Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Testosterone Levels in Dominant Sociable Males Are Lower than in Solitary Roamers

As a pet owner, and scientist, I often shake my head at how much credit we give our species. "Oh, we're just SOOO complicated and special --- not like those 'animals'!"

Our program recently had the great fortune of a visit by Carsten Schradin, who gave a nice seminar on the sociobiology of the social striped mouse (Rhabdomys
pumilio). Many of the findings he discussed reminded me nothing so much as stereotypes of our own species. As an outsider looking in, I find the parallels between non-human and human behavior are wonderfully ironic.

I don't anthropomorphize non-human behavior. Rather, I prefer to think that I re-animate human behavior.

[the title of this blog comes from Schradin et al. 2009, Am Nat, v. 173).]

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Quantitative training in EEEB and R

To train our EEEB students (grad students in Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology) in quantitative methods, I have been putting a lot of effort into teaching the R language to willing and sometimes unwilling students.

This coming Spring (2010), I will lead a 1 credit seminar here at Miami using Ben Bolker's recent book, "Ecological Models and Data in R" (Bolker, 2008). This is a fabulous tome, by a gentle and insightful teacher. It fits into the general mood in the field of academic ecology, that measuring real quantities (estimation) is very important (as opposed to only hypothesis testing). Ben's book captures this perfectly, and further, shows how those real quantities are often the parameters in simple models of populations and ecosystems. As Bolker states, "The idea behind realistic static models is that they link together simple deterministic and stochastic models of each process in a chain of ecological processes..." [italics mine].

I anticipate that the book will be very well received in the seminar, because it is practical and clearly written, and sufficiently comprehensive to, as Bolker states, "...pose, and answer, ecological questions in a quantitative way." Thus, I anticipate that his book will be helping us to design and analyze experiments, and ultimately publish papers and finish dissertations.