2019 Robert May Prize Winner: Corneile Minnaar

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 2019 winner is Corneile Minnaar, for his article ‘Using quantum dots as pollen labels to track the fates of individual pollen grains‘.

A central component of an organism’s fitness is its ability to successfully reproduce. This includes finding a potential mate and successful mating. For plants, movement of pollen from an anther to a conspecific stigma is essential for successful reproduction, but directly tracking movement of individual pollen grains heretofore has been impossible (with the exception of those species of orchids and milkweeds whose pollen comes in large packages (pollinia)). Knowing how pollen move around, whether or not they successfully fertilize ovules, is also central to understanding the evolution and ecology of flowering plants (angiosperms) and floral traits.

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Working from Home, Isolation and Staying Sane

Post provided by Graziella Iossa

Since I’ve been working from home and self-isolating for health reasons since the end of last summer, I thought that a post around the strategies that have helped me during this time might be useful.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

If you cant go to work to do the science,
the science comes home with you!
©Chloe Robinson

So, first and foremost, your mental health. It’s really hard to concentrate on anything work-related if you’re not in the right mental state. Of course, these are not ordinary times, so making sure that family, friends and those we care about are doing well, would be my first step. When I feel anxious about the times ahead, the single most important thing that helps me to deal with anxiety is having those who I care for the most, close by. If that’s not possible because they’re self-isolating, keeping in touch remotely regularly is the next best thing. Developmental psychologists recognise that human motivation is linked to a hierarchy of needs: if the most basic needs are not met, more complex needs cannot be fulfilled. In a pandemic, it’s likely that our priorities will change and we need to adapt to them, this might take a while and that’s to be expected.

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Issue 11.4: Population Dynamics, Machine Learning, Morphometrics and More

The April issue of Methods is now online!

The latest issue of Methods in Ecology and Evolution is now online! This month’s issue is a little shorter than our last few. But, as they say, good things come in small packages!

Senior Editor Lee Hsiang Liow has selected six Featured Articles this month. You can find out about all of them below. We’ve also got five Applications articles and a Practical Tools article in the April issue that we’re going to cover. Those six papers are freely available to everyone – no subscription required!

On top of all that, the April issue includes articles on camera traps, land cover classification, presence-absence sampling and more.

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Hyperoverlap: Detecting Overlap in n-Dimensional Space

Post provided by Matilda Brown, Barbara Holland, and Greg Jordan

Overlap can help us to learn why Microcachrys
is now only found in the mountains of
Tasmania. ©Greg Jordan

There are many reasons that we might be interested in whether individuals, species or populations overlap in multidimensional space.  In ecology and evolution, we might be interested in climatic overlap, morphological overlap, phenological or biochemical overlap. We can use analyses of overlap to study resource partitioning, evolutionary histories and palaeoenvironmental conditions, or to inform conservation management and taxonomy. Even these represent only a subset of the possible cases in which we might want to investigate overlap between entities. Databases such as GBIF, TRY and WorldClim make vast amounts of data publicly available for these investigations. However, these studies require complex multivariate data and distilling such data into meaningful conclusions is no walk in the park.

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How Do You Measure Birdsong? Introducing Chipper

Post provided by Abigail Searfoss and Nicole Creanza

Today, science extends beyond the research bench or the fieldsite more often than ever before. Scientists are continuously interacting with educators and the general public, and people are reciprocating the interest with a drive to be involved.

A chipping sparrow. ©Kathy Malone, Nashville
chapter of the Tennessee Ornithology Society.

With this integration of science and the public, citizen-science efforts to crowdsource information have become increasingly popular (check out Zooniverse, SciStarter, NASA Citizen Science Projects, Project FeederWatch, and Foldit to get involved!). In the birding community, enthusiasts have been observing and recording birds for decades, but now there are methods for immediate data sharing among the community (eBird).

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Using Shark Scales to Unlock the Secrets of Historical Shark Communities on Coral Reefs

Post provided by Erin Dillon

Close your eyes for a second and imagine a coral reef. What do you think the shark community on that reef looked like historically?

Grey reef sharks on Palmyra Atoll’s forereef. ©Darcy Bradley.

Perhaps you imagined a remote reef with high shark abundance like Fakarava, French Polynesia or Palmyra Atoll, Northern Line Islands. Maybe you thought of a marine protected area such as Jardines de la Reina National Park in Cuba. Or perhaps you relied on your own memories from snorkeling on reefs in the past or photos of reefs taken decades ago.

The answer to this question depends on a reef’s location, given that shark abundances can vary with primary productivity and other oceanographic features. It also depends on which time period you chose as your reference point. Shark abundances can fluctuate over the course of a few hours – as well as over days to years to decades and beyond. Even if you chose the same time and place as the person before you, you might have come up with a slightly different answer. This variation in how we determine baselines – overlaid on a backdrop of natural variation in shark communities over space and time – can contribute to differing perceptions about what’s natural or what a depleted population can possibly be restored to.

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Ideas Brought to Life Through BES Hackathon

Post provided by Tom August

Introduction to the Hackathon

Hackathon participants with their awards.

Hackathons have become a regular feature in the data-science world. Get a group of people with a shared interest together, give them data, food, and a limited amount of time and see what they can produce (often with prizes to be won). Translated into the world of academia as research hackathons, these events are a fantastic way to foster collaboration, interdisciplinary working and skills sharing.

The Quantitative Ecology hackathon was an intense day of coding resulting in creative and innovative research ideas using social and ecological data. Teams worked through the day to develop their ideas with support from experts in R, open science and statistics. We ended up with five projects addressing questions from, ‘Who has the least access to nature?’ to ‘Where should citizen scientists go to collect new data?’.

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Issue 11.3: Tracking, Slicing, Classifying, Modelling and More

The March issue of Methods is now online!

The latest issue of Methods in Ecology and Evolution is now online! This month’s issue is a little shorter than our last few. But, as they say, good things come in small packages!

Executive Editor Aaron Ellison has selected six Featured Articles this month. You can find out about all of them below. We’ve also got five Applications articles in the March issue that we’re going to cover.

On top of all that, the March issue includes articles on 3D modelling, estimating plant density and more.

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2019 Robert May Early Career Researcher Prize Shortlist

Each year Methods in Ecology and Evolution awards the Robert May Prize to the best paper in the journal by an author at the start of their career. Today we present the shortlisted papers for 2019’s award, based on articles published in volume 10 of the journal.

The winner will be chosen by the journal’s Senior Editors in a few weeks. Keep an eye on the blog for the announcement.

This year’s shortlisted candidates are:

Extracting individual trees from lidar point clouds using treeseg – Andrew Burt

A quantitative framework for investigating the reliability of empirical network construction – Alyssa R. Cirtwill

A novel biomechanical approach for animal behaviour recognition using accelerometers – Pritish Chakravarty

Anacapa Toolkit: An environmental DNA toolkit for processing multilocus metabarcode datasets – Emily E. Curd

MistNet: Measuring historical bird migration in the US using archived weather radar data and convolutional neural networks – Tsung‐Yu Lin

Using quantum dots as pollen labels to track the fates of individual pollen grains – Corneile Minnaar

Untangling direct species associations from indirect mediator species effects with graphical models – Gordana C. Popovic

Matrix methods for stochastic dynamic programming in ecology and evolutionary biology – Jody R. Reimer

Current and emerging statistical techniques for aquatic telemetry data: A guide to analysing spatially discrete animal detections – Kim Whoriskey

Over the next month or so, we’ll be finding out more about these articles. You’ll be able to keep up to date with all of the Robert May Prize news here.

Issue 11.2: Stable Isotopes, in situ Monitoring, Image Analysis and more

The February issue of Methods is now online!

The latest issue of Methods in Ecology and Evolution is now online!

Executive Editor Rob Freckleton has selected six Featured Articles this month. You can find out about all of them below. We’ve also got six Applications articles and five Open Access articles in the February issue – we’ll talk about all of those here too.

On top of all that, the February issue includes articles on population genetics, ecological assemblages, and reconstruction of protein sequences.

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