Launching a global community: International Network of Next-Generation Ecologists

For the past year a group of graduate students, post docs and early career researchers have been working to set up a global network , with the goal of bringing the new generation of ecologists around the world into contact. The newly born initiative goes under the name "International Network of Next-Generation Ecologists" or simply INNGE [in-jee]. INNGE has close connections to the International Association for Ecology (INTECOL). The launch of the network was announced in the most recent newsletter of INTECOL - read it here.

The website of INNGE is currently under construction, but should be up and running soon. Until then find out more about INNGE by joining the Facebook group [INGGE], LinkedIn group [INNGE] or follow INNGE on Twitter [INNGEcologist].

Excerpt from the newsletter story:

INNGE specifically aims to
1) Enhance  
a. International knowledge about ecological topics­  
b. The ability to build academic networks for early-career scientists locally and regionally­  

2) Foster 
a. Cross-continental initiatives between ecological societies and their early career ecologists­ 
b. Local stewardship and sustainability efforts via global coordination 

 3) Communicate 
a. On-going initiatives from ecological societies to ecologists in other parts of the world so as to ensure synergy and 
avoid unnecessary redundancy­ 
b. International career opportunities for early career ecologists­ 
c. Across disciplines, by engaging with networks of early career researchers in other areas of study­

Arrived at Berkeley

I have now spent a little more than a week in Berkeley starting my one year research stay at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology (Picture). Here I will primarily be working with Rauri Bowie on the role of habitat change in Eastern Africa as a driver of genetic versus morphological structure in forest birds.

I spent the first few days settling in at the house I share with two other graduate students, finding may way around town and buying a bed and a bike - what else do you need!? This week I started my training in the genetics laboratory, one of the  major competences that I aim to acquire during the PhD. 

Besides being one of the only universities with designated parking spots for Nobel laureates, there are several cool features around the university campus. One of the very famous features in the Valley Life Sciences Building is a giant mounted T-rex fossil - one of the few in the world.

Remote sensing course: The interrelation of greenness and precipitation across Africa

In the middle of March just before leaving for UC Berkeley I attended a course on using remote sensing data to detect environmental change at the Department of Geography and Geology.The course offered a good chance to get more familiar with the increasing amount of satellite based products that gives us the birds eye view of our planets environmental state. To me, remote sensing is of special relevance when trying to explain some of the large-scale changes in bird population abundance. In my current work on European wide population dynamics of European songbirds a particular challenge is to find environmental variables that affect long-distance migrants. The remote sensing course provided a good opportunity to look more into the interrelation of some of the basic remotely sensed environmental variables.

European long-distance migrants mainly winter in various parts of Africa. However, we often have very little knowledge on when they go where. Therefore it is also hard to know what environmental conditions might matter for them, and the relative roles of conditions in Europe and Africa.

Correlation between winter NDVI and precipitation during the preceding months

NDVI, satellite based measure of vegetation greenness has been widely used as an overall indicator of general environmental conditions, and I have been using it in my work on population dynamics. I was interested though, to see how precipitation might affect long-distance  migrants. However, this is where it gets complicated. Because of the shift in the period of the rainy season within Africa, the crucial period of precipitation that determines winter conditions probably also varies within Africa.

To investigate this I did a lagged correlation between NDVI during winter and precipitation during different months of the year. This should give me a hint of what periods of the year I should focus on in different wintering areas of Africa. The results show marked differences between areas like Western and Southern Africa (see the figure).

I think this analysis will be a good basis to start relating population dynamics of long-distance migrants to variation in precipitation in Africa.

Special issue: Interdisciplinary challenges in food, health and the environment

In recent years there has been an increasing consideration of how biological evolution sometimes can act on very short time scales relevant for many human activities. In 2010 the Applied Evolution Summit sought to address this issue in an interdisciplinary framework. The special issue have just been published by Evolutionary Applications, click here.

The 16 articles in the issue address how approaches that take the evolution process into account can help solve some of the global challenges within the areas of food,  health and environmental management.

Two articles that I have co-authored are listed below (click the title to access the papers electronically):

Evolutionary principles and their practical application (pages 159–183) Andrew P. Hendry, Michael T. Kinnison, Mikko Heino, Troy Day, Thomas B. Smith, Gary Fitt, Carl T. Bergstrom, John Oakeshott, Peter S. Jørgensen, Myron P. Zalucki, George Gilchrist, Simon Southerton, Andrew Sih, Sharon Strauss, Robert F. Denison and Scott P. Carroll Article first published online: 17 FEB 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1752-4571.2010.00165.x 

Incorporating evolutionary principles into environmental management and policy (pages 315–325) Richard Lankau, Peter Søgaard Jørgensen, David J. Harris and Andrew Sih Article first published online: 17 FEB 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1752-4571.2010.00171.x

  The special issue content is freely available throghout March 2010.