Post Provided by Aaron Ellison

I’m delighted to be the newest member of the diverse team of Senior and Associate Editors who have made Methods in Ecology and Evolution one of the premier journals in the field. After 15 years working on the lead editorial teams of Ecology and Ecological Monographs, I’m really looking forward to applying my editorial energies to the ESA’s friendly competitor on the other side of the ‘pond’.

My background includes:

  • an undergraduate degree in East Asian Philosophy
  • a PhD in evolutionary ecology
  • research and teaching on the natural history and population, community, and landscape ecology of plants and animals (mostly invertebrates) in the marine intertidal and subtidal, among salt marshes and mangroves, tropical and temperate forests, and carnivorous plant bogs
  • extensive forays into statistics, mathematics, and software engineering
  • increasing attention to the history and practice of art and architecture and their relationship to ecological theory
  • a quirky social-media persona
  • and more than two decades of work in editing and publishing journals with scientific societies.

All of these things contribute to my open, catholic approach to scientific research, teaching, and publishing, and their relationship to the broader world.

The editors of Methods are always interested in seeing papers on methodological advances and approaches that lead to new directions. We love reading about creative solutions for new challenges in ecological and evolutionary research and applications in the broadest sense. As a new Senior Editor, I’m especially hoping to encourage more papers in three areas: field methods (about which I’ve published two of my own papers in Methods), reproducibility, and science communication.

Field Methods

Selecting ant-sampling sites on Block Island, Rhode Island with Michael Bowie, Charles Akin, Quintavious Lowe, and Derrick Evans (participants in The Nature Conservancy’s “Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future” program). ©Aaron M. Ellison (CC-BY-NC)
Selecting ant-sampling sites on Block Island with Michael Bowie, Charles Akin, Quintavious Lowe, and Derrick Evans (part of “Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future” program). ©Aaron M. Ellison (CC-BY-NC)

As more and more projects focus on modeling and synthesis of existing data, it’s important to remember where those data come from. The data we harvest from filing cabinets (who remembers those?) and online repositories (not nearly as fireproof as filing cabinets!) were unlikely to have been collected to test au courant hypotheses or parameterize new models of interest. Researchers continue to go to the field to collect new data, often with experimental manipulations. This is partially because the resulting data may be more closely tied to focal hypotheses or models, but also because they became ecologists because they wanted to be working in the field!

Contemporary field methods range from sampling quadrats and piloting drones to ecosystem-scale manipulations that require novel engineering solutions. Our readers should know more about the diversity of innovative methods being developed that can be applied to more than one organism or system. For this reason, we will be launching a new article type next week – Practical Tools. These articles will focus on descriptions of new field techniques, equipment or lab protocols and allow our Applications articles to focus more on code and software. I’d be particularly interested in receiving papers about developing methods to study the ecology of cities (which are likely to be different from methods used to study ecology in cities).


Reproducibility is a fundamental tenet of science, and all aspects of ecological and evolutionary research should be repeatable and reproducible. Much of the focus of reproducibility in ecology to date has focused on making data and code available. But, increasingly, availability alone is not enough. Whilst software engineers are making great strides in packaging data and code together into ‘virtual machines’, museum and herbarium curators are imaging specimens and producing open, online collections. Experimentalists are also identifying ways to improve repeatability, particularly for temporally or spatially contingent experiments. Methods should be the first place that authors and readers should think of when writing about or looking for the latest tools and techniques to enabling reproducible and repeatable research in ecology and evolutionary biology.

Science Communication

Public programs like this one on ant identification at the Harris Center for Conservation Education bring natural history and ecology to new audiences. ©Joel Haberman (CC-BY-NC)
Public programs like this one on ant identification at the Harris Center for Conservation Education bring natural history and ecology to new audiences. ©Joel Haberman (CC-BY-NC)

Finally, we all need to remember that there’s a much broader audience for methods and for Methods. The journal has taken full advantage of a range of communication platforms—social media, apps, blogs, podcasts, and videos—to get the word out about the interesting research we publish. A whole section of the journal’s website is dedicated to how authors can better promote their articles, and the BES actively promotes public engagement with ecology. What’s missing to date are evaluations of these methods—what works, what doesn’t work, and why or why not. As a scientific journal, we would be remiss if we didn’t publish descriptions and analysis of successful methods of scientific communication.

And we’re also here to listen, so please send us your ideas for new methods, new directions, and new ways of thinking that will help all of us find new ways to explore the intellectual frontiers of ecology and evolution.