Tag Archives: data

Bigger is Not Better

Not all GPS coordinate data are created equal, and some of it may actually be meaningless. (Image Credit: Daniel Johansson, CC BY-NC 2.0)

The smartphone fallacy – when spatial data are reported at spatial scales finer than the organisms themselves (2018) Meiri, S., Frontiers of Biogeography, DOI: https://escholarship.org/uc/item/2n3349jg

The Crux

One of the greatest annoyances when using museum specimens, old datasets, or large occurrence databases (such as GBIF) is when the locality of an occurrence is only vaguely described, and the coordinate uncertainty is high; “Norway” or “Indochina” doesn’t really tell you much about where that specific animal or plant was seen. Luckily, the days where such vague descriptions were the best you could get are long gone, as most of us now walk around with a GPS in our pockets, and even community science data can be reported very accurately, and more or less in real-time.

However, we have now encountered the opposite problem: the reported coordinates of organisms are often too precise to be realistic, and in the worst-case scenario, they might be borderline meaningless. The author of this study wanted to highlight how this advance in technology coupled with our eagerness to get more accurate data and results have made us too bold in our positional claims.

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Bill Sutherland: Conservation in a Post-Truth World

Bill Sutherland giving the plenary lecture at INTECOL 2013

Bill Sutherland giving the plenary lecture at INTECOL 2013 (Image Credit: British Ecological Society)

It’s not every day you get to meet someone who has been cited more times than The Origin of Species. But at the 2018 Oikos conference in Trondheim, Norway, Kate Layton-Mattthews and I had the privilege of talking to renowned conservation biologist and author of The Conservation Handbook, Professor William Sutherland.

With Bill giving a keynote speech at the conference about making ecological decisions in a post-truth world, we took the chance to grill him about global conservation progress and science in the world of Trump and Brexit.

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