Aaron Berdanier

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  • October 1, 2011
  • 04:00 PM

Visions for ecological research

by Aaron Berdanier in Biological Posteriors

Society, culture, and technology influence the research questions and subjects that scientists study. The values that underlay research fit within the discipline but certainly vary among individuals. The need to identify these differing "visions" is the basis for Mark Neff's (2011) cool analysis of how ecologists frame their science.... Read more »

  • August 25, 2011
  • 06:00 PM

Designing a research project

by Aaron Berdanier in Biological Posteriors

Choosing a good research project is important but also very hard. Early career scientists and graduate students are tasked with developing projects that will produce useful outcomes (socially and scientifically). But, as Scott Lanyon (1995) notes, "research is not an activity with guarantees." Here I bring together a couple of points made by other biologists to produce a synthetic understanding of a successful research project.... Read more »

  • August 3, 2011
  • 04:10 PM

Finding the niche

by Aaron Berdanier in Biological Posteriors

The niche is an important idea in ecology that allows us to think about how organisms relate to their environment. Despite its importance, our understanding of the niche has evolved throughout history, which can lead to confusion about what a niche really is. By reflecting on the evolution of the idea, we can appreciate its importance and identify new pathways to explore in the future.... Read more »

Colwell RK, & Rangel TF. (2009) Hutchinson's duality: the once and future niche. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 19651-8. PMID: 19805163  

Elton, CS. (1927) Animal Ecology. University of Chicago Press. info:/

Pearman, P., Guisan, A., Broennimann, O., & Randin, C. (2008) Niche dynamics in space and time. Trends in Ecology , 23(3), 149-158. DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2007.11.005  

  • July 6, 2011
  • 12:31 PM

Forecasting species' range changes

by Aaron Berdanier in Biological Posteriors

Predictive knowledge of which species are likely to exhibit range changes in response to changes in their environments would be extremely useful. We're not there yet, though. In the newest issue of Ecology Letters, Amy Angert and others examine whether species' traits could fill the gap and increase our ability to predict range shifts. Their conclusion: maybe not.... Read more »

Angert AL, Crozier LG, Rissler LJ, Gilman SE, Tewksbury JJ, & Chunco AJ. (2011) Do species' traits predict recent shifts at expanding range edges?. Ecology letters, 14(7), 677-689. PMID: 21535340  

  • May 20, 2011
  • 01:08 PM

Reforming undergraduate science education

by Aaron Berdanier in Biological Posteriors

Two articles on inquiry-based science education came out this month in the journal Science. The authors propose ways to increase learning by reconsidering the classic approaches to post-secondary science education: the lecture (Deslauriers et al. 2011) and laboratory (Moskovitz and Kellogg 2011) settings.... Read more »

Deslauriers, L., Schelew, E., & Wieman, C. (2011) Improved Learning in a Large-Enrollment Physics Class. Science, 332(6031), 862-864. DOI: 10.1126/science.1201783  

Moskovitz, C., & Kellogg, D. (2011) Inquiry-Based Writing in the Laboratory Course. Science, 332(6032), 919-920. DOI: 10.1126/science.1200353  

  • May 16, 2011
  • 12:41 PM

Climate sensitivity of species ranges

by Aaron Berdanier in Biological Posteriors

There is great concern that changes in climate will have substantial impacts on biological systems, including extinctions due to limitations on species distributions. Many reports suggest that climate changes are already impacting organisms and ecosystems. A common prediction is that, as the climate changes, organisms will need to migrate to follow their climate "niche" or face extinction. Are species really that sensitive to changes in the environment?... Read more »

Loarie, S., Duffy, P., Hamilton, H., Asner, G., Field, C., & Ackerly, D. (2009) The velocity of climate change. Nature, 462(7276), 1052-1055. DOI: 10.1038/nature08649  

Parmesan, C., Gaines, S., Gonzalez, L., Kaufman, D., Kingsolver, J., Townsend Peterson, A., & Sagarin, R. (2005) Empirical perspectives on species borders: from traditional biogeography to global change. Oikos, 108(1), 58-75. DOI: 10.1111/j.0030-1299.2005.13150.x  

Thomas, C., Cameron, A., Green, R., Bakkenes, M., Beaumont, L., Collingham, Y., Erasmus, B., de Siqueira, M., Grainger, A., Hannah, L.... (2004) Extinction risk from climate change. Nature, 427(6970), 145-148. DOI: 10.1038/nature02121  

Walther, G., Post, E., Convey, P., Menzel, A., Parmesan, C., Beebee, T., Fromentin, J., Hoegh-Guldberg, O., & Bairlein, F. (2002) Ecological responses to recent climate change. Nature, 416(6879), 389-395. DOI: 10.1038/416389a  

  • May 12, 2011
  • 03:46 PM

Abundance in ecology

by Aaron Berdanier in Biological Posteriors

Abundance - the relative amount of a species in a particular ecosystem - is an important concept in ecology. But ecologists tend to make broad, and maybe inappropriate, assumptions about how abundance changes across a range. These assumptions have implications for many theoretical and applied ideas in ecology.... Read more »

Clark, JS, Bell, DM, Hersch, MH, & Nichols, L. (2011) Climate change vulnerability of forest biodiversity: climate and competition tracking of demographic rates. Global Change Biology, 1834-1849. info:/10.1111/j.1365-2486.2010.02380.x

  • December 22, 2010
  • 12:41 PM

Am I lactose intolerant?

by Aaron Berdanier in Biological Posteriors

Lactose intolerance is a common condition; 70% of humans experience lactose intolerance worldwide, with abdominal discomfort, bloating, gas, and diarrhea coming from the consumption of dairy products. I have a hunch that I might be lactose intolerant, but I do not know, so I'm going to learn a little bit about lactose intolerance and do a study to assess the correlation between my eating habits and abdominal issues.... Read more »

Burger, J., Kirchner, M., Bramanti, B., Haak, W., & Thomas, M. (2007) Absence of the lactase-persistence-associated allele in early Neolithic Europeans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104(10), 3736-3741. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0607187104  

Swagerty DL Jr, Walling AD, & Klein RM. (2002) Lactose intolerance. American family physician, 65(9), 1845-50. PMID: 12018807  

  • October 14, 2010
  • 05:08 PM

Changing range boundaries in a changing environment

by Aaron Berdanier in Biological Posteriors

There are two neat articles about species distributions in the October issue of Ecology Letters, and they complement one another in an interesting way.

The first, by Murphy et al. (2010), examines the abundance of eastern North American tree species at their northern and southern limits. The second, a study by Burton et al. (2010), discusses the importance of evolution at the advancing edge.... Read more »

  • October 8, 2010
  • 03:48 PM

Bee decline by virus and parasite co-infection

by Aaron Berdanier in Biological Posteriors

A group of United States researchers think they have identified the agents that cause Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) in US bee colonies: an RNA virus (invertebrate iridescent virus, IIV) and a fungal parasite (Nosema sp.). The researchers came to this conclusion by 1.) analyzing samples from colonies around the country and 2.) conducting laboratory survival tests with infected bees.... Read more »

Bromenshenk, J., Henderson, C., Wick, C., Stanford, M., Zulich, A., Jabbour, R., Deshpande, S., McCubbin, P., Seccomb, R., Welch, P.... (2010) Iridovirus and Microsporidian Linked to Honey Bee Colony Decline. PLoS ONE, 5(10). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0013181  

  • August 18, 2010
  • 03:24 PM

The ecosystems within us

by Aaron Berdanier in Biological Posteriors

In the guts of each of us there are trillions of microbes. They provide us with "enhanced metabolic capabilities, protection against pathogens, education of the immune system, and modulation of gastrointestinal development" (De Filippo et al. 2010). The diversity of these organisms can play a role in the future development of disease. But, what makes our guts so diverse? As De Filippo et al. (2010) report, one main factor appears to be diet.... Read more »

De Filippo C, Cavalieri D, Di Paola M, Ramazzotti M, Poullet JB, Massart S, Collini S, Pieraccini G, & Lionetti P. (2010) Impact of diet in shaping gut microbiota revealed by a comparative study in children from Europe and rural Africa. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. PMID: 20679230  

  • August 17, 2010
  • 12:53 PM

Modern ecological research: what, where, how?

by Aaron Berdanier in Biological Posteriors

Just over ten years ago, Robert May published an article considering "the most important unanswered questions in ecology" (May 1999). This perspective piece offered some direction to a young field that was expanding rapidly. But, where is ecology going in the next thirty years (or so)?... Read more »

May, R. (1999) Unanswered questions in ecology. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 354(1392), 1951-1959. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.1999.0534  

  • June 21, 2010
  • 04:38 PM

Continuing agricultural intensification is unlikely

by Aaron Berdanier in Biological Posteriors

Agriculture contributes a substantial amount (10-12%) of of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing this input is a major priority for mitigating climate change. However, we do not have very good information about what the best management strategies are to prevent emissions. Burney et al. (2010) add a unique piece to the puzzle by estimating the impact of agricultural intensification (i.e. increases in crop yield per area) on greenhouse gas emissions.... Read more »

Burney JA, Davis SJ, & Lobell DB. (2010) Greenhouse gas mitigation by agricultural intensification. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. PMID: 20551223  

  • June 14, 2010
  • 03:13 PM

Realism in species distribution models

by Aaron Berdanier in Biological Posteriors

Predicting species distributions is not easy. Current approaches can be broken into two broad categories: "correlative" or "mechanistic" models. Buckley et al. (2010) do something very unique by comparing the relative accuracy of these two approaches (a total of 5 models) for two species (a butterfly and a lizard, see image). Their findings are interesting and very informative, but their conclusions lack some potential insight and they miss some important opportunities to adv........ Read more »

Buckley LB, Urban MC, Angilletta MJ, Crozier LG, Rissler LJ, & Sears MW. (2010) Can mechanism inform species' distribution models?. Ecology letters. PMID: 20482574  

  • June 2, 2010
  • 01:10 PM

Why is running good for you?

by Aaron Berdanier in Biological Posteriors

This weekend I am running in the Kettle Moraine 100, in a 31 mile leg of the 100 mile relay. Given that event, this is my first running science blog post - a slight tangent from ecology...

Where do the health benefits of running come from? Physiologically, people's metabolism changes. Or, more specifically, certain metabolites increase in the body, which trigger cellular responses (for example, fat burning).
... Read more »

Lewis GD, Farrell L, Wood MJ, Martinovic M, Arany Z, Rowe GC, Souza A, Cheng S, McCabe EL, Yang E.... (2010) Metabolic signatures of exercise in human plasma. Science translational medicine, 2(33). PMID: 20505214  

  • May 20, 2010
  • 01:28 PM

Malaria in a changing world

by Aaron Berdanier in Biological Posteriors

Gething PW, Smith DL, Patil AP, Tatem AJ, Snow RW, & Hay SI (2010). Climate change and the global malaria recession. Nature, 465 (7296), 342-5 PMID: 20485434Infectious diseases straddle a fuzzy boundary between ecology and epidemiology, making the prediction of future disease dynamics difficult. Scientists need to consider how environmental change will affect the infectious organism (and sometimes the vector) as well as how humans respond to the disease. These predictions carry special weight,........ Read more »

Gething PW, Smith DL, Patil AP, Tatem AJ, Snow RW, & Hay SI. (2010) Climate change and the global malaria recession. Nature, 465(7296), 342-5. PMID: 20485434  

  • May 20, 2010
  • 11:38 AM

What controls where a species lives?

by Aaron Berdanier in Biological Posteriors

Pigot AL, Owens IP, & Orme CD (2010). The environmental limits to geographic range expansion in birds. Ecology letters PMID: 20412281Or, what prevents that species from expanding further?  Generally, we assume that the environment has something to do with controlling a species' distribution.  But, our understanding of this topic is surprisingly limited, given centuries of scientists prodding the question.  Part of the problem has been:a limited number of species analyzed with smal........ Read more »

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