A while back, we invited you to ask us anything. Here are our answers to our next three questions, from sagitaninta (first two questions) and Matt Ricketts:
- Should evolutionary ecology be incorporated into introductory ecology courses, or left for advanced courses?
- What statistical tools should ecologists learn in order to avoid “defaulting” to simple, familiar tools like linear regression and t-tests?
- Do you read the literature on paper, electronic devices, or both? What tools do you like for this purpose?
- If by “evolutionary ecology” you mean the broad idea that organisms evolve and are adapted to their environments, then yes absolutely! If you mean something more specific like life history evolution or eco-evolutionary dynamics, then I think it depends on the interests of the instructor and other factors such as how the course in question fits in with the other courses students will be taking as part of their degree programs. Meghan has a related post on what ecological concepts should be included in an introductory biology course.
- We have an old AUA post on this. Also remember that you don’t have to do a fancy statistical analysis just because it’s fancy; see Brian’s old posts on statistical machismo.
- I read pdfs on my laptop and desktop. I stopped printing pdfs out and taking notes in the margins a number of years ago, probably after most (not all) of my colleagues had. I sometimes toy with the idea of getting a tablet and a stylus to try to replicate the old experience of reading and making marginal notes on paper. But the sad truth is that I no longer read enough papers carefully enough to make that investment worth it.
- Yes evolutionary ecology should be taught early. By which I mean the notion of optimization subject to constraints and frequency/density dependence. And specific examples – explaining things like theories of why humans age or why cowbird parasatism is evolutionarily maintained excites students a lot.
- I guess I would echo Jeremy’s two links. I will just repeat my one previous answer in that I think we spend way to much energy learning the relatively complex art of mixed models and would be better learning quantile regression, path analysis and machine learning, and even just plain old getting better at simple multivariate regression.
- Depends how seriously I am going to read it. If it is a skim I’ll do it on a PDF. If it is a paper I am reviewing or want to deeply understand for my research, I still print it out and use margin notes. This is perhaps a function of my spending most of my time on a so-called ultraportable with a 12″ screen but also for the fact that nothing substitutes for hand writing notes in the margins for me (and studies have shown that hand writing improves memory over typing). When I am travelling I do sometimes just use PDF margin notes on screen, but I don’t feel like I do my best job. When it is a paper I am co-authoring I dive straight into it in Word.