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Melanie Colón

Lack of quantitative training among early-career ecologists: a survey of the problem and potential solutions

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Frédéric Barraquand,corresponding author1, 11 Thomas H.G. Ezard,2, 11 Peter S. Jørgensen,3, 11 Naupaka Zimmerman,4, 11 Scott Chamberlain,5 Roberto Salguero-Gómez,6,7, 11 Timothy J. Curran,8, 11 and Timothée Poisot9,10, 11

 

Abstract

Proficiency in mathematics and statistics is essential to modern ecological science, yet few studies have assessed the level of quantitative training received by ecologists. To do so, we conducted an online survey. The 937 respondents were mostly early-career scientists who studied biology as undergraduates. We found a clear ….

 

More at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3961151/

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Hear, hear!  These quantitative skills are not just the purview of theoretical ecology either.  Even such basic endeavors as surveys (that now must account for detection probability) and nest success (that now must model daily survivorship) require a level quantitative savvy greater than I picked up 25 years ago.  This means that it's not just academics who need these skills.

 

The other revolution has been the rise in generalized linear modeling using AIC. I was 3 credits from a stats minor in grad school, but nothing I did prepared me to analyze data the way editors and referees expect it today.

 

Here's where it gets interesting:  I predict that we'd lose about 75% of our undergraduate student body in wildlife ecology and management if we followed these recommendations.  Is that a good thing?  Despite the authors' statements to the contrary, doing less rote memorization of species taxonomy, anatomy, and identification will result in professionals who can model relationships about things for which they have little knowledge. 

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