How to Sample Nectar of Flowers at Height

Post provided by Daniela Scaccabarozzi, Tristan Campbell and Kenneth Dods.

Daniela Scaccabarozzi, Tristan Campbell and Kenneth Dods tell us about the logistical challenges of sampling flowers at height and their new ground-based method for overcoming these problems.

Operational maneuvers while using the practical ground-based tool for nectar collection, prior to placing the organza bag over the inflorescence. Picture credit: Tristan Campbell.

Sampling flower nectar from forest canopies is logistically challenging, as it requires physical access to the canopy at a height greater than can be achieved by hand. The most common solutions comprise the use of cherry pickers, cranes or tree climbers, however these techniques are generally expensive, complex to organise, and often involve additional safety risk assessment and specialised technicians.

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In the Spotlight: Wife-Wife Ecologists

Post provided by Chloe and Jessica Robinson

 

For LGBTQ+ Pride month, we are inviting LGBTQ+-identifying ecologists and evolutionary biologists to share their experiences of being LGBTQ+ in their field and present their thoughts on how the STEM can improve lives for LGBTQ+ individuals. For this post, wife-wife team Chloe and Jessica Robinson from Centre for Biodiversity Genomics at the University of Guelph, share their experiences of being married ecologists in STEM.

Jessica (left) and Chloe Robinson (right) met whilst studying at Swansea University.

C: “Find a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life” is a quote many of us are familiar with and it is something I have always strived to achieve. In my experience, by adding “Find a job you love & someone who shares your passion and you’ll never have to work a day in your life” to this quote gives the recipe for a happy marriage also. That ‘someone’ for me is my wife, Jessica.

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In the Spotlight: LGBTQ+ Ecologists and Evolutionary Biologists

Post provided by Vishwadeep Mane

For Pride Month, we are inviting LGBTQ+-identifying ecologists and evolutionary biologists to share their experiences of being LGBTQ+ in their field and present their thoughts on how the STEM can improve lives for LGBTQ+ individuals. First up we have Vishwadeep Mane, a first-year microbiology PhD student at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru.

Vishwadeep Mane shares his experience of being LGBTQ+ in microbiology.

Hello Everyone! Namaste! The world today is on the brink of a whole new era, an era of rethinking better. The Pandemic portrayed the necessity of sustainable reforms that are imperative for adapting to newer situations. Nevertheless, it brought the whole world together, gave us a reason to fight, love and respect. This month marks the ‘rebellion’ that gave voices to many unheard stories and changed the course of life of many individuals. To a greater extent, it helped in making this world a place for all with equality and respect. This ‘rebellion’ gave the moment of ‘Pride’ to possibly everyone unique in their own way. Happy Pride Month to all of you!

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Biomechanically-Aware Behaviour Recognition using Accelerometers

Post provided by Pritish Chakravarty

 

Accelerometers, Ground Truthing, and Supervised Learning

Accelerometers are sensitive to movement and the lack of it. They are not sentient and must recognise animal behaviour based on a human observer’s cognition. Therefore, remote recognition of behaviour using accelerometers requires ground truth data which is based on human observation or knowledge. The need for validated behavioural information and for automating the analysis of the vast amounts of data collected today, have resulted in many studies opting for supervised machine learning approaches.

Ground-truthing. The acceleration data stream (recorded using the animal-borne data logger, bottom-left) is synchronised with simultaneously recorded video (near top right). Picture credit: Kamiar Aminian

In such approaches, the process of ground truthing involves time-synchronising acceleration signals with simultaneously recorded video, having an animal behaviour expert create an ethogram, and then annotate the video according to this ethogram. This links the recorded acceleration signal to the stream of observed animal behaviours that produced it. After this, acceleration signals are chopped up into finite sections of pre-set size (e.g. two seconds), called windows. From acceleration data within windows, quantities called ‘features’ are engineered with the aim of summarising characteristics of the acceleration signal. Typically, ~15-20 features are computed. Good features will have similar values for the same behaviour, and different values for different behaviours.

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Methods for Ocean Conservation: World Ocean’s Day 2020

Post provided by Chloe Robinson

 

Whether you refer to them as the ‘briny deep’, the ‘seven seas’ or ‘Davy Jones’ locker’, the world’s oceans play a huge part in all of our lives. Consisting of 70% of the earth’s surface, oceans driving global weather patterns, through regulating a conveyor belt of heat from the equator to the poles. Oceans are also teeming with life, from single-celled organisms to large apex predators, such as the killer whale (Orcinus orca).

Male killer whale exhaling. Photo credit: Chloe Robinson/Sea Watch Foundation.

As with every other ecosystem on earth, the world’s oceans and the marine life they provide a home to, are under increasing pressure from human-related activities. At the 1992 Earth Summit, Canada proposed the concept of a World Ocean Day as a day to celebrate our oceans and to raise awareness about the crucial role the ocean plays in our lives and the important ways people can help protect it. Since 2002, the Ocean Project has been coordinating and promoting of World Ocean Day.

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10th Anniversary Volume 2: Methods for Collaboratively Identifying Research Priorities and Emerging Issues in Science and Policy

Post provided by William J Sutherland, Erica Fleishman, Michael Mascia, Jules Pretty and Murray Rudd

10th anniversary logo

To celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the launch of Methods in Ecology and Evolution, we are highlighting an article from each volume to feature in the Methods.blog. For Volume 2, we have selected ‘Methods for Collaboratively Identifying Research Priorities and Emerging Issues in Science and Policy’ by Sutherland et al. (2011).  In this post, the authors discuss the background and key concepts of the article, and changes in the relation between science and policy since the paper was published.

 

The Knowledge Cycle: an idealistic conceptual model of Science-Policy Interaction. Picture credit: Job Dronkers (2019): Science-Policy Interaction.

Between the late 1990s and early 2000s, recognition of the value of scientific evidence to government decision-making grew. As interest in projecting future issues to inform policy decisions increased, we recognised that ecologists did not have the methods to conduct this type of work effectively. In the United Kingdom, the Government Office for Science established the Foresight programme to support policy making; scientific advisory committees became common, and every Ministry appointed a Chief Scientist. Given this context, we explored the use of horizon scans to assess the future and better understand uncertainties.

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10th Anniversary Volume 1: The Art of Modelling Range-Shifting Species

Post provided by Jane Elith, Mike Kearney and Steven Phillips  

10th anniversary logo

To celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the launch of Methods in Ecology and Evolution, we are highlighting an article from each volume to feature in the Methods.blog. For Volume 1, we have selected ‘The art of modelling range-shifting species’ by Elith et al. (2010).  In this post, first author, Professor Jane Elith, discusses the background and key concepts of the article, and how things have changed since the paper was published.

Illustration of the idea that model settings affect prediction.

We started work on this manuscript around 2008, prompted by increasing use of species distribution models for climate change and invasive species problems. At that stage there was growing recognition of the problems in these applications (e.g. see a recent MEE review on transferability) but relatively few tools for dealing with them. In our view, if correlative models are to be used for such purposes, the data and models require special attention.

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Gaining Genetic and Epigenetic Data from a Single Established Next-Generation Sequencing Approach

Post provided by Marco Crotti

How organisms adapt to the environment they live in is a key question in evolutionary biology. Genetic variation, i.e. how individuals within populations differ from each other in terms of their DNA, is an essential element in the process of adaptation. It can arise through different mechanisms, including DNA mutations, genetic drift, and recombination.

Example of how genetic drift can occur over generations via random sampling (i.e. random mating) in a population. (Picture credit: Gringer).

Differences in DNA sequences between individuals can results in differences in the expression of genes. This can therefore determine the organism’s capacity to grow, develop, and react to environmental stimuli. However, a growing body of literature reveals that there are other ways organisms can change the way they interact with the world without mutations in the DNA sequence.

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The Ecology of Dance

Post provided by Chloe Robinson

Dance has been part of human culture for millennia. Some scholars refer to dance as a specific language, dependent on the space and time in which it exists and dependent on the power structures that rule in that time. April 29th marks International Dance Day; a day initiated in 1982 by the International Dance Committee of the UNESCO International Theatre Institute to commemorate the birthday of Jean-Georges Noverre, a distinguished French choreographer.

Male Maratus volans peacock spider. Picture credit: Jürgen Otto.

For humans, dance is considered a sacred ritual, sometimes a form of communication and sometimes an important social and courtship activity. A recent study has even linked the innate ability to dance with greater survival rates in prehistoric times. However, for certain species of wild animal, dance-like behaviours are crucial for communication and mating. In this blog, I am going to highlight the evolutionary foundations of dance in wild animals and explore some of the ways that dance is used in ecology.

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Earth Day 2020: Monitoring Biodiversity for Climate Action

Post provided by Chloe Robinson

The demands of a growing human population are putting increasing pressure on the Earth’s natural systems and services. Dubbed the ‘Anthropocene’, we are currently living in a period where human actions are directly altering many earth processes, including atmospheric, geologic, hydrologic and biospheric processes. Climatic change and the resulting consequences, including rising temperatures, changing precipitation (i.e. rainfall, snow etc) and increase in frequency of storm events, represent the biggest challenge to our future and the life-support ecosystems that make our world habitable.

Artist’s interpretation of global climate change. Photo credit: Pete Linforth/Pixabay.

In 1970, Earth Day was launched as a modern environmental movement and a unified response to an environment in crisis. Earth Day has provided a platform for action, resulting in the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), The Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts in the US and more globally. This year, 22 April marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and the number one environmental crisis theme which needs immediate attention is ‘Climate Action’. Many of our ecosystems on earth are degrading at an alarming pace and we are currently experiencing a species loss at a rate of tens or hundreds of times faster than in the past. 

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