS paper in 1960 that has shaped how we think of the role of predators in ecosystems for decades. Indeed, it is one of the very origins of the modern concept of trophic cascades. More than that, though, this was a man with broad ranging interests in biology. I think the New York Times Obit has some interesting points about his contribution to our understanding of the world, and includes this quote from Slobodkin:
Sometimes I chose research problems for their presumed importance, but often I was attracted by their beauty. My research and that of most of my friends is not a story of triumph but rather of fascination by nature.
A good model for us all.
It seems that blogs, twitter, etc, are beginning to really leak into the consciousness of ecologists! In two weeks, I’m attending the LTER All Scientists Meeting (ASM). As I browsed through the working grounp lists, I came across the following: Blogs, Posts, and Tweets: Potential Uses of Web-Based and Social Networking Media for Communicating LTER Science and Conducting Citizen Science.
The LTER network, for those unfamiliar, is perhaps the oldest network of Long Term Ecological Research projects, well, anywhere. It consists of a collection of sites, each representing a different ecosystem type – from kelp forests to the arctic tundra to even urban ecosystems (oddly in my hometown). The data from these sites is largely out there and publicly available, and the network funds some really top-notch projects from established researchers and up-and-coming postdocs.
Whoops, how did that link get in there!
Because it is a network of sites sharing data and tools, there is a ton of cyberinfrastrcuture. Given the types of folk that has recruited into the project, I’m not surprised that the network is hip to blogs, twitter, and the like. And I’m pretty psyched that we’re having a working group on how to harness their power. Should be neat.
For those who aren’t following it, the SEAPLEX cruise blog is pretty amazing. SEAPLEX is a cruise being led by none other than Miriam Goldstein of The Oyster’s Garter to explore the Great North Pacific Trash Gyre.
OK, so, a gyre of trash may not be that great, but, you know, it’s Great. As in Awesome. By which I mean Awe-inspiring kinda Great. Not great. You know. Sheesh.
The cruise is not only ambitious in its goals to map out the garbage patch itself (and to see, is it a big patch, a bunch of islands, or what), but it’s both blogging and tweeting away giving the public a fascinating snapshot into real oceanographic and ecological science in real time. And, they’re being pretty candid, as can be seen below.
So keep your RSS-feeds updated, check your twitter feeds, and let’s see just what Miriam and her hearty crew find out!