17 posts · 13,004 views
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 »
Neff, M. (2011) What research should be done and why? Four competing visions among ecologists. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 9(8), 462-469. DOI: 10.1890/100035
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 »
Loehle, C. (1990) A Guide to Increased Creativity in Research: Inspiration or Perspiration?. BioScience, 40(2), 123. DOI: 10.2307/1311345
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 »
Elton, CS. (1927) Animal Ecology. University of Chicago Press. info:/
Holt, R. (2009) Bringing the Hutchinsonian niche into the 21st century: Ecological and evolutionary perspectives. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(Supplement_2), 19659-19665. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0905137106
Pulliam, H. (2000) On the relationship between niche and distribution. Ecology Letters, 3(4), 349-361. DOI: 10.1046/j.1461-0248.2000.00143.x
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
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
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 »
Parmesan, C., & Yohe, G. (2003) A globally coherent fingerprint of climate change impacts across natural systems. Nature, 421(6918), 37-42. DOI: 10.1038/nature01286
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
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 »
Canham CD, & Thomas RQ. (2010) Frequency, not relative abundance, of temperate tree species varies along climate gradients in eastern North America. Ecology, 91(12), 3433-40. PMID: 21302812
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
Sagarin, R., & Gaines, S. (2002) The 'abundant centre' distribution: to what extent is it a biogeographical rule?. Ecology Letters, 5(1), 137-147. DOI: 10.1046/j.1461-0248.2002.00297.x
Sagarin, R., Gaines, S., & Gaylord, B. (2006) Moving beyond assumptions to understand abundance distributions across the ranges of species. Trends in Ecology , 21(9), 524-530. DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2006.06.008
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
Lomer MC, Parkes GC, & Sanderson JD. (2008) Review article: lactose intolerance in clinical practice--myths and realities. Alimentary pharmacology , 27(2), 93-103. PMID: 17956597
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 »
Murphy, H., VanDerWal, J., & Lovett-Doust, J. (2010) Signatures of range expansion and erosion in eastern North American trees. Ecology Letters, 13(10), 1233-1244. DOI: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2010.01526.x
Burton, O., Phillips, B., & Travis, J. (2010) Trade-offs and the evolution of life-histories during range expansion. Ecology Letters, 13(10), 1210-1220. DOI: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2010.01505.x
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
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
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 »
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
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
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 »
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 »
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 »
Pigot AL, Owens IP, & Orme CD. (2010) The environmental limits to geographic range expansion in birds. Ecology letters. PMID: 20412281
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