For more than a decade, citizen science projects have helped researchers use the power of thousands of volunteers who help sort through datasets that are too large for a small research team. Previously, this data generally couldn’t be processed by computers because the work required skills that only humans could accomplish.
Now, computer machine learning techniques that teach the computer specific image recognition skills can be used in crowdsourcing projects to deal with massively increasing amounts of data—making computers a surprising new partner in citizen science projects.
The standard approach to quantifying natural selection, developed by Lande and Arnold, does not allow for comparable metrics between linear (i.e. selection on the mean phenotype) and nonlinear (i.e. selection on all other aspects of the phenotypic distribution, including variance and the number of modes) selection gradients. Jonathan Henshaw’s winning submission provides the first integrated measure of the strength of selection that applies across qualitatively different selection regimes (e.g. directional, stabilizing or disruptive selection). Continue reading →
‘Just Google it’ marks an important step in converting ecology to an armchair science. Many species (e.g. owls, hawks, bears) are difficult, time-consuming, expensive and even dangerous to observe. It would be a lot easier if we didn’t have to spend time, energy and risk lives having to observe organisms in the field! Continue reading →
The 100th anniversary of the Ecological Society of America was celebrated in Baltimore, Maryland at their Annual Conference in August. This year a record 10,000 ecologists attended the six day event. ESA conferences now boast a staggering number of scientific presentations, ranging from numerous plenary talks, organized oral sessions and regular oral presentation sessions to lightening talks, posters, workshops and mixers. It was both exhilarating and overwhelming, but featured a truly impressive amount of science.
As the sheer magnitude of the event made attending even a fraction of the talks impossible, it feels odd to highlight any particular presentations. Two talks, however – both on the final morning of the conference – did strike me as worth mentioning; not because they featured groundbreaking science, or novel insights, but because they reflect potentially powerful new platforms from which groundbreaking science might develop. Continue reading →