Animals feeding at sea inherit a chemical record reflecting the area where they fed, which can help track their movements, according to a new study by scientists from the University of Southampton.
Chemical testing of the source of marine food products could be a powerful tool to help to fight food fraud, maintain healthy sustainable fish stocks or marine protected areas, and ensure consumer confidence in marine eco-labelling. Continue reading →
This month’s issue contains three Applications articles and two Open Access articles, all of which are freely available.
– CODYN: New analytical tools applied to long-term data demonstrate that ecological communities are highly dynamic over time. The R package, library(“codyn”), helps ecologists implement these tools and gain insi–ghts into ecological community dynamics.
– Geometric Morphometrics: A tool for the R statistical environment that optimises the smoothing procedure for 3D surfaces used in Geometric Morphometrics.
– TRAPPER: Open source, multi-user software that facilitates analysis of videos and images, provides spatial filtering and web-mapping, allows flexible implementation of specific data collection protocols, and supports data re-use and (re)discovery.
Image from the Canon PowerShot camera with CHDK script ‘Motion Detect Plus’. The thistle flower being visited by ♀ honeybee Apis mellifera L.
Pollinators have fascinated ecologists for decades, and they have traditionally been monitored by on-site human observations. This can be a time-consuming enterprise and – more importantly – species identification and recordings of behaviour have to be registered at the time of observation. This has two complications:
While writing notes, or recording them electronically, the observer cannot continue focusing on the animal or behaviour in question.
Such data then have to be transcribed, with the risk of making transcription errors.
Bringing Monitoring into the 21st Century
Although on-site human observations have predominated, today’s widespread availability of digital monitoring equipment has enabled unique data on flower visitors to be collected. In my research, I have used a time-efficient automated procedure for monitoring flower-visiting animals – namely foraging bumblebees visiting focal white clovers and honeybees visiting thistles.
Reproducible research is important for three main reasons. Firstly, it makes it much easier to revisit a project a few months down the line, for example when making revisions to a paper which has been through peer review.
Secondly, it allows the reader of a published article to scrutinise your results more easily – meaning it is easier to show their validity. For this reason, some journals and reviewers are starting to ask authors to provide their code.
Thirdly, having clean and reproducible code available can encourage greater uptake of new methods. It’s much easier for users to replicate, apply and improve on methods if the code is reproducible and widely available
Throughout my PhD and Postdoctoral research, I have aimed to ensure that I use a reproducible workflow and this generally saves me time and helps to avoid errors. Along the way I’ve learned a lot through the advice of others, and trial and error. In this post I have set out a guide to creating a reproducible workflow and provided some useful tips. Continue reading →
Eleni is a Lecturer in Statistics and a member of the Statistical Ecology @ Kent (SE@K) group at the University of Kent. She develops statistical models motivated by ecological applications to study populations of birds, insects and, more recently, humans.
There were three invited speakers: Professor Richard Chandler, from University College London, Professor Jonty Rougier, from the University of Bristol and Dr Kate Searle, from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, who presented via Skype.
All three talks included interesting motivating data, clever modelling and great insight.
Taming the Pachyderm
Professor Richard Chandler presented joint work with Marianna Demetriou on “The interpretation of climate model ensembles”. Projecting future global temperatures is clearly a timely topic and Richard’s talk highlighted the challenges of doing this reliably. And they’re certainly not minor challenges, in his own words, this is a problem he has spent 10 years thinking about! Continue reading →
David Warton (University of New South Wales) interviews interviews Ben Stevenson (University of St Andrews) about his 2015 Methods in Ecology and Evolution paper ‘A general framework for animal density estimation from acoustic detections across a fixed microphone array’. They also discuss what Ben is currently up to, including an interesting new method for dealing with uncertain identification in capture-recapture, published in Statistical Science as ‘Trace-Contrast Models for Capture–Recapture Without Capture Histories’.
This week is Peer Review Week, the slightly more popular academic celebration than pier review week. Peer review is an essential part of scientific publication and is – like Churchill’s democracy – the worst system to do it. Except for all of the others. The reason it’s imperfect is mainly that it’s done by people, so there is a natural desire to try to improve it.
One suggestion for improvement is to us double blind reviews. At the moment most journals (including Methods in Ecology and Evolution) use single blind reviewing, where the author isn’t told the identity of the reviewers. The obvious question is whether double blind reviewing does actually improve reviews: does it reduce bias, or improve quality? There have been several studies in several disciplines which have looked at this and related questions. After having looked at them, my summary is that double blind reviewing is fairly popular, but makes little or no difference to the quality of the reviews, and reviewers can often identify the authors of the papers.
Subject area experts are asked to review a lot of papers!
The primary challenge Associate Editors face is finding Reviewers for manuscripts. When times get desperate, it may feel like anyone with a pulse will do! But of course the reality is that Reviewers need some relevant expertise. They also need to be able to carve out time from busy schedules. These two requirements are remarkably efficient at eliminating every name on a list of candidate Reviewers.
This Reviewer drought slows down the publishing process, and frustrates and stresses all involved. It also runs the risk of affecting quality – busy experts have no time to contribute to reviews of papers in their area, so manuscripts end up being reviewed hastily or by people in adjacent fields. However, so much effort goes into writing a manuscript (even a bad one), and so much in science depends fundamentally on the peer review process, that finding the right Reviewers is an important academic – and even ethical – obligation as Editors. Continue reading →
For many academics, especially Early Career Researchers, writing a review can seem like quite a daunting task. Direct training is often hard to come by and not all senior academics have the time to act as mentors. As this week is Peer Review Week, we wanted to provide some advice on what makes a good review and what makes a bad review. This advice has been kindly provided by the Methods in Ecology and Evolution Associate Editors – all of whom are authors and reviewers as well.
The BES Guide to Peer Review in Ecology and Evolution
Before we dive into the tips from our Editors though, we want to highlight one of the best resources for anyone looking for peer review guidance – the BES Guide to Peer Review in Ecology and Evolution. This booklet is intended as a guide for Early Career Researchers, who have little or no experience of reviewing journal articles but are interested in learning more about what is involved. It provides a succinct overview of the many aspects of reviewing, from hands-on practical advice about the actual review process to explaining less tangible aspects, such as reviewer ethics. You can get the PDF version of the guide (and the other BES guides) for free on the BES website. Continue reading →