Blog

Free idea for a provocative review paper

In the spirit of advancing contrarian ecology , here’s an idea for a provocative review paper which I think a lot of people would find really interesting and useful, but that I don’t have time to write myself. Someone should review the theoretical literature and...

Why do theoreticians and empiricists often talk past one another?

This post is inspired by an honest and good-humored comment by Robin Svensson on my post on zombie ideas in ecology . Robin, by his own admission, is a zombie—he stills sees value in classical theoretical ideas about the intermediate disturbance hypothesis (IDH)...

What publications have most influenced you as an ecologist?

What papers and books have most influenced you as an ecologist? This isn’t the same as asking about the best papers and books you’ve ever read. I’ve read lots of brilliant papers which haven’t influenced me, for instance because they merely reinforced, rather than...

Zombie ideas in ecology

Ideas, once they take root, are hard to kill. Thomas Henry Huxley famously referred to "the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact" as "[t]he great tragedy of Science". But like Hamlet , it's a fictional tragedy—it doesn’t actually happen that way. Ideas,...

Dr. Seuss: community ecologist

Probably a lot of you already know about this (I first saw it quoted in an old paper of Simon Levin's ), but for those of you who don't, the following passage is from Dr. Seuss ' On Beyond Zebra : And NUH is the letter I use to spell Nutches Who live in small caves,...

Bob Holt has an old-school 'blog'

It's so old-school, it's in print form. Bob has been doing a series of informal essays for the Israel Journal of Ecology and Evolution. He's using as way to get down on paper all the ideas he has that, for whatever reason, aren't a good fit for a standard scientific...

May 2011 Editor's Choice: Dioecy, hermaphrodites and pathogen load in plants.

Right on time as always! Over the month of May, I read a digital stack of Oikos papers, but since they are all published already, I get to pick one that I like best here to promote it a bit. My favourite was 'Dioecy, hermaphrodites and pathogen load in plants' by...

Objections to microcosms in ecology, and their answers

I work in protist microcosms. A typical experimental unit is a glass jar with 80 ml of nutrient medium, which I inoculate with bacteria, protists, and perhaps other microbes. Then I (actually my research assistants) follow the resulting population dynamics. Several...

Advice: tips for talks and stats

Here is a document I wrote up for the ecology grad students at my university, with tips on giving a good talk, and on some common statistical mistakes to avoid. As with all the advice I offer, it is far from comprehensive. For more comprehensive advice, see the...

Oikos blog post used as course material

Here . I'm flattered! Wonder if it's going to be on the exam?

My first publication: revisiting an Oikos non-classic

I published my very first paper in Oikos ( Fox and Smith 1997 ). It was part of my undergraduate honors thesis. I spent the summer before my senior year working with David Smith , Josh Van Buskirk , and another undergraduate at David's field site off of Isle Royale in...

Advice: weak reasons for choosing a research project

This is the first of what I hope will be an occasional series of posts on ‘random advice for graduate students’. I will make no attempt to be comprehensive; if you want comprehensive, have a look at How to do ecology and the excellent set of resources compiled by...

Why ecologists should refight the 'null model wars' (UPDATED)

Sometimes, scientific debates get resolved in favor of one side or the other. Modern birds are descended from dinosaurs, and those who thought otherwise were incorrect. Sometimes, debates get resolved in favor of some intermediate or synthetic position. The neutralist-...

Novel perspectives on MaxEnt (UPDATEDx2)

Over the past couple of years Oikos has published a bunch of really thoughtful and interesting papers on the use of maximum entropy ('MaxEnt') in ecology; see the special feature in the April 2010 issue and references therein. The debate over MaxEnt, both in Oikos and...

There are questions you shouldn't ask...

...because you might not like the answer. For instance, last night I found myself asking "I wonder if people actually like my blog posts better than my papers?" Don't answer that.

Ignorance is bliss (sometimes)

Ecologists (and lots of other people) often say that the world, or some feature of it, is 'random' or 'stochastic'. But what exactly does that mean? One view is that randomness is real; some features of the world are inherently probabilistic. Quantum mechanics is the...

Are there any reliable predictors of talk quality?

In grad school, some friends and I once attended a very bad talk by a prominent ecologist. This led to a conversation over beers about whether talk quality is negatively or positively correlated with prominence of the speaker. We decided that there's no correlation. On...

It's the end of NCEAS as we know it (and I feel fine)

As reported in Science this week, the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis ( NCEAS ) will be winding down within a year or so (at least in its current form), as its NSF funding reaches its long-planned end. Approximately half of NCEAS funding (about $3...

Whoops

Without realizing it I hit the wrong button a couple of hours ago and accidentally published the draft post where I keep all my ideas for future posts. I deleted it, but not before five people read it. Much as knowing how sausage is made discourages one from eating...

Early reviews of the Oikos blog (UPDATED)

Early reviews of the Oikos blog are starting to come in from more established ecological bloggers, and so far they're very positive: The EEB and Flow Denim and Tweed Jabberwocky Ecology Carl Boettiger The Molecular Ecologist (we've made their blogroll) i'm a chordata!...

Pages

Subscribe to Blog

Recent Comments & Hot Topics