Issue 9.1 is now online!

Our first issue of 2018, which includes our latest Special Feature – “Qualitative methods for eliciting judgements for decision making” – is now online!

This new Special Feature is a collection of five articles (plus an Editorial from Guest Editors Bill Sutherland, Lynn Dicks, Mark Everard and Davide Geneletti) brings together authors from a range of disciplines (including ecology, human geography, political science, land economy and management) to examine a set of qualitative techniques used in conservation research. They highlight a worrying extent of poor justification and inadequate reporting of qualitative methods in the conservation literature.

As stated by the Guest Editors in their Editorial “these articles constitute a useful resource to facilitate selection and use of some common qualitative methods in conservation science. They provide a guide for inter-disciplinary researchers to gauge the suitability of each technique to their research questions, and serve as a series of checklists for journal editors and reviewers to determine appropriate reporting.”

All of the articles in the ‘Qualitative methods for eliciting judgements for decision making‘  Special Feature are all freely available.

This month’s issue also includes two Applications articles 

r.pi: r.pi is a patch-based spatial analysis system (r.pi) integrated natively into a Free and Open Source GIS (grass gis). It can analyse large amounts of satellite derived land cover data in a semi-automatic manner, and to ensure high reproducibility and robustness.

 simul.comms: an R function that allows users to test the efficacy of functional diversity indices by easily creating artificial species communities with user-specified abundance and trait distributions for continuous, ordinal and categorical traits.

… And four(!) Open Access articles

The first two Open Access articles in the January issue of Methods in Ecology and Evolution are part of the ‘Qualitative methods for eliciting judgements for decision making’ Special Feature. In ‘The use of focus group discussion methodology: Insights from two decades of application in conservation‘, Nyumba et al. reviewed the applications of focus group discussion within biodiversity and conservation research between 1996 and April 2017. The authors noted serious gaps in the reporting of the methodological details in the reviewed papers, but they have provided guidelines to improve the standard of reporting and future application of the technique for conservation.

Mukherjee et al. compare six techniques for ‘how’ to make decisions in ‘Comparison of techniques for eliciting views and judgements in decision-making‘. These include Focus Group Discussion (FGD), Interviews, Q methodology, Multi-criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA), Nominal Group Technique and the Delphi technique. The comparison of the different techniques might be useful for project managers, academics or practitioners in the planning phases of their projects and help in making better informed methodological choices.

Our first Open Access article outside of the Special Feature is ‘Radiocarbon in ecology: Insights and perspectives from aquatic and terrestrial studies‘. In this Review Article, Larsen et al. suggest that using 14C as an additional source tracer will be particularly rewarding when combined with compound-specific stable isotope analyses because the information that can be drawn from both approaches are highly complementary. Taken together, these advances will expand the possibilities of accurately determine the origins and fate of carbon through food webs.

This month’s cover image comes from our final Open Access article: ‘Processing of acceleration and dive data on-board satellite relay tags to investigate diving and foraging behaviour in free-ranging marine predators‘ by Cox et al. It shows a juvenile southern elephant seal (Mirounga leonina) at Kerguelen Islands in the sub-Antarctic, having returned from its first trip at-sea at the end of the austral winter to moult (around October/November).  These excursions may last in excess of 6 months, during which individuals can travel distances exceeding 1000s of kilometres from their natal colonies.  The trips are completed alone with no parental guidance.  During these times, high mortality rates of around 50% are typically observed.  Obtaining information on the behaviours of such free-ranging marine animals is challenging, and generally relies on animal-attached biologging devices.

Using juvenile southern elephant seals, Cox et al. developed new data abstraction techniques, which can be implemented on-board animal-attached biologging technology to create fine-scale behavioural summaries from accelerometer data, thus enabling near-real-time transmission.  Devices were retrieved from 9 (out of 20) equipped individuals which, like the pictured juvenile, successfully completed their first trips at sea and returned to the Kerguelen Islands.  This gave access to the original high resolution archives, which were subsequently used to assess and validate the performance of the new methods developed in this study.  The data abstraction and transmission techniques analysed and presented by Cox et al. will be particularly useful in the monitoring and study of animals from which device retrieval is challenging/near-impossible (e.g. those individuals/species with high mortality rates and/or that make long trips at sea ranging far from land, such as the pictured juvenile elephant seal).  These methods can provide novel insight of otherwise unobservable behaviours and movements.

Photo: © Florian Orgeret

To keep up to date with Methods newest content, have a look at our Accepted Articles and Early View articles, which will be included in forthcoming issues.