Category Archives: ecology

Convenience and ecological knowledge

Do you know the old joke about the fellow who was looking for his keys under a streetlight?  A neighbourly passerby came up and offered to help. “Did you lose your keys here?” he asked.  “No,” the fellow replied, “over there in that alleyway – but the light’s better here”.

This is quite funny until you realize that as ecologists, we do it all the time. Continue reading

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Weird things (some) ecologists believe: “you can’t infer process from pattern”

Warning: this one’s a little bit niche.

When I’m not writing Scientist Sees Squirrel, or books about writing, or books about Latin names, I actually have a day job: I’m an evolutionary ecologist. I teach, and do research, and read the literature (well, sometimes), and I talk with my colleagues about how we do our science and how we might do it better.

I’ve been doing that last bit since my grad school days, 35 years ago, and there’s an assertion that some ecologists love to make that still makes my head spin every time I hear it. Continue reading

Plants in ecological webs

Images: spider web © Kenneth Allen, CC BY-SA 2.0; ants tending aphids © Judy Gallagher CC BY 2.0

Note: This is a science outreach piece belonging to a series I wrote for the newsletter of the Fredericton Botanic Garden.  I’d be happy to see it modified for use elsewhere and so am posting the text here under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license. If you use it, though, I’d appreciate hearing where and how.

A visit to any Botanic Garden surely means attention paid to plants – that’s what “Botanic” means, after all.  When you visit our Fredericton Botanic Garden, for example, your attention will probably first be drawn to our flowerbeds and forests; to the primulas in the Hal Hinds Garden and the daylilies in our newly expanded Daylily Bed; to the reeds by our ponds and the ferns along our Woodland Fern Trail.  All these beautiful plants are worth your time – but we hope you’ll look beyond them, too.  That’s because each of our plants is also part of a larger ecological web. Continue reading