Cuyama Valley Micronet project 2016

With SB county, California, global change will certainly impact coastal zones. However, dryland ecosystems will also be subject to significant change. To examine the importance of shrubs as a buffer to some of these processes, we are deploying a micro-environmental network to measure the amplitude of several key processes. It turned out to be a real gem of a study site.

So much beauty just over the hill away from the roads.










Celebrate #ESA100 & promote #openscience in ecology though synthesis by publishing your synthesis datasets. #ecosynthesis


Summarizing 100 years of ecology and looking forward should incorporate formal synthesis tools. In the spirit of promoting these efforts, for better or worse, I pulled together all the synthesis datasets I have collaborated in building and published any outstanding ones online this week.

I discovered the meta-data we keep for our derived datasets is ‘less than optimal’, that there are some similarities across synthesis datasets (particularly meta-analyses), and that as a rule of thumb figshare or oneshare are great spots for these type of data.  I realize that primary data on ecological systems absolutely needs formal meta-data and should be published in repositories with structured meta-data such as knb, but derived data can still likely have utility in other repositories. Gigascience and Scientific Data are also great homes for more complete data packages.


gif from murally

Published, representative synthesis datasets
Here are all synthesis datasets published to date.  I have only one left to dig up, clean up, and formalize before publication.

A meta-analytic dataset of plant facilitation in coastal dune systems: responses, regions, and research gaps.

Tree invasions dataset: a comparative test of the dominant hypotheses and functional traits

A meta-analysis of the ecological significance of density in tree invasion

The summary data for a review of the relationship with pollen limitation of plant reproduction

Dataset for the diversity of diversity studies: retrospectives and future directions

The relative success of studies of plant facilitation 2009

The dataset for a systematic review of the attractant-decoy and repellent- plant hypotheses: do plants with heterospecific neighbours escape herbivory?

Dataset examining functional assessment of animals with plant facilitation complexes

Dataset for A systematic review and conceptual framework for the mechanistic pathways of nurse plants

Dataset for Land management trumps the effects of climate change and elevated CO2 on grassland functioning

A systematic review of the ecological literature on cushion plants

A systematic review of arthropod community diversity in association with invasive plants

Indirect interactions in terrestrial plant communities: emerging patterns and research gaps Dataset

As a community, I would love to see the other synthesis datasets out there too. I have found quite a few but they are often in the form of online supplements associated with standard publications. There could be some really neat connections across meta-analyses between conservation, ecology, and different taxa.

If you have derived, synthesis datasets published (and done all that work to aggregate independent data), please publish then share them with the tag #ecosynthesis. If you do it leading up the ESA annual meeting, use the tag #ESA100 too and folks can explore them at the meeting!


Changing interactions in a changing world for #ESA2015 & #oe3c

ESA: The future of gradient studies in examining plant-plant interactions for the next 100 years.

That is the crazy ambitious title for my ESA2015 talk.

Instead, I prefer the following running title for the more synthetic version of the talk I will be giving at the oe3c annual meeting.

Changing interactions in a changing world.

Times are a changing. Global changes are real, dramatic, and prominent in ecological research. Even most fundamental research studies on interactions, gradients, or perturbation invoke global change issues as the validation and implication of the respective work reported. However, integrating individual studies is challenging, and ecology must now very rapidly move beyond context specificity to provide useful, reproducible evidence for many of these global issues. Gradients are a changing too in connectance, length, and severity. Herein, a review and conceptual framework of gradient studies that explore ecological interactions are developed. Experimental field manipulations and syntheses are also presented as a means to advance theory and highlight opportunities for future research. Gradients are powerful tools that can be used to shape distributed, collaborative studies of interactions provided interaction estimates are coupled with drivers at multiple scales, network dynamics, and trophic levels. Contrasts of the frequency and/or importance of interactions, positive or negative, are only as useful as their capacity to expand the relevance of the local ecological context.




 1. Generate a framework to identify opportunities & gaps.

2. Find the best case studies from synthesis papers and primary field studies.

3. Connect the dots and ascertain whether gradients are a viable opportunity or hindrance in our capacity to inform global change issues.

4. Link to space for time substitutions (historical/legacy ideas) and new tools such as SEMs.


Advancing plant ecology through meta-analyses

The Journal of Ecology special issue on meta-analysis is now out. A very illuminating process to handle and review may of these papers. I really enjoyed being a part of it and really learned a lot.

Here is the editorial on it:


Quick sparks from the process.
(1) Sensitivity analyses are critical in plant ecology syntheses.
(2) Bayesian meta-statistics are amazing.
(3) All meta-analyses in plant ecology are likely response surface/multi-factorial syntheses.
(4) Contrasts of magnitude of effects (absolute value) can be a neat way to explore intensity if not importance of ecological effects.



Future of publishing for ecologists

Special issue of Ideas in Ecology and Evolution now online examining the future of publishing.  Here is a link compiling all the pdfs:

We hope to see it continue as a regular section for ecologists and evolutionary biologists to publish ideas on publishing. The editorial I wrote introducing the concept was a fun writing process (Hansel and Gretel: The future of publishing wicked witch-free). I love fairy tales & fables. It inspired me to link the current state of publishing to the tale.  Importantly, Gretel rocks in the original and maybe she can do the same for solutions for ecologists.