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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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).

Continue reading

H.A.P.P.Y: How Are People Preventing Yearning in Academia?

Post provided by Chloe Robinson

Academia and university culture in general are high-paced, demanding environments to work and study in. In the UK alone, a Unihealth study identified that 80% of students studying in higher education experienced stress and anxiety. Similarly, staff and faculty are currently under tremendous pressure and the effects are apparent. A study for the Higher Education Policy Institute revealed that university counselling referrals have risen by three-quarters between 2009 and 2015. So it’s hardly surprising that universities are being coined primary ‘anxiety machines’.

Credit: Ramdlon (pixabay.com).

A multitude of factors can cause the kinds of stress being experienced by so many in universities. Unmanageable workloads, lack of permanent contracts, research exploitation, discrimination, sexism, lack of sufficient support and supervision, pressure to be successful and high competition are just some of the reasons. University bosses state they are aware of the issues and are actively working to improve well-being in institutions, but a lot still remains to be done to tackle the issues.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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?’.

Continue reading

O Problema com os ‘Fósseis Vivos’: Uma Perspectiva Filogenética Molecular

Blog escrito por: gustavo burin

This post is also available in English

Fóssil de caranguejo-ferradura (Museu de História Natural de Berlin)

Há alguns dias, me deparei com um interessante vídeo sobre os chamados “fósseis vivos”. O vídeo focou mais nos problemas de usá-los como argumentos contra a teoria da evolução, e aproveitei a oportunidade para falar mais sobre essas linhagens longevas.

Fóssil vivo‘ é um termo usado para descrever linhagens que acredita-se terem se originado há muito tempo e que mantêm características que se assemelham a seus parentes fósseis. Alguns exemplos bem conhecidos dessas linhagens são os Tuatara da Nova Zelândia (Sphenodon punctatus) e as árvores Gingkos (Gingko biloba).

Continue reading

The Problem with ‘Living Fossils’: A Molecular Phylogenetic Perspective

post provided by: gustavo burin

Este post também pode ser lido em Português

Fossil of a Horseshoe crab (Museum of Natural History Berlin)

A couple of days ago I came across a nice video (in Portuguese only, sorry) about so-called “living fossils”. The video focused on the problems of using them as arguments against evolution. But I’d like to take the opportunity to talk more about these long-lived lineages.

Living fossil’ is a term used to describe lineages that are thought to have been around for a very long time and retain characteristics that resemble of their fossil relatives. A couple of well-known examples of these lineages are the Tuatara of New Zealand (Sphenodon punctatus) and the Gingko tree (Gingko biloba).

Continue reading

International Women’s Day 2020: Retaining Girls and Women in STEM

Post provided by Chloe Robinson

Girls and women make up half of the world’s population and therefore contribute to half of the talent and potential on our planet. Despite representing 3.9 billion people, women are yet to receive the equal rights and opportunities which are currently provided to men. As of 2014, 143 out of 195 countries guarantee equality of women and men in their constitutions, but in practice this is rarely achieved for women.  

Gender equality symbol.

International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. This year, the theme is #EachforEqual, highlighting that an equal world is an enabled world. One of the key missions for this theme is forging inclusive workplaces so women can thrive’. This is particularly important for retaining women in STEM fields. Ultimately this mission needs to start in schools, because girls as young as 10 are reported to feel ‘out of place‘ in STEM subjects.

This blog post features some of the initiatives aiming to retain girls in STEM fields and shines a light on how far we have to go before girls and women are treated and represented equally in STEM.

Continue reading