Demography and Big Data

Post provided by BRITTANY TELLER, KRISTIN HULVEY and ELISE GORNISH

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To understand how species survive in nature, demographers pair field-collected life history data on survival, growth and reproduction with statistical inference. Demographic approaches have significantly contributed to our understanding of population biology, invasive species dynamics, community ecology, evolutionary biology and much more.

As ecologists begin to ask questions about demography at broader spatial and temporal scales and collect data at higher resolutions, demographic analyses and new statistical methods are likely to shed even more light on important ecological mechanisms.

Population Processes

Midsummer Opuntia cactus in eastern Idaho, USA. © B. Teller.

Midsummer Opuntia cactus in eastern Idaho, USA. © B. Teller.

Traditionally, demographers collect life history data on species in the field under one or more environmental conditions. This approach has significantly improved our understanding of basic biological processes. For example, rosette size is a significant predictor of survival for plants like wild teasel (Werner 1975 – links to all articles are at the end of the post), and desert annual plants hedge their bets against poor years by optimizing germination strategies (Gremer & Venable 2014).

Demographers also include temporal and spatial variability in their models to help make realistic predictions of population dynamics. We now know that temporal variability in carrying capacity dramatically improves population growth rates for perennial grasses and provides a better fit to data than models with varying growth rates because of this (Fowler & Pease 2010). Moreover, spatial heterogeneity and environmental stochasticity have similar consequences for plant populations (Crone 2016). Continue reading

Issue 7.2: Demography Beyond the Population

Issue 7.2 is now online!

Sagebrush steppe in eastern Idaho, USA

© Brittany J. Teller

The February issue of Methods is now online! As you may have seen already, it includes the BES cross-journal Special Feature: “Demography Beyond the Population“. There are also eight other wonderful articles to read.

We have four articles in the Demography Beyond the Symposium Special Feature. You can read an overview of them by two of the Feature’s Guest Editor Sean McMahon and Jessica Metcalf here (Sean and Jessica are also Associate Editors of Methods).

If you’d like to find out more about each of the individual papers before downloading them, we have blog posts about each one. Daniel Falster and Rich Fitzjohn discuss the development of plant and provide some advice on creating simulation models in Key Technologies Used to Build the plant Package (and Maybe Soon Some Other Big Simulation Models in R). There is a look back at the evolution of Integral Projection Models from Mark Rees and Steve Ellner in How Did We Get Here From There? A Brief History of Evolving Integral Projection Models. In Inverse Modelling and IPMs: Estimating Processes from Incomplete Information Edgar González explains how you can estimate process that you can’t observe. And keep an eye out for Brittany Teller’s blog post coming next week!

Don’t wait too long to get the Demography Beyond the Population Special Feature papers though, they’re freely available for a limited time only

Continue reading

Methods in Ecology and Evolution 2015: The Year in Review

Happy New Year! We hope that you all had a wonderful Winter Break and that you’re ready to start 2016. We’re beginning the year with a look back at some of our highlights of 2015. Here’s how last year looked at Methods in Ecology and Evolution.

The Articles

We published some amazing articles in 2015, too many to mention them all here. However, we would like to say a massive thank you to all of the authors, reviewers and editors who contributed to the journal last year. Without your hard work, knowledge and generosity, the journal would not be where it is today. We really appreciate all of your time and effort. THANK YOU!

mee312268_CoverOpportunities at the Interface between Ecology and Statistics

There was only one Special Feature in the journal this year, but it was a great one. Arising from the 2013 Eco-Stats Symposium at the University of New South Wales and guest edited by Associate Editor David Warton, Opportunities at the Interface between Ecology and Statistics was one of the highlights of 2015 for us. It consists of seven articles written collaboratively by statisticians and ecologists and highlights the benefits of cross-disciplinary partnerships. Continue reading

New Associate Editor: Anne Chao

Today, we are pleased to be welcoming a new member of the Methods in Ecology and Evolution Associate Editor Board. Anne Chao joins us from the National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan and you can find out a little more about her below.

Anne Chao

Anne Chao

“I am 60% statistician, 30% mathematician and 10% ecologist. Mathematical and statistical problems in ecology and evolution fascinate me. My current research interests include statistical inferences of biodiversity measures (for example taxonomic, phylogenetic, and functional diversities along with related similarity/differentiation indices), and statistical analysis of ecological and environmental survey data (such as standardising biological samples and rarefaction/extrapolation techniques).”

Anne has been very engaged with the journal over the past few years as a regular reviewer and as an author. Her first article in Methods, Entropy and the species accumulation curve‘ (written with YT Wang and Lou Jost) was published in 2013 and is now freely available. Continue reading

Issue 6.11

Issue 6.11 is now online!

The November issue of Methods is now online!

This month’s issue contains two Applications articles and one Open Access article, all of which are freely available.

mvMORPH: A package of multivariate phylogenetic comparative methods for the R statistical environment which allows fitting a range of multivariate evolutionary models under a maximum-likelihood criterion. Its use can be extended to any biological data set with one or multiple covarying continuous traits.

Low-cost soil CO2 efflux and point concentration sensing systems: The authors use commercially available, low-cost and low-power non-dispersive infrared (NDIR) CO2 sensors to develop a soil CO2 efflux system and a point CO2 concentration system. Their methods enable terrestrial ecologists to substantially improve the characterization of CO2 fluxes and concentrations in heterogeneous environments.

This month’s Open Access article comes from Jolyon Troscianko and Martin Stevens. In ‘Image calibration and analysis toolbox – a free software suite for objectively measuring reflectance, colour and pattern‘ they introduce a toolbox that can convert images to correspond to the visual system (cone-catch values) of a wide range of animals, enabling human and non-human visual systems to be modelled. The toolbox is freely available as an addition to the open source ImageJ software and will considerably enhance the appropriate use of digital cameras across multiple areas of biology. In particular, researchers aiming to quantify animal and plant visual signals will find this useful. This article received some media attention upon Early View publication over the summer. You can read the Press Release about it here.

Our November issue also features articles on Population Genetics, Macroevolution, Modelling species turnover, Abundance modelling, Measuring stress and much more. Continue reading

New Associate Editors

Over the next few weeks we will be welcoming three new Associate Editors to Methods in Ecology and Evolution. Susan Johnston (University of Edinburgh, UK) became a member of the Associate Editor Board on Monday 5 October. She will be joined on 19 October by Natalie Cooper (Natural History Museum, London, UK) and finally by Luísa Carvalheiro (University of Brasília, Brazil) on 2 November. You can find out more about all three of our new Associate Editors below.

Susan Johnston

Susan Johnston“My research focuses on using genomic information to understand evolution in natural populations. I adapt mixed model approaches to determine the genetic architecture of interesting traits (e.g. estimating heritability, genome-wide association studies, outlier analyses) to examine its relationship with fitness or importance in local adaptation. I am interested in the potential of affordable genomics to answer evolutionary and ecological questions in wild systems, and how to deal with various statistical issues arising from such studies in small and/or structured populations.”

Susan’s most recently published article is ‘Low but significant genetic differentiation underlies biologically meaningful phenotypic divergence in a large Atlantic salmon population‘, co-authored with T. Aykanat, P. Orell, E. Niemelä, J. Erkinaro and C.R. Primmer. The findings suggest that different evolutionary processes affect sub-populations of Atlantic salmon and that hybridization and subsequent selection may maintain low genetic differentiation without hindering adaptive divergence. This article was published in Molecular Ecology.

Natalie Cooper

Natalie Cooper“I am an evolutionary biologist, focusing mainly on macroevolution and macroecology. My interests include phylogenetic comparative methods, morphological evolution, using museum specimens in research, and integrating neontological and palaeontological data and approaches for understanding broad-scale patterns of biodiversity.”

Natalie has recently been published in Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution (‘Effects of missing data on topological inference using a Total Evidence approach‘ with T. Guillerme) and in Evolution (‘Investigating evolutionary lag using the species-pairs evolutionary lag test (SPELT)‘ with C.L. Nunn). She was also a speaker at the Methods in Ecology and Evolution 5th Anniversary Symposium. Her presentation, ‘Limitations of Phylogenetic Comparative Methods‘, is freely available on YouTube.

Luísa Carvalheiro

Luisa Carvalheiro“My research focuses on community ecology & conservation. I have particular interest in the study of dynamics of biodiversity through time and space; and on the evaluation of how such biotic changes affect ecosystem functioning and ecosystem services, considering how the complex network of ecological interactions in which species are integrated mediates such changes.”

Earlier this year Luísa’s article ‘Susceptibility of pollinators to ongoing landscape changes depends on landscape history‘ (with J. Aguirre-Gutiérrez, J.C. Biesmeijer, E.E. van Loon, M. Reemer, and M.F. Wallis De Vries) was published in Diversity and Distributions. The article emphasizes the limited value of a one-size-fits-all biodiversity conservation measures and highlights the importance of considering landscape history when planning biodiversity conservation actions. This article is Open Access. Luísa was also the lead author of ‘The potential for indirect effects between co-flowering plants via shared pollinators depends on resource abundance, accessibility and relatedness‘ an Open Access article published in Ecology Letters last year.

We are thrilled to welcome Susan, Natalie and Luísa to the Associate Editor Board and we look forward to working with them over the coming years.

International Day for Biological Diversity 2015

Happy International Day for Biological Diversity everyone!

As you may know, today (Friday 22 May) is the United Nations Day for Biodiversity and we are celebrating by highlighting some of the best papers that have been published on biodiversity in Methods in Ecology and Evolution. This is by no means an exhaustive list and you can find many more articles on similar topics on the Wiley Online Library (remember, if you are a member of the BES, you can access all Methods articles free of charge).

If you would like to learn more about the International Day for Biological Diversity, you may wish to visit the Convention on Biological Diversity website, follow them on Twitter or check out today’s hashtag: #IBD2015.

Without further ado though, here are a few of the best Methods papers on Biological Diversity:

Methods Cover - August 2012Biodiversity Soup

We begin with an Open Access article from one of our Associate Editors, Douglas Yu (et al.). This article was published in the August issue of 2012 and focuses on the metabarcoding of arthropods. The authors present protocols for the extraction of ecological, taxonomic and phylogenetic information from bulk samples of arthropods. They also demonstrate that metabarcoding allows for the precise estimation of pairwise community dissimilarity (beta diversity) and within-community phylogenetic diversity (alpha diversity), despite the inevitable loss of taxonomic information.

Continue reading

Issue 6.3

Issue 6.3 is now online!

The March issue of Methods is now online!

We have three freely available Applications articles in this issue. Anyone can access these with no subscription required and no charge to download.

TR8: This R package was built to provide plant scientists with a simple tool for retrieving plant functional traits from freely accessible online traitbases.

StereoMorph: A new R package for the rapid and accurate collection of 3D landmarks and curves using two standard digital cameras.

MotionMeerkat: A new standalone program that identifies motion events from a video stream. This tool reduces the time needed to review videos and accommodates a variety of inputs.

This month we have a total of FIVE Open Access articles. That makes eight articles in this issue of Methods in Ecology and Evolution that you can read for free!

Continue reading

Latest issue and other articles

A dragonfly

Cover image for issue 3.4 © Dennis Paulson.

Issue 3.4

Our latest issue covers an impressive array of subjects: from metabarcoding (with associated presentation), to population genetics and population monitoring (with video explaining a microphone array system). Modelling and monitoring dispersal also features heavily with four articles, one of which is accompanied by a video for a novel telemetry system to track wild animals. Articles also include topics such as transient dynamics, a review on hormone assay, phylogenetic comparative analysis, stable isotopes (featuring our cover article), plant physiology and finally, statistical methods.

About the cover

Stable-isotope ratios measured in migrating animals have proven to be of great value in understanding migration. For example, when a dragonfly emerges from the water, the isotope signature in that water body is fixed in its wing tissues, which thus provide information about its geographic origin. In A dragonfly (δ2H) isoscape for North America: a new tool for determining natal origins of migratory aquatic emergent insects,  Keith Hobson, David Soto, Dennis Paulson, Leonard Wassenaar and John Matthews compared the isotope value from dragonfly wings of known origin with spatially explicit isoscapes based on water isotopes in precipitation. The relationship was strong, confirming the value of the method to study dragonfly migration.

One of the species used in the analysis was Pachydiplax longipennis. This individual was photographed at Red Slough Wildlife Management Area, Oklahoma. Photo © Dennis Paulson.

Early View articles

Also, these recently accepted articles have appeared on Early View:

Rapid determination of comparative drought tolerance traits: using an osmometer to predict turgor loss point by Megan K. Bartlett, Christine Scoffoni, Rico Ardy, Ya Zhang, Shanwen Sun, Kunfang Cao and Lawren Sack

Free application: taxonstand: An r package for species names standardisation in vegetation databases by Luis Cayuela, Íñigo Granzow-de la Cerda, Fabio S. Albuquerque and Duncan J. Golicher

Projecting species’ range expansion dynamics: sources of systematic biases when scaling up patterns and processes by Greta Bocedi, Guy Pe’er, Risto K. Heikkinen, Yiannis Matsinos and Justin M. J. Travis

Review: Temporal dynamics and network analysis by Benjamin Blonder, Tina W. Wey, Anna Dornhaus, Richard James and Andrew Sih

Related

Issue 3.2

Aerial photograph of a forest

Cover image for issue 3.2
© Getzin & Wiegand – Biodiversity Exploratories

About the issue

With topics ranging from phylogenetic analysis to statistics and distribution modelling, conservation, citizen science, surveys, genetic and demographic models to avian biology, our issue 3.2 should be of interest to most ecologists and evolutionary biologists. The issue also contains 5 free applications.

About the cover

This very high-resolution image of a beech-dominated forest in central Germany was taken by an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) at 250 meter above ground. In this photograph one can clearly recognize individual tree crowns and even smallest gaps. UAVs are increasingly used for ecological surveys because they provide extremely fine resolutions and thus allow the identification of previously undetected object details. Furthermore, UAVs can be considered as very cost-effective tools for the acquisition of data that can be used also very flexibly.

In Assessing biodiversity in forests using very high-resolution images and unmanned aerial vehicles Getzin, Wiegand and Schöning tested the hypothesis that gap-structural information on aerial images can be principally used for the ecological assessment of understorey plant diversity in forests. The authors demonstrate that spatially implicit information on gap shape metrics is indeed sufficient to reveal strong dependency between gap patterns as a filter for incoming light and plant biodiversity. The study highlights that understorey biodiversity can be actively controlled by the spatial quality, and not just quantity, of tree removal. Thus, even under the same quota of tree harvesting, the promotion of complex and irregularly shaped gaps may be beneficial to foster biodiversity in forests.

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