Tasters: 30/01/2018

Hi all,

I have been in Davos a few times; two of my collaborators work and live there. Quite place. Stunning as well. And it is home to a world-leading institute for snow research. At the end of January, Davos hosts the World Economic Forum. At this year’s forum, the effects of extreme climate event and the loss of biodiversity have been identified as areas of great concern (see global risks landscape for 2018 below). An excerpt of the report can be found here. Are politics finally moving? I am slightly optimistic!


Last week, we introduced 15 new Associate Editors for Functional Ecology. What has not yet been mentioned is that the list of Associate Editors for the journal now consists of 54% men and 46% woman. I quickly analysed these numbers, and the gender balance in the FE editorial board is rather good (Chi^2 = 0.71, P = 0.40).

Staying with the equality, Nature reports on a study that analysed what happens when reviewers focus just on the science when they review grants. In such case, gender bias fades. When asked to also judge the scientist, woman still loose out. See the report here, and the original paper here.

On Dynamic Ecology, Meghan Duffy shared a thought-provoking blog describing the wider impact of sexual harassment and calls out for a change in the lab cultures. Slightly related, the Guardian had an interesting item on bullying in academia.

If you happen to work in peatlands, and your work is of importance to the conservation of Irish peatlands, the Dutch Foundation for Irish Peatbogs, has a grant call open. They fund up to €2k; preference is given to early career researchers.

Enjoy your week,


Bjorn Robroek is the blog editor for Functional Ecologists.bjorn

Tasters: 09/01/2018

Dear all,

I’d like to first take the opportunity to wish you all a very happy, healthy and successful 2018. I hope that in the year that lies ahead, this blog will contribute to your work and may inspire you to submit your best work to Functional Ecology.

Let me also take the opportunity to thank all contributors to our columns Insights, Hindsight, and Community+Ecology. In the coming weeks, some changes to functionalecologists.com will be made, so keep an open eye. A special thanks to Gesche, Stacey, Richard and Rob for their guest posts in the InSite/Out columns. I hope to see more of your posts in the following year.

I am just back from annual leave, which started after the hugely inspirational Ecology Across Borders meeting in Ghent, Belgium (more on that meeting in one of my following blogs). This year for me begins with Functional Ecology having published its January edition, which has a special focus on functional traits along a transect (guest editors Shuli niu, Aimee classen, and Yiqi Luo).

RMtweetI am also very fascinated by the current weather conditions across the globe. Last week, it was colder in Sunshine state Florida than it was in Alaska. Guest blogger Rob Mills, sees hardly any snow in the Scottish mountains, while in the Alps the recent snow dump caused chaos, and even more is expected.

In the low countries, like my home country of the Netherlands, recent weather conditions have caused the rivers to reach very high levels. The good news here is that recent developments in creating more space for rivers has paid off, and flooding of communities has not yet occurred. To finish, on the other side of the world (from where I am!), Sydney deals with the highest temperatures measured since 1939. Who says nothing wrong with our climate? I am curious to see how our natural ecosystems deal with these phenomena.

All best, Bjorn

Bjorn Robroek is the blog editor for Functional Ecologists.bjorn

Tuesday Tasters: 28/11/2017

Recently accepted in Functional Ecology, a very interesting paper describing environmental conditions as an important determinant for the phenology of bird plumage.

Nature Ecology & Evolution last week published a paper that shows that the effects of biodiversity on ecosystem multifunctionality increase with increasing number of functions. These findings are in stark contrast with a paper published just over 5 months earlier, which makes the point the biodiversity-multifunctionality relationships do not increase with the number of functions considered. Interesting to see where these differences come from: methodological (multifunctionality is calculated in different ways in both papers), different functions considered or ecosystem dependent? I will keep following this field with much interest.

Working at a University does not help in living a happy life, researchers find. Job security is high on the list what people are unhappy about.

Last week, Dynamic Ecology was polling about people’s opinions on what they call ‘Statistical Machismo’. I am looking forward to their results. Personally, I think the simpler (not simplistic), the better; the impact of a paper should depend on design, methods, and scope of inference.

An interesting piece in Science Magazine (based on a publication in the journal Sex Roles) that perfectly fits in the gender discussions I have pointed to earlier. Apparently, men whose wives keep their name after marriage (that includes me!) may be perceived in a less gender-stereotyped manner. The majority of the study’s participants were female.  I find it hard to know what to conclude from the results (as do the authors).


Enjoy your week,


Bjorn Robroek is the blog editor for Functional Ecologists.bjorn

Tuesday Tasters: 21/11/2017

Already sideways highlighted by Jennifer last week, Nature Ecology and Evolution have published a list of the 100 articles every ecologist should read. Many critical notes have followed (have a look for yourself); for example on how the list has been compiled, the average age of the listed paper (c. 38 years old), its gender bias, etc. I am excited to read these critiques and look forward to an alternative list that also reflects recent advances in ecology; one that I am almost certain will be a lot more inclusive.

Hot off the press, this paper by Ramirez and her colleagues  (which provides a roadmap on how to answer important ecological questions with highly variable microbial sequence data) might make it on such list!

And another candidate paper  for the list: Wubs and Bezemer use an elegant but simple experimental design to show that soil conditioned by multiple plant species results in a more balanced (i.e. more even) plant community, as compared to soil condition by single plants.

And now for something completely different: Do you have a hilarious ecological story to tell? Sign up for the Science Slam at the Ecology Across Borders conference in Ghent.


Enjoy your week,


Bjorn Robroek is the blog editor for Functional Ecologists.bjorn

Tuesday Tasters: 14/11/17

Bjorn’s away, so this week’s Tuesday Tasters are from me.

Researchers used digital animation to examine how the effectiveness of a lizard’s territorial display varies across ecological environments and conditions (with video abstract!)

For anyone interested in public engagement, Sense about Science have published a new (and free) guide- grab Public Engagement: a practical guide here.   (Case study is from medicine, but the principles are good whatever area you work in.)

And related, the BES and ZSL are running a workshop on communicating your science in February, with training on traditional and social media – tickets available now.

Check out the replies to this tweet from Terry McGlynn:

And for anyone that’s missed it (and has access), the BBC is currently airing Blue Planet 2, and it’s just as spectacular as you’d expect – the website has links to stream the episodes, plus information on getting involved in ocean conservation, how it was all made and bonus podcasts.

Jennifer Meyer is the Assistant Editor for Functional Ecology DSC_0066

Tuesday taster: 07/11/2017

I am preparing for fieldwork in Sweden, starting from tomorrow. While it will be really cold this time of the year, I just read that after a very hot 2016, also this year is going to enter the top 3 of warmest years ever recorded.

The retreating sea ice (a result of climate warming) is threatening not only many natural processes (see the blogs of Robert Mills), but also has enormous impacts on the livelihood of indigenous people .

In the latest issue of Functional Ecology, a very interesting paper on how variability in stream temperatures has a divergent effect on geographically dispersed insect populations.

And for those interested in stats, a pre-print paper on how to avoid artistry in significance tests


Enjoy your week,


Bjorn Robroek is the blog editor for Functional Ecologists.bjorn

Tuesday taster: 31/10/2017

Published today in Functional Ecology:

  • a study by Griffiths et al. on the links between traits, demography and species abundance in a predator-prey-resource background
  • a study by Lea et al. describing the use of non-invasive physiological markers to identify the population dynamics in Zebra.

And again…consider travelling to ‘Ecology without Borders’ by train. Ecologists need to set the example; one conference paper at the moment is estimated to represent 800 kg of CO2; that is driving an average car for 31 hours non-stop.

It was hard to miss it as my Twitter feed was full of it: BluePlanet II is on air.

The debate on the usefulness of summer- and winter-time keeps going on. But apparently changing the clock is good for your brain.

Tuesday taster: 24/10/2017

[Eds note: The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice that this Tuesday taster has actually gone online on a Thursday… Sorry everyone, especially Bjorn – Jennifer and I were out of the office and unable to post on the right day. Normal service will be resumed next week! – Emilie, Functional Ecology Managing Editor.]

  • Ecology without Borders registration closed! More than a day before closure of ‘early bird’ registration, the Ecology without Borders meeting in Ghent is fully booked. Me and Jennifer will be there, so if you want to talk about the blog, come and see us!

EAB reg closed


  • All over the news last week: an alarming decrease in insects has been reported by Dutch and German ecologists in PlosOne. Are we poisoning and isolating our pollinator populations? For background information, see here, here and here.

plosONE insect decline fig

Strong decline in daily biomass of insects in malaise traps. Hallmann et al. (2017) PLoS ONE12(10): e0185809. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0185809


  • If this news alarms you, but not yet ready to give up your Sunday roast; read here how you could do cook a more sustainable one. As a quick summary:
    • Cut down the meat: meat accounts for up to 70% of the environmental impact of a Sunday roast.
    • Turn down the heat: 20-30% energy saved by cooking less long
    • Use alternative cooking methods


  • Why did the sky turn red last week? If you want to know the science behind this event, Dr David Moore of the National Centre for Earth Observation in Leicester has written an excellent summary of it.


Bjorn Robroek is the blog editor for Functional Ecologists.

Tuesday taster: 17/10/2017

  • These days, I am tutoring a few first year Biology students. In search of how to do that in the best and most effective way, I found some helpful information here, and here.
  • Most of us at some point learned about the effect of earthworms in soils and ecological processes. A recently accepted paper in Functional Ecology shows that this effect is largest in ecosystems that have no legacy of earthworm presence.
  • Also recently accepted in Functional Ecology, a neat study on how urine from mammals in a Brazilian lowland rain forest affects microbial community composition and microbial function.
  • After Kelly Ramirez and her colleagues’ paper on distribution of microbes in New York’s Central park, a group of Swiss and French researchers have now assessed the microbial communities in the street gutters of Paris. What’s next?
  • You can find an interesting paper here, published by The Royal Society Open Science, on the role of science blogs.
  • And for those who didn’t keep up with the news on gravitational waves, and the importance of this discovery, the BBC has a good news item on it.



Bjorn Robroek is the blog editor for Functional Ecologists.bjorn




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