Reflections on talks from #BES12

The #BES12 meeting has come and gone.Here are some notes from some of the talks I attended:

Francesco de Bello – Gave a talk on “Functional species pool framework to disentangle biotic and abiotic effects on community assembly ” – Read his related paper by de Bello in Ecology here. I just completed an interview with Francesco on his research, so look out for that soon.

James Rosindell – Gave a talk on “A Fractal Explorer For the Tree of Life” – This was a very well attended talk and there were a lot of “ooh…ahhh” moments given the visual nature of the talk. Basically, OneZoom is like Google Earth for phylogenetic trees. I did an interview with James on OneZoom, so look for that soon.

BES Macroecology workshop (lead by Tom Webb and Nick Isaac, with representatives from FigShare, and the National Biodiversity Network) –  “Big Data for Big Ecology, Part 1: an introduction to various big datasets”.  Part 1 of this workshop was great – it is always hard to understand complex databases such NBN, GBIF, etc.  – so was good to hear from the people that run them. I won’t speak of Day 2 of the workshop as I am a bit biased because I ran it. You can see my presentation here.

Nick Isaac – of the Center for Ecology and Hydrology gave his talk “Extracting trends from citizen science monitoring data” was great and well-attended.  A few notes I had:  Nick note that citizen science data is often composed of just species lists. In addition, he noted that the species lists of citizen scientists often only have a single species, perhaps the most common species they saw or perhaps they were just looking for one rare species. He noted that there is a problem with looking simply at the raw data from citizen science: the intensity of sampling is increasing  through time – we must account for unequal sampling effort. Although Nick did not show the details of methods he has developed for using citizen science data, they appear to work quite well.

Andrew Clarke – of the British Antarctic Survey gave a nice talk on “Global patterns in mammalian ecology”. A few notes I had: Andrew showed that herbivorous mammals extend into cooler climates than carnivores. In addition, he proposed a general rule: the diet you eat influences your body temperature, which in turn influences basal metabolic rate.

Lawrence Hudson – of Imperical College London presented on his newish R package Cheddar, for analysis and visualization of ecological communities in R. See here. There are already packages for food web type stuff in R: bipartite by Carsten Dormann (here) does analysis and visualization especially on bipartite webs; igraph (here) can be used to do some food web visualization and metric calculation;  foodweb (here), and more. But that’s the great thing about the open-source R environment – similar packages are allowed, but the competition among them brings out better and better tools. My only complaint is that I wish cheddar didn’t use UpperCamelCase for naming functions (see recent article in the R journal here for further reading) because it is difficult to remember where to capitalize, and that it depended on ggplot2 graphics instead of base graphics (personal preference).

Michael Pocock  – of the Center for Ecology and Hydrology, presented on Linking trait to species importance in food webs. He discussed in part results of his recent paper in Science “The robustness and restoration of a network of ecological networks” (DOI:10.1126/science.1214915).

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