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.

Teaching Computers to Think like Ecologists

Post provided by CHRIS TERRY

Artificial intelligence (or AI) is an enormously hot topic, regularly hitting the news with the latest milestone where computers matching or exceeding the capacity of humans at a particular task. For ecologists, one of the most exciting and promising uses of artificial intelligence is the automatic identification of species. If this could be reliably cracked, the streams of real-time species distribution data that could be unlocked worldwide would be phenomenal.

ladybird-stock_thumbDespite the hype and rapid improvements, we’re not quite there yet. Although AI naturalists have had some successes, they can also often make basic mistakes. But we shouldn’t be too harsh on the computers, since identifying the correct species just from a picture can be really hard. Ask an experienced naturalist and they’ll often need to know where and when the photo was taken. This information can be crucial for ruling out alternatives. There’s a reason why field guides include range maps!

Currently, most AI identification tools only use an image. So, we set out to see if a computer can be taught to think more like a human, and make use of this extra information. Continue reading

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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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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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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Issue 11.1: Climate Change, Genomic Divergence, Bayesian Modelling and More

The January issue of Methods is now online!

It’s a new year and the new issue of Methods in Ecology and Evolution is now online!

We’re starting 2020 with a great issue – and ALL of the articles are completely free. And they’ll remain free for the whole year. No subscription required.

You can find out more about our Featured Articles (selected by the Senior Editor) below. We also discuss this month’s Open Access, Practical Tools and Applications articles. There are also articles on species distributions, biotic interactions, taxonomic units and much more.

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Ten Years of Methods in Ecology and Evolution

Our first cover (left) and most recent cover (right).

Methods in Ecology and Evolution is turning 10 years old! Back in 2010, we launched the journal because of feedback from the community that there was a need for a journal that promoted the publication of new methods. Founding Editor Rob Freckleton and Graziella Iossa (now a member of the Editorial Board) summarised the aims and ambitions for the journal in the first issue. They explained why a new journal was needed, as well as some of the objectives and strategies for developing it.

At the time a lot of the progress in ecology and evolutionary biology was being driven by methodological developments in statistics, computing, molecular and genetic techniques. So it seemed logical to propose a journal that concentrated on methodological development. The community needed a specific place to publish methods articles and we wanted to provide one.

As we enter the second decade of Methods in Ecology and Evolution, it seems like a good time to look back and see whether we’ve met that aim. And that’s exactly what Rob Freckleton, Aaron Ellison, Lee Hsiang Liow and Bob O’Hara (regular readers will recognise these as our Executive and Senior Editors) have done in their Editorial: ‘Ten Years of Methods in Ecology and Evolution‘.

The Editorial is freely available to everyone – no subscription required (just like the rest of our January issue). We’ll be celebrating our 10th anniversary all year, so keep an eye out here on the blog and at conferences!

Standardising Methods in Climate Change Experiments: A Community Effort

Post provided by AUD HALBRITTER

CHINESE TRANSLATION PROVIDED BY HUI TANG

這篇博客文章也有中文版

Climate change is threatening biodiversity and ecosystems around the world. We urgently need to better understand how species and ecosystems respond to these changes. There are already thousands of climate change experiments and observational studies out there that could be used to synthesise findings across systems and regions. But it turns out that making meaningful syntheses isn‘t always so straightforward!

The Need for Standardised Methods and Reporting

There are two major challenges (and some minor ones too) for synthesising data across different experiments. First, the data are not always available. This problem arises because key study information – such as metadata, covariates or methodological details – are often not adequately or consistently reported across studies.

The second problem is that scientists use different protocols. This leads to a diversity of ways of measuring and quantifying the same variables. Different protocols may measure or report the same variables in slightly different ways, so the data are not compatible. Consistency in measurements and protocols is one reason why working in large networks – such as ITEX, Herbivory, or NutNet – to name only a few, is so powerful. In these networks, experiments and observations are repeated across large regions or worldwide using strict protocols for experimental design and measurements. Continue reading