From Jeremy and the archives:
Nobody wrote anything good on the internet this week, at least not that I saw. So here’s some old stuff, from me and others.
The connections between the Price equation, ambiguous drawings like the duck-rabbit, and sliding puzzles. Seriously. If nothing else, click through just to see that I used to have bloggable ideas besides rants about zombies and half-baked analogies to economics. And that I’ve always been keen to show off my shallow and patchy knowledge of philosophy as if it was a real skill, like the ability to juggle.
Speaking of me showing off my shallow and patchy knowledge of philosophy, here’s an old post in which I ask, What publications have most influenced you as an ecologist? My own list includes Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations and an essay by philosopher of science Bill Wimsatt.
Ecology is becoming more collaborative. Does that mean we’re becoming too nice? Or that we’re devaluing introverts? I’m bringing this up in part because Meg, Brian, and I are contemplating a series of posts on “the culture of ecology”. Is there a “culture” of ecology? If so, what does that culture consist of? Is it changing? Should it change? Have you ever felt like you needed to conform to it, even though you didn’t want to? Is there more than one culture of ecology? Etc. Right now it’s a vaguely-defined idea, but we’re thinking about how to make it more concrete. Suggestions welcome in the comments.
Ecologist and mathematical statistician Sam Clifford has some very good old posts about a range of issues we’ve been discussing on Dynamic Ecology. For instance, here’s his recommendation that, if you’re doing any statistical procedure more complicated than taking a mean and standard deviation, that you rerun the procedure on noise and see what you get. In particular, if you’re doing model selection, you should rerun the entire model selection process on noise to see what you get. I couldn’t agree more! My friend Owen Petchey used this procedure in 2004 to show that most a priori assignments of plant species to “functional groups” are no better than random assignments. The many previous researchers who assigned species to putative “functional groups” and then found “statistically significant” effects of functional group richness on ecosystem function were getting fooled. What they were finding was simply an effect of lumping species into groups–whether the groups had any biological reality or not. In general, Sam’s blog is very good, it’s a lot like Dynamic Ecology in many ways, I wish I’d started reading it earlier. For instance, here’s a recent post of Sam’s on “immersion”, “imitation”, and “failure” as ways to improve your mastery of anything difficult.
Over at Deep Sea News, Miriam Goldstein has a great post on privilege in marine science — and pretty much all of it applies to ecology in general. The issues related to undergrad research are ones I was thinking about recently, as I waded through 105 applications for admission to our PhD program. On the one hand, I didn’t want to hold it against students like Miriam who figured out a way to get good research experience, but I also wanted to make sure I didn’t overly reward students who had taken on multiple long-term volunteer post-bac research positions — clearly not all students can afford to do that. I can’t say I really figured out a good way to balance it, but I definitely agree that it is something we need to be aware of.