Friday links: the internet is (mostly) in reruns this week

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.

From Brian:

Statistical machismo called out in psychology?

From Meg:

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.

4 thoughts on “Friday links: the internet is (mostly) in reruns this week

  1. The Internet is a continuous, high velocity, fire hose-type output of truth and meaning, unyielding, revolutionary, forceful, mind-altering, transformative. You must have been asleep this week or had problems with your connection.

    I can easily kick tail in the “shallow philosophy” category by claiming “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” as my leading philosophical influence to date. The early Peanuts cartoons give it a good run for the money though. And of course, Calvin, always. By the way, you need to do a post on the ecology embedded in Calvin cartoons, or I’ll beat you to it.

  2. Meg, that Goldstein post is great. Thanks for linking to it. Reminded me (and reminding was needed) that a lot of the advice I post on this blog is very narrowly focused, in the sense that it’s aimed at mostly-privileged students. And I’m not sure that the fact that I’m mostly aiming at people who are already in grad school (because that’s who most of our readers are) fully justifies that narrow focus.

    I really need to keep this in mind more. For instance, not too long ago Joan Strassman did a post at Sociobiology noting that many of the prospective biology grad students at Wash U never contact any prospective supervisors before showing up for the on-site interviews that Wash U does. In comments, I wondered how those students could possibly have been so poorly advised, or so unfamiliar with what grad school is like and how graduate admissions works, to not contact prospective supervisors in advance. Instead, they were basically treating the admissions process like the process of applying for a private sector job. In reply, Joan noted something that I had forgotten (but shouldn’t have): a lot of these students aren’t from backgrounds that would likely expose them to what a privileged sort like me would consider really basic advice.

  3. I like the “culture in ecology” idea. I am not sure there is one culture but rather many different ones and they come and go out of fashion. For example, some people prefer lab-based microcosm manipulation experiments, others monitoring of field systems. Some do large simulation studies, others mathematically tractable models. Etc etc. Depending on all kind of things but also on technology available and big funding schemes, some of these more personal preferences become sometimes more dominant.
    But I am not sure that is what you have in mind for the posts. If it is more about how people work together, if and how they initiate collaborations etc, I noticed quite a bit of differences between countries and between continents, too. (My career is too short to say anything temporal changes so I need to replace time for space). This is interesting given the rather small and tightly connected worlds of some of ecology’s sub-disciplines like for example population/community.

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