Celebrating World Soil Day 2019: DNA Metabarcoding Uncovers Tropical Forest Soil Microbiomes

Post provided by KATIE M. MCGEE

Tropical forest in Costa Rica ©Katie M. McGee

How much do you think about the world beneath your feet? Soil is essential for life on earth and provides many ecosystem services, including carbon storage and providing habitats for billions of organisms. But one third of our global soils are already degraded and are at risk of further degradation from human activities, such as unsustainable farming practices, industrial activities, mining and other non-environmentally friendly practices. In 2002, the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS) marked the 5th December as World Soil Day, to celebrate the importance of soil as a critical component of the natural system and as a vital contributor to human well-being.

To mark this World Soil Day, I’m going to be highlighting my recent study, which used DNA metabarcoding as a method to investigate soil microbiomes for evaluating the success of forest restoration in Costa Rica.

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Gwneud Tagiau’n Fwy Cyfleus:Optimeiddio Dyfeisiau Biogofnodi gyda Dynameg Hylifau Gyfrifiadurol

Post wedi’i ddarparu gan William Kay

This blog post is also available in English

Dyfeisiau llusgo a biogofnodi

A harbour seal tagged with a biologging device. ©Dr Abbo van Neer

Morlo harbwr gyda dyfais fiogofnodi wedi’i hatodi iddo. ©Dr Abbo van Neer

Michael Phelps yw un o’r athletwyr Olympaidd mwyaf clodfawr erioed, ynghyd â’r nofiwr cyflymaf yn y byd. Ac eto, gallai nofio’n gyflymach. Gan wisgo siwt arbennig LZR Racer Speedo, gallai Michael Phelps leihau’i lusgiad hydrodynamig, neu’i wrthiant dŵr, 40% neu fwy. O ganlyniad gallai ei gyflymdra nofio gynyddu dros 4%! Mewn cystadleuaeth, dyna’r gwahaniaeth rhwng gwobrau arian ac aur. Ond, petai Phelps yn anghofio tynnu’i “hosanau llusgo” –  sef hosanau rhwystrus a ddyluniwyd i gynyddu gwrthiant dŵr er mwyn cynyddu cryfder y nofiwr – caiff ei gyflymder ei leihau’n sylweddol. Byddai’n ffodus i ennill gwobr efydd!

Mae nofwyr proffesiynol yn gyfarwydd â defnyddio technolegau i wella eu perfformiad drwy leihau eu llusgiad ond ni all hynny gymharu â’r addasiadau a wnaed gan anifeiliaid gwyllt. Mae creaduriaid yn y môr wedi esblygu addasiadau anghredadwy i leihau llusgiad, megis lliflinio eithafol mewn mamaliaid ac adar y môr. Mae hyn yn eu galluogi i symud dan y dŵr mor gyflym ac effeithlon â phosib. Mae morloi, er enghraifft, yn eithaf afrosgo ar y tir ond maent yn osgeiddig ac yn gyflym o dan y dŵr. Mae siâp eu cyrff wedi’i ddylunio er mwyn iddynt symud yn gyflymaf pan fyddant yn nofio.

Pan fyddwn yn astudio mamaliaid y môr, rydym yn aml yn defnyddio dyfeisiau olrhain y gellir eu hatodi gan ddefnyddio harneisiau, glud neu sugnolion. Mae’r “dyfeisiau biogofnodi” hyn, a elwir hefyd yn dagiau, yn debyg i Fitbits. Mae atodi’r rhain i anifeiliaid yn ein galluogi i gofnodi symudiadau ac ymddygiad yr anifail, ynghyd â phethau eraill. Mae’r wybodaeth hon yn hanfodol o ran deall eu hecoleg a gwella’r ffordd y rheolir eu cadwraeth. Continue reading

Bats aren’t just for Halloween: Insectivorous Bats in North America

Post provided by CHLOE ROBINSON (@CVROBINSON92)

The Hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus) is the most widespread bat in the US. ©Veronica Zamora-Gutierrez

Hello! This is my first post as Blog Editor for Methods in Ecology and Evolution and I’m thrilled to be starting with an exciting, thought-provoking topic in the wake of Halloween. But first, let me introduce myself. I currently work as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Project Manager in the Hajibabaei Lab at the Centre for Biodiversity Genomics (University of Guelph, ON, Canada) and my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees are both from Swansea University (UK). My research background is largely focused around the application of environmental DNA (i.e. free DNA found in natural environments) to detect and monitor aquatic species and answer ecological questions through both single-species detection and DNA metabarcoding.

At the moment, I’m working on the STREAM project, which combines community-based monitoring with DNA metabarcoding to gain a better understanding of freshwater health across Canada. One of my favourite parts about being in this position is the opportunity to get involved with other research being conducted in the Hajibabaei Lab. This is how I branched out into the wonderful world of bat ecology. Continue reading

Reconnecting the Web of Life: Rewiring and Network Robustness

Post provided by VINICIUS A. G. BASTAZINI, JEF VIZENTIN-BUGONI and JINELLE H. SPERRY

Esta publicação no blogue também está disponível em português

Species Loss and Cascading Effects

Scale-throated Hermit (Phaethornis eurynome). ©Pedro Lorenzo.

Scale-throated Hermit (Phaethornis eurynome). ©Pedro Lorenzo.

Minimising the effects the ongoing Anthropocene mass extinction has become one of the main challenges of our era. The data suggest that the current rate of species loss is 100–1,000 greater than the background rates seen in the geological record. “But does it really matter if species are lost?” This question has permeated social and political debates. It’s usually used to demean conservation efforts. But it has also intrigued conservation scientists.

We know that species don’t occur alone in their environment. They’re entangled by their interactions, forming complex networks. In these networks the loss of one species may result in the loss of other species that depend on it. This process is known as co-extinction. Estimates of the magnitude of past and future extinction rates have often failed to account for the interdependence among species and the consequences of primary species loss on other species though. Continue reading

Religando a rede da vida: Reconexões de interações e a robustez de redes ecológicas

Postagem fornecida por VINICIUS A. G. BASTAZINI, JEF VIZENTIN-BUGONI and JINELLE H. SPERRY

This post is also available in English

Perda de espécies e efeitos em cascata

Scale-throated Hermit (Phaethornis eurynome). ©Pedro Lorenzo.

Rabo-branco-de-garganta-rajada (Phaethornis eurynome). ©Pedro Lorenzo.

Minimizar os efeitos do atual processo de extinção em massa do Antropoceno se tornou um dos principais desafios da nossa era. Os dados sugerem que a taxa atual de perda de espécies é 100-1.000 vezes maior do que as taxas de fundo observadas no registro geológico. “Mas realmente importa se uma espécie é perdida?” Essa questão que permeia os debates sociais e políticos, geralmente para desqualificar os esforços de conservação, também tem intrigado os cientistas da conservação.

Sabemos que as espécies não ocorrem sozinhas em seu ambiente. Elas estão  interligadas por suas interações ecológicas, formando redes complexas. Nessas redes, a perda de uma espécie pode resultar em um efeito dominó, culminando na perda secundária de outras espécies. Esse processo é conhecido como co-extinção. As estimativas da magnitude das taxas de extinção passadas e futuras muitas vezes falharam em explicar a interdependência entre as espécies e as conseqüências da perda primaria de espécies. Continue reading

Researchers Use Drones to Weigh Whales

Below is a press release about the Methods in Ecology and Evolution article ‘Estimating body mass of free‐living whales using aerial photogrammetry and 3D volumetrics‘ taken from the British Ecological Society.

A southern right whale female rolling on her side and exposing her lateral side to the surface while gently touching her calf. ©Fredrik Christiansen

Researchers have devised a way to accurately estimate the weight of free-living whales using only aerial images taken by drones. By measuring the body length, width and height of free-living southern right whales photographed by drones, researchers were able to develop a model that accurately calculated the body volume and mass of the whales.

Because of their large size and aquatic life, previously the only way to obtain data on the body mass of whales was to weigh dead or stranded individuals.

The innovative method can be used to learn more about the physiology and ecology of whales. “Knowing the body mass of free-living whales opens up new avenues of research. We will now be able to look at the growth of known aged individuals to calculate their body mass increase over time and the energy requirements for growth. We will also be able to look at the daily energy requirements of whales and calculate how much prey they need to consume.” said Assistant Professor Fredrik Christiansen from Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies in Denmark and lead author of the study. Continue reading

Meaningful Monitoring or Monitoring for the Sake of Monitoring? epower Helps You Tell the Difference

Post provided by REBECCA FISHER and GLENN R SHIELL

As environmental managers, we’re frequently asked to make judgements about the relative health of the environment. This is often difficult because, by its nature, the environment is highly variable in space and time. Ideally, such judgements should be informed by robust scientific investigation, or more precisely, the reliable interpretation of the resulting data.

Type I and Type II Errors

Even with robust investigations and good data, our interpretations can sometimes be wrong. In general, this happens when:

  • the investigation concludes that an impact has occurred, when in fact it hasn’t (Type I error)
  • fails to detect an impact, when an impact has actually occurred (Type II error).

Understanding the circumstances that lead to these errors is unfortunately complicated, and difficult unless you have a strong statistical background. Continue reading

Responding to New Weeds Needs Speed: Spatial Modelling with riskmapr Can Help

Post provided by JENS FROESE

Disclaimer: this post is NOT about the drug or the TV series, but about invasive alien plants. Yes, even biologists often refer to them as ‘weeds’.

Responding to New Weed Incursions

Responding to new weed incursions early and rapidly is very important. ©Panda8pie2

Responding to new weed incursions early and rapidly is very important. ©Panda8pie2

Weeds are a major threat to biodiversity and agricultural industries globally. New alien plant species are constantly introduced across borders, regions or landscapes. We know that some (such as those listed in the IUCN Global Invasive Species Database) are likely become problematic invasive weeds from experiences elsewhere.

When a weed is first introduced, population growth and spread is typically slow. This ‘invasion lag’ may be due to straightforward mathematics (population dynamics) as well as geography, environmental change or genetics. In any case, the lag period often presents the only window of opportunity where weed eradication or effective containment can be achieved. So, responding to new weed incursions early and rapidly is very important. Anyone who has ever battled with a bad weed infestation in their backyard knows it’s best to get in early and decisively! But decisions about where to target surveillance and control activities are often made under considerable time, knowledge and capacity constraints. Continue reading

Using Artificial Intelligence to Track Birds’ Dark-of-Night Migrations

Below is a press release about the Methods in Ecology and Evolution article ‘MistNet: Measuring historical bird migration in the US using archived weather radar data and convolutional neural networks‘ taken from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Wood thrush. ©CheepShot

On many evenings during spring and fall migration, tens of millions of birds take flight at sunset and pass over our heads, unseen in the night sky. Though these flights have been recorded for decades by the National Weather Services’ network of constantly-scanning weather radars, until recently these data have been mostly out of reach for bird researchers.

“That’s because the sheer magnitude of information and lack of tools to analyse it made only limited studies possible,” says artificial intelligence (AI) researcher Dan Sheldon at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Continue reading

A Celebration of World Rivers Day

Post provided by Alfred Burian, Antonia Ford and Quentin Mauvisseau

Celebrating our river ecosystems world-wide on the 22nd of September.

Celebrating our river ecosystems world-wide on the 22nd of September. ©Bob Wick, BLM.

It’s the 22nd of September and that means it’s this year’s UN World Rivers Day! In over 60 countries around the globe events are going on today to bring attention to the many values of our waterways. And we, the Aquatic Ecology Special Interest Group of the BES, are joining in with the celebrations! We’re highlighting recent methodological advancements that will help us to manage and conserve our rivers in the future. So let’s get started…

Multiple Stressors and Molecular Tools

Today, human activities across the world are impacting rivers to varying degrees. As scientists, we frequently see the interaction of multiple different stressors such as flow regulations, pollution or climate change affecting our rivers. The combined impact of stressors like these may be worse than any of their individual impacts. To understand and manage the effect of them, we need cost-effective and reliable analytical tools that can capture site-specific and ecosystem-wide effects.

Recent methodological advances that will help us to achieve these goals often rely on the application of new or improved molecular tools. Emerging techniques include environmental DNA (eDNA) based applications to monitor endangered and invasive species as well as stable isotope ecology, which provides us with new insights into animal diets and energy flows through aquatic food webs. We’d like to take the opportunity to introduce some of the novel developments in both of these exciting fields. Continue reading