MInOSSE: all you need to reconstruct past species geographic range is in the fossil record!

Post provided by Francesco Carotenuto

A very important ecological feature of a species is its geographic range, which can be described by its size, position and shape. Studying the geographic range can be useful to understand the ecological needs of a species and, thereby, to plan conservation strategies. In ecological studies, mathematical models are the new standard to reconstruct the distribution of living species on Earth because of their accuracy in predicting a species presence or absence at unsampled locations. These methods are able to reconstruct the climatic niche of a species and to project it onto a geographic domain in order to predict the species’ spatial distribution. To do this, besides the occurrences of a species, the models necessarily require the spatial maps of environmental variables, like temperature and precipitation, for all the study area.

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An interview with the editors of “Population Ecology in Practice”: Part II

Post provided by Daniel Caetano

Today we bring the second part of an interview with Dennis Murray and Brett Sandercock about their brand new book in population ecology methods: “Population Ecology in Practice.” This time we talked about their experience as editors, including some useful advice for new editors.

If you missed the first part of the interview, check it out here.

Population Ecology in Practice introduces a synthesis of analytical and modelling approaches currently used in demographic, genetic, and spatial analyses. Chapters provide examples based on real datasets together with a companion website with study cases and exercises implemented in the R statistical programming language.

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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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An interview with the editors of “Population Ecology in Practice”: Part I

Post provided by Daniel Caetano

Today we bring the first part of an interview with Dennis Murray and Brett Sandercock about their brand new book in population ecology methods: “Population Ecology in Practice.” The editors were kind enough to share some interesting backstage information with us.

Snowshoe hare in winter

Population Ecology in Practice introduces a synthesis of analytical and modelling approaches currently used in demographic, genetic, and spatial analyses. Chapters provide examples based on real datasets together with a companion website with study cases and exercises implemented in the R statistical programming language.

Stay tuned for the second part of this interview, where we talk about some of the challenges of editing a large book and the editors share essential advice for anyone looking into leading such a project!

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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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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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The Evolution of Love

Post provided by Chloe Robinson

The sending of letters under the pen name ‘St. Valentine’ began back in the middle ages as a way of communicating affection during the practice of courting. Fast forward to 2020 and Valentine’s Day is a day for celebrating romance, but now it typically features the exchange of gifts and cards between lovers.

Credit: Pixabay

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A Surgical Approach to Dissection of an Exotic Animal

Post provided by Aaron T Irving, Justin HJ Ng and Lin-fa Wang

An Australian black flying fox – missing an ear, but fit for release.

Bats. They’re amazing creatures. Long-lived (with relevance to their body size), echolocating (for microbats and some megabats), metabolically-resilient (apparently resilient to most virus infections) flying mammals (with heart beats up to 1200 bpm for hours during flight). There are 1,411 species of this incredible creature. But very little is known about their physiology and unique biological traits. And detailed evolutionary analysis has only just begun.

The problem is, they’re an ‘exotic’ animal (wildlife that most people do not come into contact with). Being a long-lived animal producing minimal offspring (most only have one baby per year), they’re not suited to the kind of experimental studies we do with other animals like mice. Unavoidably, some aspects of biology require the use of tissues and cells. These samples can be used for sequencing, genomics, molecular evolution studies, detailed transcriptomic analysis, functional experiments with specific cell types and much more. Some methodology is beginning to be published – such as capture techniques and wing punch/genomic isolation – but there’s been an absence of protocols for the processing of bats. This is essential for the field to maximise the potential application of each individual and for minimising non-essential specimen collection.

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Methods behind the Madness: Ecology at the Poles

Post provided by Chloe Robinson, Crystal Sobel and Valerie Levesque-Beaudin

Aurora Borealis in the polar north. Photo: Noel Bauza, Pixabay

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, the coldest months of the year are upon us. A combination of post-holiday ‘blues’ and the cold, dark mornings make the daily trudge to work all that less inspiring. Recent snow storms in locations such as Newfoundland (Canada), have made it nearly impossible for many people to leave their homes, let alone commute to work. Now cast your mind to a little over 2,000 km north of Newfoundland and imagine the challenges faced with carrying out a job during the coldest, darkest months of the year.

As with every other biome on the planet, polar biomes contain a variety of different species, from bugs to baleen whales. To better understand the different species at our poles, scientists need to collect ecological data, but this is far from a walk in the park.

Iceberg in the Gerlache Strait, Antarctica. Photo: Liam Quinn, flikr.

With the year 2020 marking 200 years since the discovery of Antarctica and the Centenary of ‘vital’ Scott Polar Research Institute (Cambridge, UK), we wanted to highlight some of the polar research published in the journal, featuring challenges faced and current research being undertaken at the poles.

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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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