Harbour porpoise under the surface – I. Birks, SeaWatchFoundation
An examination into the detection of harbour porpoises is helping to give new understanding of effective monitoring of species under threat from anthropogenic activities such as fisheries bycatch and coastal pollution.
Anyone who studies social animals in the wild (or human groups, for that matter), will soon find that some individuals threaten or attack others frequently, while others try to get out of the way or signal their submission in response to aggression. Observers tally the outcome of such aggressive interactions between any given two individuals (or ‘dyads’) and try to deduce the rank hierarchy from such winner-loser matrices. One drawback of this approach is that all temporal information is lost.
Imagine Royal, a baboon, dominating over Power, another baboon, 20 times, and Power dominating over Royal 20 times as well. If we just look at these data, we might think that they have the same fighting ability and similar ranks. But, if we know that Royal beat Power the first 20 of the interactions, then Power beat Royal in all further interactions, we’d come to a totally different conclusion. We’d infer that Power had toppled Royal and a rank change had taken place.
How do Rank Hierarchies Change Over Time?
One prominent method that takes the temporal dynamics of winner-loser interactions into account was originally developed to calculate the relative skill level of chess players. This method was introduced by Arpad Elo and is hence known as Elo-Rating. Elo-Rating has also been applied to rate the relative skills in a variety of competitive fields, including Major League Baseball, video games, and Scrabble. Continue reading →
Today, we are pleased to be welcoming a new member of the Methods in Ecology and Evolution Associate Editor Board. Johan Kotze joins us from the University of Helsinki, Finland and you can find out a little more about him below.
“I am an entomologist with a broad interest in all things urban. In particular, my research focuses on beetles (and other insect communities) in urban greenspace, ranging from remnant forests, meadows, and bogs to vegetated roofs. During the past few years, I have also become interested in using urban soils as in situ laboratories to investigate decomposition, soil quality and the soil microbial community. Working in urban environments inevitably results in messy data – beyond the usual messiness of community data – due to sample losses. Methodological, design and statistical tools to treat such messy data interest me as well.”
We are thrilled to welcome Johan as a new Associate Editor and we look forward to working with him on the journal.
Females are attracted to the hollow material in trap nests.
When thinking of bees and wasps, most people have social insects living in colonies in mind. But most species are actually solitary. In these species, every female builds her own nest and does not care for the offspring once nest construction is completed. Most of those species nest in the ground. Several thousand species of bees and wasps use pre-existing above-ground cavities though (such as hollow twigs and stems, cracks under bark, or empty galleries of wood-boring insects).
To keep you in suspense, I’ll resolve the importance of studying cavity-nesting species later in this blog post. First, I’ll introduce you to one of the more elegant research methods in ecology: trap nests. To study and collect these cavity-nesting species, you can take advantage of their nesting preferences. By exposing artificial cavities and offering access to an otherwise restricted nesting resource, you can attract females searching for suitable nesting sites.
Building these trap nests is simple, but the design can vary greatly. Many designs and materials can be used to build the artificial nesting sites, such as drilling holes in wooden blocks or packing hollow plant material (e.g. reeds) in plastic tubes. Once females find the trap nest and finish their nest construction, the developing offspring are literally ‘trapped’ in their nests. They can then be collected, their trophic interactions (e.g. food and natural enemies) observed, and the specimens can be reared for identification. Continue reading →
Could we use the plants in this swamp forest to predict the diversity of other species?
Local communities and regional biotas are built of hundreds, if not thousands, of species. Most of these species are small-bodied and discreet lifeforms. So it’s no wonder that naturalists have almost always focused their attention on conspicuous species of their particular liking. Why plants then? Well, plants are practical and efficient. They “stand still and wait to be counted”, as the eminent population biologist John Harper put it. No matter the weather, from spring to autumn. There are enough plant species to show contrasts between sites, and yet they can usually be identified to species level in the field.
You Can’t Predict the Diversity of Beetles from Lichens… Can You?
The discovery of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in Norway in 2016 has led to extensive measures and testing of deer in Norway. Since 2018 there have been similar measures within the EU. But how many deer need to be tested before we can be (almost) certain that a population is not infected by CWD?
SCR models simultaneously estimate the detection function and density of individual activity centres. A half-normal detection model is generally used.
The estimation of population size is one of the primary goals and challenges in wildlife ecology. Within the last decade and a half, a new class of tools has emerged, allowing us to estimate abundance and other key population parameters in specific areas. So-called spatial capture-recapture (SCR) models are growing in popularity not only because they can map abundance, but also because they can be fitted to data collected from a variety of monitoring methods. For example, the ever increasing use of non-invasive monitoring methods, such as camera trapping and non-invasive genetic-sampling, is one of the reason that makes SCR models so popular.
One other strengths of SCR models is the ability to make population level inferences. But the wider the region you’re monitoring, the greater the computational burden, challenging the use of such methods at really large scale. Continue reading →
I had the pleasure of delivering one of the plenary talks at the first (hopefully of many) Crossing the Palaeontological – Ecological Gap meeting held in the University of Leeds on August 30th and 31st. I’m a geologist and a botanist, so this is a topic that’s close to my heart and my professional interests.
As we move into an ecologically uncertain future with pressures of climate change, land-use change and resource limitations, the fossil record offers the only truly long-term record of how Earth’s ecosystems respond to major environmental upheaval driven by climate change events. The fossil record is, of course, not without its problems – there are gaps, not everything fossilises in the same way or numbers, and comparisons to today’s ecology are extremely difficult. It’s these difficulties (and other challenges) that make the uniting of palaeontology and ecology essential to fully address how plants, animals and other organisms have responded to major changes in the past. Perhaps uniting them could give us an idea of what to expect in our near-term future, as carbon dioxide levels return to those not previously experienced on Earth since the Pliocene, over 2 million years ago. Continue reading →
Science is global, which means that peer review is a global activity. When Editors look for people to review manuscripts, they want to find the best people to comment on the topic – regardless of their background or primary language. While science and peer review are conducted in different languages all around the world, English has become the international language of science (for reasons we won’t go into in this post). English doesn’t just belong to people from English-speaking countries, it belongs to all scientists. For some people though, language can feel like a barrier to reviewing scientific papers.
That’s not to say that all non-native English speakers struggle with the language. Many reviewers for whom English is a second language have only ever reviewed in English and will only ever review in English and are comfortable, confident and experienced in the task. For some, reviewing in a second language is not all that different to reviewing in their native tongue. Many people who did not grow up speaking English are great English speakers, but for those who didn’t get much of their scientific training in English, language can impose an unwanted and unnecessary disadvantage.
The theme of this year’s Peer Review Week is Diversity in Peer Review, so we’ve asked the Methods in Ecology and Evolution Associate Editors for some advice on reviewing in a second language. We hope that these tips will help people who aren’t fluent in their second (or third, fourth, etc.) language to feel more confident reviewing in it. Our journal is published in English, so we’ve focused on English as a second language in this post. However, the advice should be helpful regardless of what language your reviewing in or whether you’re a native speaker. Continue reading →