Friday links: leaky pipeline leaking less, against exhaustion, slurpee waves, and more

Also this week: zombie ideas, ideas about zombies, airport ecology, life as a black graduate student, the “Silwood Circle”, and more. Oh, and Robert Boyle called; he wants his debate about reproducibility back.

From Meg:

This is a powerful piece on what life is like for a black graduate student in what is generally perceived as a liberal, progressive college town.

A methods section isn’t about reproducibility, but, rather, establishing the credibility of your approach. (by Stephen Heard) (Jeremy adds: apparently great minds link alike; see below)

Airports are increasingly keeping beehives, taking advantage of green lands on which they cannot build. Chicago’s O’Hare airport has the largest airport apiary in the world. (They also maintain goats and sheep to eat grass, taking advantage of food web manipulations to reduce plane-bird strikes.)

I really enjoyed this piece, Exhaustion is not a status symbol, which focuses on our culture of overwork. One quote:

we have to encourage people to set boundaries around their work and respect them when they hold them. And I think as leaders we have to model that. One thing that I tell people all the time is, I’m not going to answer a call from you after nine o’clock at night or before nine o’clock in the morning unless it’s an emergency.

Another quote is, “We can’t turn off our machines because we’re afraid we’re going to miss something.” That has definitely been true of me at times. And another is “It’s like those moving walkways at the airport — you’ve got to really pay attention when you get off them, because it’s disorienting.” This is a great way of describing how I felt when I wrote this post at the end of last semester!

From Jeremy:

Missed this at the time: here’s Peder Anker’s thoughtful review of The Silwood Circle, a history of the influential group of ecologists associated with Silwood Park. My own review is here. His review is positive overall, though a bit more critical than mine. Some of his criticisms are well-taken, one or two seem off base to me. Anyway, a good brief read for anyone interested in the recent history of ecology.

One leak in the leaky pipeline seems to have closed: women and men who got a STEM bachelor’s in the 1990s are equally likely to have later gotten a PhD in the same field. That wasn’t true for late 1970s and 1980s cohorts of bachelor’s recipients. The gap is gone in all STEM fields. However, the gap closed not because a higher percentage of women are going from bachelor’s to PhD, but because a lower percentage of men are. I leave it to you to interpret that. (ht Retraction Watch)

Stephen Heard with a great post putting current concerns about “reproducibility” into historical perspective–400 years of historical perspective.

A handy checklist any data analysis should follow (scroll to the end of the post).

Various people have modeled the dynamics of a zombie apocalypse over the years. My Calgary colleague Kyla Flanagan has done it as a teaching tool for population ecology. The latest version is more elaborate than most, as it uses the Gillespie algorithm and data from the 2010 US census to simulate a stochastic spatial SIR model of a zombie outbreak over the continental US. You can play with the simulation parameters and initial conditions and watch the outbreak spread across the country here. (ht

114 year old Sweet Briar College, a small women’s liberal arts college in rural Virginia, is closing at the end of the semester. Wow.

Hyperlinks have a pretty short half life; the web changes fast. I’m not too worried about this for, say, links from this blog. But for stuff that’s supposed to be more permanent, like peer-reviewed papers, referring to online material is problematic because your reference probably will cease to exist in a few years. Data Colada suggests an easy solution for anyone who wants to cite online material in a peer-reviewed paper.

Free riding, Ivy League edition. (ht Marginal Revolution)

Zombie ideas in pedagogy: Don’t bother trying to teach to the learning style of your students, or trying to teach in a way that accommodates diverse learning styles. Students have learning preferences, but teaching to those preferences does not enhance learning.

Interesting chapter on modelling as a method of inquiry. It’s about how economics went from a verbal to a mathematical field, but it’s totally accessible to ecologists. Interesting to think about how ecology is following a similar path. (ht Brad DeLong)

Slurpee waves“. Click through for cool pictures of a cool phenomenon. (ht Not Exactly Rocket Science)

6 thoughts on “Friday links: leaky pipeline leaking less, against exhaustion, slurpee waves, and more

  1. I frequently peruse the economics literature to stay as current as possible on their developments in modeling. Very often I have been able to apply these principles to ecologic data. I strongly endorse everyone in ecology make these literature reviews a habit.

  2. The very best way to “establish… the credibility of your approach” is to write your Methods section such that your work is reproducible.

    • “write your Methods section such that your work is reproducible.”

      Have you read Stephen’s post? It lays out his reasons for thinking that your suggestion is neither possible nor desirable. For instance, every methods section necessarily assumes a lot of tacit and explicit background knowledge on the part of the reader, and so won’t be reproducible by anyone lacking that knowledge.

      • I certainly found Jeremy’s comment to hold true when I was doing medical-based research… especially when folks were reporting unique approaches. On several occasions I had to actually go to the PI’s lab (sometimes 1000s of kilometers away) and have them demonstrate a technique for me… even after many phone & email chat sessions concerning a protocol that wasn’t working in my lab. Invariably, there would be this “Ahhh” moment, when I would see them doing something that they never imagined the outside world would simply assume as part & parcel to the protocol. I always felt like I was trying to steal my grandmother’s secret cheesecake recipe in the process… .

        In ecology I have found it less daunting, perhaps in part because it seems PIs are much more willing to meet and discuss their approaches openly. Had I not had that kind of participation over the past 5 years, I would have made critical errors concerning experimental design. So I always advise that when someone tries to adopt a new/ unique protocol from the literature, that they do their best to have a “meet & greet” session with the PI on the paper. Often that can be arranged by simply identifying a conference of mutual interest and making time for dinner & drinks to hash things out.

        I have seen significant sums of grant money wasted because folks end up making mistakes that could have been avoided by simply reaching out to a peer.

  3. ” learning styles” or “learning types” treat students as tho they are circuits – w/ fixed,permanent connections. But we know this isn’t true – we know that we can rewire the connections in the brain through practice and training. And isn’t that what teachers and education are supposed to do? Help train students in the most efficient learning methods? Remember that old fashioned idea that education isn’t so much about what facts you learn – its about learning how to think. Not about students telling everyone else how the learning should be done. 🙂

    • Excellent comment, Jim! I was very fortunate to have an adviser when I was an undergraduate that emphasized this to me time & again (Dave Strohmeyer; ecologist; retired). Whenever I spoke with Dave- which was at least weekly, I was usually seeking advice on some kind of course related material in my curriculum. At times I would express frustration over having to memorize so many concepts & facts in biology & chemistry. Dave would always respond with something like, “Yes- it is important to learn the nuts & bolts… but believe it or not, we are not teaching you the facts per se. Rather, we are teaching you how to think… & it will be a long time before you come to understand that.”

      For me, anyway- it would be another 3 decades before I really understood what he meant. And when I did, it was fascinating to say the least.

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