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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!...

When should species' traits predict species' abundances?

Species' phenotypic traits are widely thought to (and often do) predict their abundances (e.g. Harpole & Tilman 2006 ). The most abundant species at a given site should be those with traits that make them well-adapted to the biotic and abiotic conditions at that...

An ecological anthropic principle?

Ecological and evolutionary systems--populations, communities, ecosystems, species, food webs, whatever--only occupy certain regions of parameter space. That is, the systems we observe are only a small subset of those which could possibly exist. Individuals organisms...

Speed of review at Oikos

Great news. In chatting with Linus, we determined the current average time to first decision. 50 days! Based on my experience as an author with various journals (except Web Ecology), this is pretty fast. I would love to see turnaround time down to one month, but that...

Should granting agencies fund projects or people?

Basic research grants, awarded to individual investigators or small teams of investigators in order to pursue specific projects, are increasingly difficult to obtain. Applications have been increasing and success rates decreasing for years at the US National Science...

The best sentences a scientist gets to say

Some candidates: "That's a great question, which my next slide addresses." "The error bars are too small to be visible." (one of the benefits of being a microcosmologist is that I get to say this a fair bit) Then there are the sentences you wish you could say, but...

Why my papers are like fine wine

Because they're mostly not cited often, indicating that they can only be appreciated by a cultivated elite . If everybody and their mother was citing me, that would mean my papers were the scientific equivalent of Two Buck Chuck . At least, that's what I like to tell...

UK parliamentary inquiry on peer review

The UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee is conducting an inquiry into the scientific peer review system. You can read the inquiry's terms of reference, see video of their hearing, and read the written evidence (including the submission Owen Petchey and...

Are some general ecological concepts TOO general?: revisiting an Oikos classic

As I've discussed elsewhere , the level of generality with which we conduct ecological research is up to us (well, usually ). We can choose to focus on the forest, or the trees. And studies of different levels of generality complement one another-- you don't fully...

A visual metaphor for the Price Equation (UPDATED)

Disclaimer: This post is about something I've been struggling with for a while, and I was so pleased when I finally figured it out that I decided to post on it. Plus, I haven't posted in a while so I figured I'd better post something . Whether these motivations are...

April 2011 Editor's Choice: lichenivorous moths.

Preamble Who has ever heard of the big bad moth? This paper is really novel and interesting on so many levels. At a basic level, there are some very nice elements developed this paper which make it a top paper. Of course it is no surprise that moths eat lichens, but I...

Why macroecology needs 'microecology': revisiting an Oikos classic

John Lawton's ' Patterns in ecology ' is a minor Oikos classic (cited 73 times since its publication in 1996). As he recognized, John was writing at a time of transition in ecology. Over the previous 15 or so years ecology (especially community ecology) had become...

Why doesn't community ecology erase the signal of historical biogeography? (UPDATED)

Current species distributions have a strong historical signal. Darwin noted that the extinct fossilized species from a given locality were more closely related to contemporary species from the same locality rather than to, say, contemporary species living far away in a...

Diego Vázquez's quick biography

I am a CONICET researcher at the Argentine Institute of Dryland Research , in Mendoza, a city of almost one million people at the foot of the highest peaks of the Andes. I am also an adjunct professor at the Institute of Basic Science of the National University of Cuyo...

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