Movement Ecology: Stepping into the Mainstream

Post provided by Theoni Photopoulou

“Movement is the glue that ties ecological processes together”
from Francesca Cagnacci et al. 2010

CTD-SRDL telemetry tags being primed for deployment. ©Theoni Photopoulou

CTD-SRDL telemetry tags being primed for deployment. ©Theoni Photopoulou

Movement ecology is a cross-disciplinary field. Its main aim is to quantitatively describe and understand how movement relates to individual and population-level processes for resource acquisition and, ultimately, survival. Today the study of movement ecology hinges on two 21st century advances:

  1. Animal-borne devices/tags (biologging science, Hooker et al., 2007) and/or remote sensing technology to quantify movement and collect data from remote or otherwise challenging environments
  2. Computational power sufficient to manipulate, process and analyse substantial volumes of data

Although datasets often involve small numbers of individuals, each individual can have thousands – sometimes even millions – of data points associated with it. Study species have tended to be large birds and mammals, due to the ease of tag attachment. However, the trend for miniaturisation of tags and the development of remote detection technologies (such as radar, e.g. Capaldi et al., 2000), have allowed researchers to track and study ever smaller animals. Continue reading

Ecological Transcriptomics for Endangered Species: Avoiding the “Successful Operation, but the Patient Died” Problem


Ecological Transcriptomics and Endangered Species

 The small size of the rockpool and the salamander population makes non-invasive sampling a necessity (from left: Tamar Krugman, Alan Templeton, Leon Blaustein). © Arne Nolte

The small size of the rockpool and the salamander population makes non-invasive sampling a necessity (from left: Tamar Krugman, Alan Templeton, Leon Blaustein). © Arne Nolte

Friday was Endangered Species Day – so this is a good time to reflect on what science and scientists can do to support conservation efforts and to reduce the rate of species extinctions. One obvious answer is that we need to study endangered species to understand their habitat requirements as well as their potential for acclimatization and adaptation to changing environmental conditions. This information is crucial to for the design of informed conservation planning. However, for most endangered species the relevant phenotypes are not known a priori, which leaves the well-intentioned scientist asking “which traits should I measure?”. Transcriptome analysis is often a good way to answer to this question.

Transcriptome analysis measures the expression levels of thousands of genes in parallel. This amount of data circumvents the need to decide on a reduced number of traits of unknown relevance and allows for a relatively unbiased phenotypic screen of many traits. In particular, physiological changes, which often influence a species’ distributional range, can be studied using transcriptome analysis. Also, transcriptomics provide a direct connection to the genetic level. This is essential for in-depth analyses of aspects of evolution and might even be helpful for a new kind of conservation planning, which aims to foster endangered species by promoting (supposedly) beneficial hybridization. The integration of transcriptomic analysis with ecological studies is known as ‘Ecological transcriptomics’. Continue reading

Issue 6.7

Issue 6.7 is now online!

The July issue of Methods is now online!

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

fuzzySim: Binary similarity indices are widely used in ecology. This study proposes fuzzy versions of the binary similarity indices most commonly used in ecology, so that they can be directly applied to continuous (fuzzy) rather than binary occurrence values, producing more realistic similarity assessments. fuzzySim is an open source software package which is also available for R. A freely accessible, web-based analysis tool for complex activity data, provides cloud-based and automatic computation of daily aggregates of various activity parameters based on recorded immersion data. It provides maps and graphs for data exploration, download of processed data for modelling and statistical analysis, and tools for sharing results with other users.

Anna Sturrock et al. provide this month’s Open Access article. In ‘Quantifying physiological influences on otolith microchemistry‘ the authors test relationships between otolith chemistry and environmental and physiological variables. The influence of physiological factors on otolith composition was particularly evident in Sr/Ca ratios, the most widely used elemental marker in applied otolith microchemistry studies. This paper was reported on in the media recently. You can read more about it here.

Our July issue also features articles on Monitoring, Remote Sensing, Conservation, Genetics and three papers on Statistics. Continue reading

Top cited papers – part 1

ISI has only been indexing Methods in Ecology and Evolution for a short time, but some of our papers are already accumulating an impressive number of citations. Over the next few days we’ll be highlighting our most cited papers across a broad range of fields – just in case they’ve slipped you by.

Statistical methods in ecology & evolution

Modelling species and the environment

Physiological ecology

Check back tomorrow here for part 2, where we’ll be showcasing our top cited papers in plant monitoring and modelling, stable isotope ecology and community ecology, and come back on Monday for part 3, when we’ll be revealing our top papers in  population monitoring, climate change, evolutionary ecology and phylogenetics.