Welcome, Functional Ecologists!

By Bjorn Robroek

Over the last few months, my life has changed drastically. I left the beautiful mountains of Switzerland behind, exchanging them for the rolling hills of Southwest England when I took up a lectureship in ecology at the University of Southampton. One week into my new position at Southampton, I found myself teaching plant and invertebrate ecology to 50 undergrads in Andalusia, Spain– a fantastic experience that reminded me how broad the field of ecology is. Ecology comes in many different flavours, and ecologists are also a varied group, with different interests, experiences and backgrounds. I am extremely chuffed to launch functionalecologists.com, a blog for the journal Functional Ecology.  To understand ecology takes a wide range of approaches, and I hope that this blog will show the many different ways that Functional Ecology can offer different aspects of ecology to ecologists.

Ecology may be a wide field, but it’s also a small world, and this definitely goes for the ecological community. Last week, my colleague, Jane Catford, invited John Dwyer (University of Queensland, Australia) to talk about his recently accepted Ecology Letters paper (Dwyer and Laughlin, 2017: Ecology Letters, doi:10.1111/ele.12781 – I strongly encourage you to read it). During lunch, the three of us discussed our past positions, and we realized that John and I had both worked at the same institute in Switzerland (Ecole Polytechique Fédérale de Lausanne). Later that week, I also realized that John had co-authored a paper with a PhD student, Justine Gay-des-Combes, whom I currently co-supervise. To me, this nicely illustrates that even if you may not know all your peers, you can still find lots of unexpected connections. I hope the Functional Ecology blog will highlight that connectivity between ecologists, and will allow people to be inspired by scientists outside your immediate circle, potentially even outside your direct field of interest or expertise. In the end, we are all functional ecologists!

functionalecologists.com will highlight recent journal content from Functional Ecology, but it will also have much more to offer, providing a platform for functional ecologists to explore research (and beyond!) through a variety of columns.

  • In Insights, authors explain where the inspiration for their research in a recently published paper came from and give more detail on the relevance of their study for the wider ecology community and beyond. This should be the place where you will get inspired and perhaps pick up ideas or techniques from other ecological areas then your own.
  • In Hindsight, the author of each column highlights a classic or a forgotten paper and gives a historical viewpoint on current knowledge.
  • With Insite/out, ecologists at different career stages who will take you with them as they work in the field, the lab or the office.
  • In our Tuesday tasters, you can find suggested reads, news and links to things we think are of interest to our readers. We are open to suggestions, so if you have an announcement that you think should be included, please get in touch with me.

Finally, I end by expressing my hope that you and your fellow functional ecologists will enjoy reading (and interacting with) the new Functional Ecology blog.


Best wishes,

Bjorn Robroek




Bjorn Robroek is the blog editor for Functional Ecologists.


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