Tag Archives: research

Fostering a Sense of Place: Citizen Science for Conservation Decision Making

Volunteers collect data as part of the Centennial Saguaro Survey in Arizona, USA. (Image credit: US National Park Service, CC0, Image Cropped)

When it comes to making conservation decisions, science is just the first step. Putting scientific research to work addressing conservation challenges requires collaboration between researchers, stakeholders, and the public. And increasingly, researchers point to citizen science as a way to engage the public in conservation.

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What Does Citizen Science Mean To You?

April 2020 is Global Citizen Science Month. (Image credit: Citizen Science Association. CC-BY 4.0, Image Cropped)

What does citizen science mean to you? If you asked fifty people this question, you’d probably get fifty different answers. Citizen science—or, as it is sometimes called, community science—is increasingly common in scientific research, revolutionizing the way that many types of data are collected, but at the same time it can feel distinctly personal to those that participate in it.

Snapping a photo of a backyard tree each day to document the change in seasons … collecting a water quality sample from your neighborhood stream and sending it to a local lab for analysis … swiping through photos of outer space on your smartphone and identifying patterns among formations of stars—the experience of citizen science looks different for each person who participates in it.

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Turning Students Into Scientists with Professor Vigdis Vandvik

Ask any two researchers what separates a student from a scientist and you’ll likely get two completely different answers. Often I hear people writing their PhD thesis being referred to (and even referring to themselves) as scientists-to-be, which is surely ridiculous, considering the amount of time they spend creating data and publishing research (NO I’M NOT BITTER). But even below that level, I know plenty of Master’s students who have put together singularly impressive datasets or papers that must qualify them for the seemingly subjective title of scientist.

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Extending Ecology – 10 Tips for Interdisciplinary Research

As in nature, its often beneficial for researchers with very different perspectives to bring their distinct backgrounds together (Image Credit: Rickard Zerpe, CC BY 2.0, Image Cropped)

Guest post by Rachel Kelly of the Centre for Marine Socioecology, Tasmania.

Collaboration with other disciplines and knowledges is central to ecology’s capacity to contribute to addressing sustainability challenges in our world today. Interdisciplinary research involves different disciplines working together to integrate their knowledges and methods to meet shared research goals and achieve a real synthesis of approaches. It connects previously disconnected ideas, concepts and resources, and can be a rewarding experience to share collective interest in learning and understanding new perspectives.

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Carsten Rahbek: The Role of a Natural History Museum

Image Credit: Sam Perrin, CC BY-SA 2.0

My number one go-to when visiting a new city is their Museum of Natural History. And whilst it may have stemmed from a love of massive dinosaur skeletons, it eventually developed into a appreciation of the concepts that drive the natural world. I now work at NTNU’s Natural History Museum, and getting a glimpse at what happens behind the scenes has deepened that appreciation further.

With that in mind, I sat down with Professor Carsten Rahbek of the Natural History Museum of Denmark to talk about the role of a Natural History Museum in today’s world. Carsten and I previously spoke about the relationship of ecology with the media (which you can read about here) but in this interview I wanted to talk about whether Natural history Museums needed to evolve, and the connection between a Museum’s research and its exhibitions.

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Brexit and Ecology

Image Credit: Max Pixel, CC0 1.0, Image Cropped

The last three years have seen some serious political upheaval in the European region, Brexit being perhaps the pinnacle of that. It’s an issue on which everyone has an opinion and which no one seems to have any answers to. So I thought that this week I’d try to put together a synthesis of sorts on how Brexit will possibly affect the ecological science community. Below are a series of links to articles that describe the affect of Brexit on, and responses by, the ecological community.

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Locating Shark’s Teeth in the Phone Book

Image Credit: Pixabay, Pixabay licence, Image Cropped

Supervisors: they’re our mentors, bosses, idols. Sometimes, they can seem almost super-human – they know everything, and find every single flaw in your work.

So it can be easy to forget that your supervisors and various other higher-ups are not necessarily a species of perfect, paper mass-producing, hyper-creative geniuses, but in reality just experienced people, who still make mistakes and have “brain-farts”. The following is a personal encounter I had which serves as proof.

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Shannon McCauley: The Role of Gender in Authorship Bias

Image Credit: Breakingpic, Pexels licence, Image Cropped

Who gets the credit in scientific articles is a pressing question (covered in a previous opinion piece), and deciding how to award authorship is especially relevant given the impact that papers in high-impact journals can have on the trajectory of a scientist early in their career.

With this in mind, I spoke with Dr. Shannon McCauley of the University of Toronto-Mississauga during her November visit to the University of Arkansas (more about Shannon can be found in our previous interview). In addition to giving a talk on some of her research, Shannon also led a workshop on authorship in science. I sat down with her afterwards to talk more about the subject.

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Who Gets the Credit?

Scientific papers nowadays are written more on computers than with ink and paper, but no matter how you write a paper it is important to distinguish who gets credit for what. (Image credit: Petar Milošević, CC BY-SA 4.0, Image Cropped)

A huge component of science is the execution of successful experiments and then writing about those experiments. Consequently, a lot of weight is put on who did what, and what kind of credit people deserve for what they do. This can result in some arguments about how much so and so did for the project, and why they deserve authorship credit. In this article, I want to briefly cover some authorship issues and what kind of impact authorship can have on a scientist’s career.

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Bigger is Not Better

Not all GPS coordinate data are created equal, and some of it may actually be meaningless. (Image Credit: Daniel Johansson, Pexels licence, Image Cropped)

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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