Googling for Ecological Answers: Using the Morphic Web Application

Post provided by Gabriella Leighton

Online Images: A Treasure Trove of Ecological Data

In the proclaimed ‘information age’, where answers are available at the click of a button or a swipe of a finger, we have become accustomed to the ability to get an almost instant grasp of any topic. Other fields are already making use of this wealth of easily accessible online data, but biologists and ecologists tend to let it slip by. However, this attitude is slowly beginning to change. Some ecological and evolutionary studies are emerging that have used the internet to gather data – through online citizen science projects (e.g. Evolution MegaLab) or databases (e.g. using Google Trends) – but few have used existing data, particularly publicly available data from image repositories.

We were curious to apply the concept of using existing images on the internet to a fascinating visual biological phenomenon: colour polymorphism (or the occurrence of multiple discrete colour phenotypes). To do this, we planned to exploit an existing penchant people have for uploading photographs of animals to the Internet.

Our search phrases included the common and scientific name of the species, as well as a location-specific term

Our search phrases included the common and scientific name of the species, as well as a location-specific term

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2016 Robert May Prize Winner: Gabriella Leighton

The Robert May Prize is awarded annually for the best paper published in Methods in Ecology and Evolution by an Early Career Researcher. We’re delighted to announce that the 2016 winner is Gabriella Leighton, for her article ‘Just Google it: assessing the use of Google Images to describe geographical variation in visible traits of organisms.

‘Just Google it’ marks an important step in converting ecology to an armchair science. Many species (e.g. owls, hawks, bears) are difficult, time-consuming, expensive and even dangerous to observe. It would be a lot easier if we didn’t have to spend time, energy and risk lives having to observe organisms in the field! Continue reading

New Associate Editor: Will Pearse

Today, we are pleased to be welcoming a new member of the Methods in Ecology and Evolution Associate Editor Board. Will Pearse joins us from McGill University in Canada and you can find out a little more about him below.

Will Pearse

“I am an evolutionary ecologist and use phylogeny to link the evolution of species’ traits with their ecological community assembly. I’m interested in phylogenetic methods, macro-evolution of species’ traits, community assembly and developing new statistical tools for all of the above.”

Will is a former winner of the Robert May Early Career Researcher Award. He won the prize in 2013 for his Applications article ‘phyloGenerator: an automated phylogeny generation tool for ecologists‘ (co-authored with Andy Purvis). phyloGenerator is an open-source, stand-alone Python program, that makes use of pre-existing sequence data and taxonomic information to largely automate the estimation of phylogenies. He has also recently had a paper on a R package that allows for measurement, modelling and simulation of phylogenetic structure in ecological data published in Bioinformatics. The article, ‘pez: phylogenetics for the environmental sciences‘, was co-authored with Marc CadotteJeannine Cavender-BaresAnthony IvesCaroline TuckerSteve Walker and Matthew Helmus.

We are thrilled to welcome Will as a new Associate Editor and we look forward to working with him on the journal.

2015 Robert May Prize Winner: Kim Calders

The Robert May Prize is awarded annually for the best paper published in Methods in Ecology and Evolution by an Early Career Researcher. We’re delighted to announce that the 2015 winner is Kim Calders, for his article ‘Nondestructive estimates of above-ground biomass using terrestrial laser scanning.

Kim led the work on this article and had an international team of co-authors. They have developed a way to harness laser technology for use in measurements of vegetation structure of forests. The study is an important development in the monitoring of carbon stocks for worldwide climate policy-making. 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

2014 Robert May Prize Winner: Laure Gallien

The Robert May Prize is awarded annually for the best paper published in Methods by a young author at the start of their research career. We’re delighted to announce that the 2014 winner is Laure Gallien, for her article ‘Identifying the signal of environmental filtering and competition in invasion patterns – a contest of approaches from community ecology.

Today, biological invasions are of major concern for maintaining biodiversity. However, understanding what drives the success of invasive species at the scale of the community remains a challenge. Two processes have been described as main drivers of the coexistence between invasive and native species: environmental filtering and competitive interactions. However, recent reviews have shown that competitive interactions are rarely detected, and thus their importance as drivers of invasion success placed under question. But can this be due to pure methodological issues? Using a simulation model of community assembly, Laure and co-authors (Marta Carboni and Tamara Münkemüller) show that the infrequent detection of competition can arise from three important methodological shortcomings, and provide guidelines for future studies of invasion drivers at the scale of the community.

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