Nominate yourself for UMich’s Early Career Scientists Symposium on phenotypic plasticity!

Every year, my department hosts an Early Career Scientists Symposium with a different theme. This year’s theme is the ecology and evolutionary biology of phenotypic plasticity. Here’s the call for nominations:

The Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Michigan invites nominations of outstanding scientists early in their careers to participate in an exciting international symposium about the ecology and evolutionary biology of phenotypic plasticity. The symposium events will take place from 10-12th of March 2017, in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Eight early career scientists, alongside a keynote speaker, will be selected to present their work and to participate in panel discussions. We welcome nominations of early career scientists who are studying topics in ecology and evolution related to phenotypic plasticity. This symposium will highlight the work of up-and-coming scientists whose research foci span a breadth of subfields and levels of organization. We champion diversity and encourage the nomination of members of groups underrepresented in science.   

Early career scientists are considered senior graduate students (who stand to receive their Ph.D. within one year), postdoctoral researchers, and first- or second-year faculty. A colleague or advisor must provide the nomination.

The nomination consists of a brief letter of recommendation addressing the nominee’s scientific promise and ability to give a compelling talk, the nominee’s curriculum vitae, and a brief abstract of the proposed presentation (< 200 words, written by the nominee). Nominations may be sent electronically (in one file, please) to: using the nominee’s name as the subject line (last name first). Information about Early Career Scientist Symposia held in past years can be found at

Review of nominations will begin on December 31, 2016.

Selected participants will be contacted in mid January and will have all expenses covered (registration, travel and accommodation). An official announcement of the slate of speakers will be issued soon thereafter.

For more information, contact Carol Solomon at

The 2017 Early Career Scientists Symposium scientific committee includes:

Wei-Chin Ho
Andrea Hodgins Davis (chair)
Jill Myers
Annette Ostling
Mary Rogalski
Sonal Singhal
Carol Solomon
Earl Werner


New postdoctoral program at #UMich

The University of Michigan College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (which is the college that includes my department, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) has just announced a new postdoctoral fellowship program. To quote from the announcement:

The College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA) at the University of Michigan is excited to announce the LSA Collegiate Postdoctoral Fellowship Program, a major initiative aimed to promote a diverse scholarly environment, encourage outstanding individuals to enter academia, and support scholars committed to diversity.


The purpose of the LSA Collegiate Postdoctoral Fellowship Program is to support promising scholars who are committed to diversity in the academy and to prepare those scholars for possible tenure-track appointments in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at U-M.

More information can be found here. Note that the application deadline is November 7th. (That’s not far off!)

What papers should be considered for the 2017 George Mercer Award?

The George Mercer Award is given annually by the ESA to an outstanding research paper published in the previous two years (so, 2015 or 2016 for this year’s award) with a lead author age 40 or younger at the time of publication. The age limit is in memory of George Mercer, a promising young ecologist who was killed in WW II.

I love awards like the Mercer Award. It’s great that the ESA recognizes outstanding work being done by up-and-coming ecologists. And thinking about potential nominees is a fun excuse to think about what makes for truly outstanding ecological research today. This would be a great topic for your next lab meeting: ask everyone suggest a nominee for the Mercer Award and then talk about them.

I have an old post looking back on past Mercer Award winners to look for common threads (more specific than, you know, “being a great paper”). So have a look at that post, and the list of past winners, if you want help forming a “search image”. Broadly speaking, Mercer Award winning papers tend to be those that powerfully combine multiple lines of evidence (often including both theory and data) to really nail what’s going on in some particular system, but in such a way as to also have much broader implications (e.g.). They also tend to come from a single lab or a small collaboration. But there are exceptions, plus there’s no rule that says future winners have to be the same sorts of papers as past winners. In particular, it’s notable that only one review/synthesis/meta-analysis paper has ever won as far as I know. One of these years, surely we’ll see the award go to an outstanding working group paper led by a young author, or to a paper from an outstanding large collaboration like NutNet. Maybe this is the year? (Although against that, one could argue that working groups are a different beast and deserve their own award.)

So, what papers do you think should be in the conversation for the Mercer Award this year? Below, a few candidates off the top of my head. I’m sure you can think of more–please do share your own favorites in the comments! As you’ll see from the list below, I have somewhat narrow taste in papers; I need other people to chime in and force me to broaden my horizons.

  • Newbold et al. 2015 Nature. Global effects of land use on local terrestrial biodiversity. Suggested by Brian as a candidate last year. Would be the first working group paper to win.
  • Alexander et al. 2015 Nature. Novel competitors shape species’ responses to climate change. Great, creative experiment, involving transplants of whole plant communities (well, whole chunks of them) up the side of a mountain.
  • Williams et al. 2016 Science. Rapid evolution accelerates plant population spread in fragmented experimental landscapes. This is what lab experiments are for–to do manipulations that would be impossible in the field. Here, to experimentally shut off evolution in populations of Arabidopsis, thereby revealing big effects of rapid evolution on the rate of spatial spread. A future textbook example. Would be an unusual winner in that as far as I know no laboratory microcosm experiment has ever won (though a couple of mesocosm experiments have).
  • Kraft et al. 2015 PNAS. Plant functional traits and the multidimensional nature of species coexistence. I suggested this one as a candidate last year. As I said in an old post: Thank God somebody is finally bringing modern coexistence theory into “trait-based” ecology (well, they’re not the first; Angert et al. 2009 is great too). Unsurprisingly, the results undermine popular attempts to use trait patterns to infer coexistence mechanisms. And the fact that the authors had to run a massive competition experiment in addition to compiling trait data is in my view a feature, not a bug. Nobody said ecology was easy. And attempts to make it easy (e.g., by trying to infer process from pattern) have a pretty much unbroken track record of failure.
  • Hatton et al. 2015 Science. The predator-prey power law: biomass scaling across terrestrial and aquatic biomes. A global data compilation uncovering new and unexpected cross-system patterns in trophic structure. Would be a slightly atypical winner, in that it’s not a complete story. The authors discovered the pattern but can’t yet fully explain it, though they can rule out the most obvious explanations. But what they’ve got is already a really important contribution to my eyes; expecting even more from one paper would be a bit greedy.

This year’s chair of the Mercer Award subcommittee is our own Meghan Duffy, so if you have any questions about the nomination process just email her ( All it takes is a pdf nomination letter (typically 1-2 pages), explaining why the paper is novel and important, emailed to with the award name in the subject line. I have a bit of advice here on what to talk about in a good nomination letter for the Mercer Award. Every nomination gets taken seriously, no matter who makes it–I nominated a Mercer Award winner back when I was a little-known postdoc. And as with pretty much all scientific society awards, the Mercer Award subcommittee isn’t overwhelmed with nominations and would always love to have more. So please nominate someone! Deadline is Oct. 15.

Jeremy Fox seeking grad students for Fall 2017

I’m currently seeking 2-3 graduate students (M.Sc. or Ph.D.) to start in Fall 2017!

My work addresses fundamental questions in ecology and evolution, ranging from population ecology to macroevolution and using different approaches depending on the question (theory, experiments, comparative analyses). I’m open to inquiries from students with a broad range of interests, but I’m particularly keen to hear from students interested in the following ongoing projects:

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I’m speaking on science blogging at #SocialFish #AFS2016 today

Today at 10:20 am Central time I’m giving a keynote talk on science blogging at the 2016 American Fisheries Society meeting. It’s part of the #SocialFish symposium, which runs all day. Come on by if you’re at the meeting, or follow via Twitter if you’re not! It’ll be a mix of old thoughts and new thoughts. There will be zombie jokes. And I’ll be comparing myself to an alligator gar.

Alligator gar - Atractosteus spatula

Me. More or less.

(image source: Wikimedia Commons)

Ask us anything and we’ll answer! (UPDATED)

Here it is again: ask us anything! Got a question about ecology, science, academia, or anything else we blog about? Ask away in the comments, or by tweeting to @DynamicEcology. Ask as many questions as you like. We’ll compile the questions and answer them in future posts. (UPDATE: We now have a bunch of questions–thanks everyone!–and there’s a limit to how many we can handle, so we’re going to close the comments at the end of the day on June 28.)

Past questions have ranged from how we’d fix the entire US research funding system, to the statistical techniques every ecologist needs to know, to how to teach yourself theoretical ecology, to when to give up on a line of research, to how to deal with slow collaborators…

I’m going to be speaking on blogging at a fisheries meeting. Tell me what to say!

So, I’m going to be speaking in a symposium on social media at the American Fisheries Society meeting in August. I’m talking about blogging, obviously, but I deliberately kept my abstract pretty broad so that I could decide later what exactly to talk about. So, if you were attending this meeting–or if you are!–what would you like me to talk about? If you were in my shoes, what would you talk about? Here are a few scattered but hopefully interesting ideas I’ve had:

(attention conservation notice: short post ahead)

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