Friday, May 29, 2009


Check it out:

It is about time.

I teach "Ecology of North America," and I have been itching (read "too lazy") to add urban landscapes to the course. Sure, we talk about natural wild fires hurting rich people in So. California, and fights over prairie dogs, and depleted aquifers, but we haven't gone the next step -- we haven't crossed that threshold into a new paradigm. Now we will.

Thanks Erle and Navin!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Reverand Bayes

May the gods bless the good Reverend. As a practitioner and teacher of quantitative methods, I have been conflicted about Bayesian statistical methods. They have seemed really neato cool, but can I ask students to learn them on top of everything else? Should I invest the time?

I have found that Bayesian methods actually simplify my life, because model construction and end-user implementation for designs of any complexity are relatively transparent. In addition, they can represent nearly any ecological process. Sure, there is a bit of a learning curve, but much of that learning goes right to the core of statistical thinking and interpretation. I am currently using Bayesian methods to reinterpret an old data set, this time in a manner that mirrors the eco/evo interpretation so directly and precisely that I am still giddy.

I guess I will encourage students to consider these methods ... on a case by case basis.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


My 7 year old and I saw our first Spring Peepers (Hyla crucifer) over the weekend -- a couple of optimistic boys hoping girls might still be interested this late in the Spring (the peepers, not us). We had been very excited, because this was the first year we've heard peepers in our backyard (a .4 acre parcel in 1950's era suburbia). What an amazing experience to hear these critters for so long and finally see them. It was awe-inspiring and calming -- a religious experience. Like eastern skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus), peepers have always been a wonderful harbinger of Spring for me. We are glad to see them.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Socioeconomics drive urban plant diversity (Hope et al. 2003)

What a cool paper (Hope et al. 2003, PNAS 100:8788-8792). Like other before and after this folks describe how the resource and non-resource effects of a keystone species (H. sapiens) is influencing plant communities. What I find so intriguing about this paper is the effect of income and all that goes with that. Obviously income is not the proximate mechanism, but I am guessing it may be a good level of aggregation for a suite of correlated effects. These more distant connections (non-reductionistic) is part of why I got into academic ecology in the first place.