2019 Robert May Prize Winner: Corneile Minnaar

The Robert May Prize is awarded annually for the best paper published in Methods in Ecology and Evolution by an Early Career Researcher. We’re delighted to announce that the 2019 winner is Corneile Minnaar, for his article ‘Using quantum dots as pollen labels to track the fates of individual pollen grains‘.

A central component of an organism’s fitness is its ability to successfully reproduce. This includes finding a potential mate and successful mating. For plants, movement of pollen from an anther to a conspecific stigma is essential for successful reproduction, but directly tracking movement of individual pollen grains heretofore has been impossible (with the exception of those species of orchids and milkweeds whose pollen comes in large packages (pollinia)). Knowing how pollen move around, whether or not they successfully fertilize ovules, is also central to understanding the evolution and ecology of flowering plants (angiosperms) and floral traits.

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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.

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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Thank You to All of Our Reviewers: Peer Review Week 2019

As many of you will already know, this week is Peer Review Week (16-20 September). Peer Review Week is a global event celebrating the vital work that is done by reviewers in all disciplines. Throughout the week, we’ve been looking back at some of the peer review advice and guidance that we’ve published on the blog.

The theme for this year’s Peer Review Week is quality in review. So we thought that the best way to end the week would be to thank to everyone who has reviewed for us. Without the hard work and expertise of the people who voluntarily review papers for us, Methods in Ecology and Evolution would not be the successful journal that it is today. We are incredibly grateful for all of the time and effort that reviewers put into reading and commenting on the manuscripts that we send to them.

We’d like to send a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who has ever reviewed for Methods in Ecology and Evolution – whether you’ve worked on one paper or twenty – we really appreciate your time and effort.

You can see the names of everyone who has reviewed for us so far in 2019 on our website.


Speeding Up Systematic Reviews: This New Method for Automated Keyword Selection Will Save You Time

Post provided by ELIZA GRAMES

The number of studies published every year in ecology and evolutionary biology has increased rapidly over the past few decades. Each new study contributes more to what we know about a topic, adding nuance and complexity that helps improve our understanding of the natural world. To make sense of this wealth of evidence and get closer to a complete picture of the world, researchers are increasingly turning to systematic review methods as a way to synthesise this information.

What is a Systematic Review?

Systematic reviews, first developed in public health fields, take an experimental design approach to reviewing the literature. They treat the search for primary studies as a transparent and reproducible data gathering process. The rigorous methods used in systematic reviews make them a trusted form of evidence synthesis. Researchers use them to summarise the state of knowledge on a topic and make policy and practice recommendations. Continue reading

Ultraconserved Elements are Widely Shared across the Tree of Life

Post provided by SILAS BOSSERT

Large-scale phylogenies are increasingly fueled by genomic-data from Ultraconserved Elements. ©Silas Bossert

Large-scale phylogenies are increasingly fuelled by genomic-data from Ultraconserved Elements. ©Silas Bossert

Sequencing ultraconserved DNA for phylogenetic research is a hot topic in evolution right now. As the name implies, Ultraconserved Elements (UCEs) are regions of the genome that are nearly identical among distantly related organisms. They can provide useful information for difficult phylogenetic questions. The list of advantages is long – among others, UCEs are:

A key reason for the method’s success is the developers’ commitment to full transparency, active tutoring, and willingness to help next-gen sequencing newbies like me to get started. Help is just a github-issue post away.

It took little to convince me that I wanted to use UCEs to reconstruct the phylogeny of one of my favourite groups of bees. I eventually met that objective but it won’t be part of this post. This blog post is about the journey to get there—the background story to the article ‘On the universality of target‐enrichment baits for phylogenomic research’. Continue reading

Editor Recommendation: Quantitative Evolutionary Patterns in Bipartite Networks

Post provided by ROB FRECKLETON

The study of interactions and their impacts on communities is a fundamental part of ecology. Much work has been done on measuring the interactions between species and their impacts on relative abundances of species. Progress has been made in understanding of the interactions at the ecological level, but we know that co-evolution is important in shaping the structure of communities in terms of the species that live there and their characteristics. Continue reading

2018 Robert May Prize Winner: Laura Russo

The Robert May Prize is awarded annually for the best paper published in Methods in Ecology and Evolution by an Early Career Researcher. We’re delighted to announce that the 2018 winner is Laura Russo, for her article ‘Quantitative evolutionary patterns in bipartite networks: Vicariance, phylogenetic tracking or diffuse co‐evolution?‘.

Plant-pollinator interactions are often considered to be the textbook example of co-evolution. But specialised interactions between plants and pollinators are the exception, not the rule. Plants tend to be visited by many different putative pollinator species, and pollinating insects tend to visit many plant hosts. This means that diffuse co-evolution is a much more likely driver of speciation in these communities. So, the standard phylogenetic methods for evaluating co-evolution aren’t applicable in most plant-pollinator interactions. Also, many plant-pollinator communities involve insect species for which we do not yet have fully resolved phylogenies. Continue reading

Phylogenetic Tip Rates: How Well Can We Estimate Diversification?

Post provided by Pascal Title and Dan Rabosky

Analyzing diversification rate heterogeneity across phylogenies allows us to explore all manner of questions, including why Australia has such an incredible diversity of lizards and snakes.

Analyzing diversification rate heterogeneity across phylogenies allows us to explore all manner of questions, including why Australia has such an incredible diversity of lizards and snakes.

Within the tree of life there are differences in speciation and extinction rates over time and across lineages. Biologists have long been interested in how speciation rates change as a function of ecological opportunity or whether key innovations lead to increases in the rate of speciation. Exploring this rate variation and examining how clades differ in terms of their diversification dynamics can help us to understand why species diversity varies so dramatically in time and space. Learning more about the relationship between traits and diversification rates is especially important because it has the potential to reveal the causes of pervasive variation in species richness among clades and across geographic regions.

Several different classes of methods are available for studying the effects of species traits on lineage diversification rates. These include state-dependent diversification models (e.g., BiSSE, QuaSSE, HiSSE) and several non-model-based approaches. In our article – ‘Tip rates, phylogenies and diversification: What are we estimating, and how good are the estimates?’ – we assessed the accuracy of a number of model-free metrics (the DR statistic, node density metric, inverse of terminal branch lengths) and model-based approaches (Bayesian Analysis of Macroevolutionary Mixtures, BAMM) to determine how they perform under a variety of different types of rate heterogeneity. The “tip rates” using these approaches have become widely used for a few reasons, including ease of computation and how easy it is to pair them with other types of data. Continue reading