• Aliens & Invaders & Exotics, Oh My: The Language of Invasive Biology

    Language is important. It’s a lesson many biological scientists would have learned a long time ago if we hadn’t kept social sciences at such a wary arm’s length. Ecologists have a tendency to label and relabel ecological concepts (anyone up for a debate about the word ‘niche’?), species and even global phenomena (think global warming vs. climate change) based on anything from shifts in public perception to new findings that challenge our earlier labels.

    Read more »
  • Measuring the Popularity of North American Birds

    This week we look at a novel paper that tries to assess which types of North American birds are popular with the public, and whether that popularity is confined only to their home states, or whether it is shown in surrounding areas as well.

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  • The Public and Private Faces of Birds with Professor Dan Baldassarre

    More than perhaps any other taxa, birds have managed to associate themselves with the beauty of nature. The bird-watching community worldwide is massive, and ranges from casual backyard birders to those who are willing to travel far and wide to see a new species. I spoke to Professor Dan Baldassarre recently about our relationships with birds, some of the positives that have come from it, and how our perception of them may have blinded us to some of the realities of their lives.

    Read more »
  • On Fish Dispersal and the Perpetual Evil of the Duck

    Woe betide my fishy ancestors, for I am come here today to vent my grievances at a paper so dastardly it has cast a tepid patina of anxiety on a LOT of the structured squabbling my colleagues and I call ‘research’. Actually, I shouldn’t vent too harshly on the sarcopterygiites, those ancient lobe-finned ancestors of ours and their close cousins the regular fish. Birds, as always, are the main culprit here. An abhorrent series of mutations that messed up a perfectly good reptile.

    Read more »
  • Pride in Science

    Image credit: Joint Base Langley-Eustis,Va, CC0 1.0 Scientists face many challenges during their professional lives, but one prevalent problem that doesn’t get the attention that it deserves is that of

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  • Hey You… Take a Sad Estimator and Make it Better: The Rao Blackwell Theorem

    A common goal of ecologists is to understand the population abundance of a particular species. We might be looking for the California condor as part of assessing how well the recovery project is going. This requires some field work, going out to a variety of sites and counting animals that we see. How do we choose which sites to go to?  Even in the era of camera traps, we still need to know where to put our extra set of eyes. It would be a shame to have a particular camera not get any action due to an unlucky placement. We don’t have infinite time and money after all!

    Read more »
  • The Varying Roles of Indigenous, Government, and Private Protected Areas in Conservation

    This week we look at a paper which compares the roles of different types of protected areas. What do they prioritise? Do they overlap, or are they complementary?

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  • Esther Ngumbi: Food Security in the Face of Climate Change

    At 2019’s BES Annual meeting, I sat down with Assistant Professor and Food Scientist Esther Ngumbi to talk about everything from African governments to the shifting of climate baselines. Esther grew up on a farm in rural Kenya, which despite being one of the poorest regions of the world, is also a region that has enormous potential for agricultural transformation, helping to solve not only local food crises, but global ones as well. Yet working against them is the encroaching threat of climate change. Esther told me about the next generation of African farmers, their attitudes to climate change, and breaking down the barriers between scientists and farmers.

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Current Issues

Aliens & Invaders & Exotics, Oh My: The Language of Invasive Biology

Language is important. It’s a lesson many biological scientists would have learned a long time ago if we hadn’t kept social sciences at such a wary arm’s length. Ecologists have a tendency to label and relabel ecological concepts (anyone up for a debate about the word ‘niche’?), species and even global phenomena (think global warming vs. climate change) based on anything from shifts in public perception to new findings that challenge our earlier labels.

On Fish Dispersal and the Perpetual Evil of the Duck

Woe betide my fishy ancestors, for I am come here today to vent my grievances at a paper so dastardly it has cast a tepid patina of anxiety on a LOT of the structured squabbling my colleagues and I call ‘research’. Actually, I shouldn’t vent too harshly on the sarcopterygiites, those ancient lobe-finned ancestors of ours and their close cousins the regular fish. Birds, as always, are the main culprit here. An abhorrent series of mutations that messed up a perfectly good reptile.

Pride in Science

Image credit: Joint Base Langley-Eustis,Va, CC0 1.0 Scientists face many challenges during their professional lives, but one prevalent problem that doesn’t get the attention that

The Bird Watching Community: Citizen Science at its Finest

People love watching birds. They’re diverse and beautiful in appearance and behaviour, and bird watching appeals to the very human quirk to categorize and collect. It is therefore not so strange that nowadays hundreds of thousands of people go out, be it in nature or in the city, to spot and record their observations of birds. So how can this knowledge be tapped into, and who can it benefit?

Stats Corner & Words from the Experts

Hey You… Take a Sad Estimator and Make it Better: The Rao Blackwell Theorem

A common goal of ecologists is to understand the population abundance of a particular species. We might be looking for the California condor as part of assessing how well the recovery project is going. This requires some field work, going out to a variety of sites and counting animals that we see. How do we choose which sites to go to?  Even in the era of camera traps, we still need to know where to put our extra set of eyes. It would be a shame to have a particular camera not get any action due to an unlucky placement. We don’t have infinite time and money after all!

The Public and Private Faces of Birds with Professor Dan Baldassarre

More than perhaps any other taxa, birds have managed to associate themselves with the beauty of nature. The bird-watching community worldwide is massive, and ranges from casual backyard birders to those who are willing to travel far and wide to see a new species. I spoke to Professor Dan Baldassarre recently about our relationships with birds, some of the positives that have come from it, and how our perception of them may have blinded us to some of the realities of their lives.

Conference Reviews & Paper of the week

The 2020 Oikos Write-Up: Ecology in the Anthropocene

My lord Iceland is gorgeous. There could not have been a better setting for the 2020 Nordic Oikos Society’s Annual Meeting. Driving through deserts of snow that ring of the kind of quiet isolation you’d expect from a town in a depressing British murder mystery was a wonderful experience. As was the conference itself, of course. So let’s recap some of my highlights from this year’s meeting, titled ‘Ecology in the Anthropocene’.