Conferences come in many shapes and sizes, from mega-conferences like the Ecological Society of America (ESA) or Evolution with up to 5000 attendees, to small BES Special Interest Group (SIG) meetings with fewer than 100 attendees. There are pros and cons to both kinds of conference, but I’d like to take this opportunity to focus on small meetings*. Here are five reasons why I think they’re great, and why they’re particularly good for Early Career Researchers.
1. Networking is Much Easier
At a big conference networking can be really hard. Not only do you have to find the people you want to talk to, but you also have to compete with all the other people who want to talk to them! This is even worse if you’re also nervous about approaching them.
In our recent publication (Rabosky et al. 2018) we assembled a huge phylogeny of ray-finned fishes: the most comprehensive to date! While all of our data are accessible via Dryad, we felt like we could go the extra mile to make it easy to repurpose and reuse our work. I’m pleased to report that this effort has resulted in two resources for the community: the Fish Tree of Life website, and the fishtree R package. The package is available on CRAN now, and you can install it with:
The source is on GitHub in the repository jonchang/fishtree. The manuscript describing these resources has been published in Methods in Ecology and Evolution (Chang et al. 2019).
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.
Defining macroecology should be easy; it’s just ecology at large spatial scales, right? In reality though, it’s a little more complex than that. No-one agrees on exactly how large the spatial scale should be, and many studies that could be macroecology may also be defined as biogeography, landscape ecology, community ecology etc. Working at large spatial scales can also mean working at large temporal scales, often in deep-time. So there’s a lot of overlap with studies of macroevolution both on living and extinct species too.
This breadth of definitions means the BES Macroecology Special Interest Group (or BES Macro as we usually call it) has members with interests across ecology, evolution and palaeontology. Probably the most common statement at any of our events is “I’m not a macroecologist but…”. So, if you’re interested in broad-scale ecology and evolution, in a living or palaeo context, the SIG is for you, even if you don’t identify as a macroecologist! Continue reading →
The annual BES Macroecology Special Interest Group conference took place on the 10th and 11th of July. This year the meeting was in St Andrews, Scotland. Over 100 delegates came together in this old University town to discuss the latest research and concepts in macroecology and macroevolution.
Remote Sensing, Funky Koalas and a Science Ceilidh
The conference opened with a plenary by Journal of Applied Ecology Senior Editor Nathalie Pettorelli from ZSL. She talked about how remote sensing can be used in ecological and conservation studies. In the other plenary talks, we heard from:
Anne Magurran from the University of St Andrews discussing turnover and biodiversity change
Brian McGill from the University of Maine talking about the data-driven approach to the “biodiversity orthodoxy” and challenging the conventional wisdom about macroecological change
We also hosted a student plenary speaker, Alex Skeels, who gave a lively talk about diversification and geographical modelling using some pretty funky disco koalas. In addition to these talks, there were 60 short 5 minutes talks and 20 posters. Continue reading →
An Asian, female Senior Editor under 45? Progressive! I have loved Methods in Ecology and Evolution since it appeared in 2010 and am thrilled to have been selected to join Rob, Bob and Jana to help with the journal’s continued development.
OK, so you want to know who the new Senior Editor on the MEE block is. I’m just another scientist, I guess. On the outside, we look different but on the inside, we’re all the same. (OK, perhaps we are a little different, even on the inside, but that makes life and research interesting, right?)
Here’s my academic life history: I did my Bachelors thesis on the systematics/phylogenetics of an obscure group of marine pulmonate slugs with one of the greatest Icelandic biologists I know, Jon Sigurdsson, at the National University of Singapore. I followed this up with an almost-half-year stint at the Museum of Natural Science in Berlin as a “nobody”, digitizing data. Then I won the academic lottery and headed up to Uppsala to do my masters in conservation biology on tropical pollinator diversity, (un)supervised by two amazing supervisors that never met each other, the late Navjot Sodhi (National University of Singapore) and Thomas Elmqvist, now at Stockholm University. Continue reading →
Francesco de Bello describes the main elements of the method he has recently published in Methods in Ecology and Evolution. The method aims at decoupling and combining functional trait and phylogenetic dissimilarities between organisms. This allows for a more effective combination of non-overlapping information between phylogeny and functional traits. Decoupling trait and phylogenetic information can also uncover otherwise hidden signals underlying species coexistence and turnover, by revealing the importance of functional differentiation between phylogenetically related species.
In the video Francesco visually represents what the authors think their tool is doing with the data so you can see its potential. This method can provide an avenue for connecting macro-evolutionary and local factors affecting coexistence and for understanding how complex species differences affect multiple ecosystem functions.
This month’s issue contains two Applications articles and two Open Access articles, all of which are freely available.
– piecewiseSEM: A practical implementation of confirmatory path analysis for the R programming language. This package extends the method to all current (generalized) linear, (phylogenetic) least-square, and mixed effects models, relying on familiar R syntax. The article also includes two worked examples.
–RPANDA: An R package that implements model-free and model-based phylogenetic comparative methods for macroevolutionary analyses. It can be used to:
Characterize phylogenetic trees by plotting their spectral density profiles
Compare trees and cluster them according to their similarities
Identify and plot distinct branching patterns within trees
Compare the fit of alternative diversification models to phylogenetic trees
Estimate rates of speciation and extinction
Estimate and plot how these rates have varied with time and environmental variables
“I am an evolutionary ecologist and use phylogeny to link the evolution of species’ traits with their ecological community assembly. I’m interested in phylogenetic methods, macro-evolution of species’ traits, community assembly and developing new statistical tools for all of the above.”
This month’s issue contains two Applications articles and one Open Access article, all of which are freely available.
– mvMORPH: A package of multivariate phylogenetic comparative methods for the R statistical environment which allows fitting a range of multivariate evolutionary models under a maximum-likelihood criterion. Its use can be extended to any biological data set with one or multiple covarying continuous traits.
– Low-cost soil CO2 efflux and point concentration sensing systems: The authors use commercially available, low-cost and low-power non-dispersive infrared (NDIR) CO2 sensors to develop a soil CO2 efflux system and a point CO2 concentration system. Their methods enable terrestrial ecologists to substantially improve the characterization of CO2 fluxes and concentrations in heterogeneous environments.