viernes, 10 de noviembre de 2017

Harassment, a field study
Science, including the fields of ecology and evolution, must advocate a zero-tolerance policy towards harassment and bullying. This means promoting safe workspaces in all contexts, and letting go of the idea that fieldwork entails special circumstances.

Revelations of harassment at the highest levels of Hollywood and the UK government in the past month have led to increased personal and professional reflection across all industries. Social media users have flocked to post #MeToo stories on Facebook and Twitter, revealing the gamut of acts of harassment they have experienced in their lives. Science is no exception to this, and scrutiny reveals particular problems in the fields of ecology and evolution.

The past few years have seen numerous news stories about senior figures in these disciplines who have been accused by some of their colleagues and students of multiple forms of intimidation, bullying and sexual harassment. At the same time, there has been an increased awareness and understanding of how colleagues and students may be exposed to vulnerable contexts through lack of oversight. A recurring theme in this coverage is the challenges of fieldwork.

Social media initiatives such as #PregnantInTheField and science educator Emily Graslie’s call for public discussion of the taboos and challenges surrounding menstruation have raised awareness of the particular trials fieldwork can pose to women. But many challenges imposed by constraints of the field, such as limited privacy, geographic isolation and a dependence on others, can affect everyone. Yet ecology and evolution fields seem to prize these ‘macho’ challenges almost as a badge of honour. Conferences echo with anecdotes of the extremes researchers have gone to in order to retrieve the season’s data: the stressful make-or-break deadlines; the isolation posed by remote field sites; the topsy-turvy situation where work colleagues become living companions for weeks or even months on end; the challenges of temporary field accommodation to maintenance of personal hygiene. But during assertion of these bragging rights, there may be limited awareness of the fact that these constraints all contribute to creating contexts of increased personal vulnerability. Complaints alleged against prominent Antarctic geologist David Marchant by two of his former students, which Marchant denies, illustrate such a context.

And, of course, the field is not the only context of manufactured vulnerability: the ‘field mentality’ easily filters through to the department, the lab, or the conference (which shares many similarities with the challenges of the field) as still more reports reveal. Journalist Michael Balter has repeatedly investigated parallel claims of sexual harassment leading from institution to conference and back again, notably in the case of Brian Richmond, ex-curator of human origins at the American Museum of Natural History, who is alleged to have sexually assaulted a junior colleague in a hotel room while both were attending the European Society for the Study of Human Evolution (ESHE)’s annual meeting in 2014; allegations that Richmond denies. In reporting other claims, Balter has suggested that new iterations of sexual harassment on the part of junior colleagues may derive from exposure to a culture of such behaviour exhibited by senior colleagues.

There is evidence that the issue of harassment in ecology and evolution extends far beyond these specific cases: a 2014 study of 666 field scientists1 found that 64% of survey participants had experienced sexual harassment (defined as inappropriate or sexual remarks), and 20% experienced sexual assault (defined as sexual contact that was unwanted, unconsenting, or where it was unsafe not to consent). Of those who experienced sexual assault, only 23% reported it, and only 19% of those who reported it were satisfied with the outcome of their report. When these acts occurred, the victims were more likely to be women, and either junior colleagues or students. The impact of these attacks may be long-lasting: Kathryn Clancy and co-authors posited that the strain and stress of experiencing harassment and assault may contribute to the ‘leaky pipeline’ phenomenon1, that is, the gradual loss of women from science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields; their 2017 follow-up study2 confirmed this perception among victims of historic harassment.

The 2017 study highlights the difficulty of establishing acceptable behavioural norms in the absence of explicit and enforced policy, as well as the overwhelming importance of such policies in fieldwork contexts: where codes of conduct and expectations were not clearly established, understood and enforced, there was a correlation with higher rates of sexual harassment2. It seems probable, although not tested in that particular study, that a correlation would exist with other forms of bullying and abuse as well. Appropriate information flow emerges as a key criterion in creating safe workspaces—both senior staff and junior participants need to understand and abide by regulations for them to be effective. In order to combat contexts of vulnerability in which harassment and bullying can arise, this information flow should extend from what is acceptable interpersonal behaviour, to what are reasonable expectations for junior and senior fieldworkers alike in constrained circumstances: provision of a rota for meal preparation; discussion of appropriate noise levels at night; and access to sufficient food, water and breaks during strenuous or restrictive activity, for example.

The good news is that codes of conduct for acceptable behaviour, and provision of reporting structures to facilitate resolution of complaints, are on the rise in scientific contexts, although admittedly more so at conferences than for fieldwork. Following calls from researchers, for example ref. 3, many conferences and societies now issue codes of conduct for meetings (see the Ecological Society of America’s policy, for instance). ESHE now provisions ombudspersons to whom incidents (both harassment and other forms of inappropriate behaviour) can be reported. By constituting an independent body outside a university department or conference organizational committee, ombudspersons help to combat the recognized challenge that a victim may be wary to report an incident perpetrated by a senior colleague. It’s to be hoped too that growing awareness of not only historic incidents but also formerly taboo subjects, such as the personal challenges of fieldwork, may empower victims to speak up. The ecology and evolution communities must continue speak out about these issues and these incidents, calling out colleagues when we witness bullying or harassment.

As for combatting the structures that have facilitated harassment and bullying, as Clancy et al. suggest, it’s time to let go of the idea that the field or the meeting entail special circumstances that mitigate inappropriate behaviour1. While it’s true that there are challenges specific to both, this is all the more reason to push for regulation and oversight to preserve safe workspaces for all, regardless of whether this workspace is halfway up a mountain, in a conference centre, or a lab.


sábado, 4 de noviembre de 2017

Searching for Patterns, Hunting for Causes: Robert MacArthur, the Mathematical Naturalist


miércoles, 1 de noviembre de 2017

Life is not easily bounded

 Derek J Skillings

" ...Most of the time the living world appears to us as manageable chunks. Even a toddler can see that. We know if we have one dog or two; at a pinch, we can probably count how many trees are growing in our backyard. Natural history museums started, in part, as embodiments of early scientific approaches to ordering and cataloguing the diversity of life. This is possible only because humans can usually intuitively pick out one organism from the next – that is, because most of the creatures we come across have pretty clear boundaries in space and time...

...How come, then, the meaning of individuality is one of the oldest and most vexing problems in biology? For millennia, naturalists and philosophers have struggled to define the most fundamental units of living systems and to delimit the precise boundaries of the organisms that inhabit our planet. This difficulty is partly a product of the search for a singular theory that can be used to carve up all of the living world at its joints. But my view is that no such unified theory exists; there’s no single answer to the question: ‘What parts of the world are a part of you as a biological individual, and what parts are not?’ Different accounts of individuality pick out different boundaries, like an overlapping Venn diagram drawn on top of a network of biotic interactions. This isn’t because of uncertainty or a lack of information; rather, the living world just exists in such a way that we need more than one account of individuality to understand it...

...When you stop to think about it, the problem of individuality is (ironically enough) actually composed of two problems: identity and individuation. The problem of identity asks: ‘What does it mean for a thing to remain the same thing if it changes over time?’ or ‘What makes two entities the same kind of thing?’ The problem of individuation asks: ‘How do we tell things apart?’ or ‘What are the boundaries of an object?’ Identity is fundamentally about the nature of sameness and continuity; individuation is about differences and breaks...

...These two issues are different sides of the same coin. You can often reframe one in terms of the other to suit your focus. To pick something out in the world you need to know both what makes it one thing, and also what makes it different than other things – identity and individuation, sameness and difference. Each of these aspects of individuality also tends to come in degrees. A bee is better individuated than a swarm; and a swarm is better individuated than an ecosystem. Similarly, you are closer to the person you were yesterday than you are to the one in your baby photos... "

miércoles, 25 de octubre de 2017

Farmer Perceptions and Behaviors Related to Wildlife


Below-ground complementarity effects in a grassland biodiversity experiment are related to deep-rooting species 

Natalie J. Oram, Janneke M. Ravenek, Kathryn E. Barry,Alexandra Weigeltz Hongmei Chen, Arthur Gessler, Annette Gockele, Hans de Kroon, Jan Willem van der Paauw, Michael Scherer-Lorenzen,     Annemiek Smit-Tiekstra, Jasper van Ruijven, Liesje Mommer.

  1. Below-ground resource partitioning is often proposed as the underlying mechanism for the positive relationship between plant species richness and productivity. For example, if species have different root distributions, a mixture of plant species may be able to use the available resources more completely than the individual species in a monoculture. However, there is little experimental evidence for differentiation in vertical root distributions among species and its contribution to biodiversity effects.
  2. We determined species-specific root standing biomass over depth using molecular techniques (real-time qPCR) in a large grassland biodiversity experiment (one to eight plant species mixtures), in 2 years. Species-specific root biomass data were used to disentangle the effects of positive interactions between species (complementarity effects) and effects due to dominance of productive species (selection effects) on root biomass in mixtures. In a next step, these biodiversity effects were linked to the diversity of rooting depths and the averaged rooting depth of the community.
  3. Root biomass increased with species richness. This was mainly due to positive interactions (the complementarity effect), which increased with species richness below-ground. In contrast, the selection effect decreased with species richness. Although there was considerable variation in vertical root distribution between species in monocultures, the diversity of rooting strategies did not explain the complementarity effect. Rather, the abundance of deep-rooting species in mixtures (i.e. high community-weighted mean) was significantly related to the complementarity effect. Comparing the “predicted” root distribution (based on monocultures) to the actual distribution in mixtures, we found that mixtures rooted deeper than expected, but this did not better explain the complementarity effect.
  4. Synthesis. This study demonstrates that vertical root distributions of species provide only subtle evidence for resource partitioning. We found no evidence that functional diversity in vertical rooting patterns was important for the complementarity effect, in contrast to our expectation that the enhancement of productivity was due to resource partitioning. Alternatively, we found significant but weak relationships between the complementarity effect and deep-rooting communities, based on the community-weighted mean root distribution. This suggests that factors other than below-ground resource partitioning alone may drive the biodiversity–productivity relationship.


martes, 24 de octubre de 2017

Geographic mosaics and changing rates of cereal domestication 
Robin G. Allaby, Chris Stevens, Leilani Lucas, Osamu Maeda, Dorian Q. Fuller
Domestication is the process by which plants or animals evolved to fit a human-managed environment, and it is marked by innovations in plant morphology and anatomy that are in turn correlated with new human behaviours and technologies for harvesting, storage and field preparation. Archaeobotanical evidence has revealed that domestication was a protracted process taking thousands of plant generations. Within this protracted process there were changes in the selection pressures for domestication traits as well as variation across a geographic mosaic of wild and cultivated populations. Quantitative data allow us to estimate the changing selection coefficients for the evolution of non-shattering (domestic-type seed dispersal) in Asian rice (Oryza sativa L.), barley (Hordeum vulgare L.), emmer wheat (Triticum dicoccon (Shrank) Schübl.) and einkorn wheat (Triticum monococcum L.). These data indicate that selection coefficients tended to be low, but also that there were inflection points at which selection increased considerably. For rice, selection coefficients of the order of 0.001 prior to 5500 BC shifted to greater than 0.003 between 5000 and 4500 BC, before falling again as the domestication process ended 4000–3500 BC. In barley and the two wheats selection was strongest between 8500 and 7500 BC. The slow start of domestication may indicate that initial selection began in the Pleistocene glacial era.


miércoles, 18 de octubre de 2017

The role of agriculture in destabilizing the Earth system at the planetary scale

Through examining nine planetary boundaries, or “safe limits”: land-system change, freshwater use, biogeochemical flows, biosphere integrity, climate change, ocean acidification, stratospheric ozone depletion, atmospheric aerosol loading, and introduction of novel entities. Two planetary boundaries have been fully transgressed, i.e., are at high risk, biosphere integrity and biogeochemical flows, and agriculture has been the major driver of the transgression. Three are in a zone of uncertainty i.e., at increasing risk, with agriculture the major driver of two of those, land-system change and freshwater use, and a significant contributor to the third, climate change. Agriculture is also a significant or major contributor to change for many of those planetary boundaries still in the safe zone. To reduce the role of agriculture in transgressing planetary boundaries, many interventions will be needed, including those in broader food systems. 



Way too much livestock!!!

viernes, 29 de septiembre de 2017

All countries exporting agricultural products to all countries

Resistance of tropical seedlings to drought is mediated by neighbourhood diversity
Michael J. O’Brien, Glen Reynolds, Robert Ong and Andy Hector

Occasional periods of drought are typical of most tropical forests, but climate change is increasing drought frequency and intensity in many areas across the globe, threatening the structure and function of these ecosystems. The effects of intermittent drought on tropical tree communities remain poorly understood and the potential impacts of intensified drought under future climatic conditions are even less well known. The response of forests to altered precipitation will be determined by the tolerances of different species to reduced water availability and the interactions among plants that alleviate or exacerbate the effects of drought. Here, we report the response of experimental monocultures and mixtures of tropical trees to simulated drought, which reveals a fundamental shift in the nature of interactions among species. Weaker competition for water in diverse communities allowed seedlings to maintain growth under drought while more intense competition among conspecifics inhibited growth under the same conditions. These results show that reduced competition for water among species in mixtures mediates community resistance to drought. The delayed onset of competition for water among species in more diverse neighbourhoods during drought has potential implications for the coexistence of species in tropical forests and the resilience of these systems to climate change.

Seedling water stress under rainfall and neighbourhood treatments. Physiological response of seedlings to drought (red) and ever-wet (blue) conditions in mixture, non-sibling and sibling neighbourhoods.  Leaf water potentials (95% CI) were significantly lower under drought for non-sibling and sibling neighbourhoods (n = 24 for each neighbourhood × rainfall treatment), but the leaf water potential was statistically indistinguishable between the drought and ever-wet conditions for species mixtures.


jueves, 7 de septiembre de 2017

The Secrets of the Wood Wide Web 

By  Robert Macfarlane

"...For centuries, fungi were widely held to be harmful to plants, parasites that cause disease and dysfunction. More recently, it has become understood that certain kinds of common fungi exist in subtle symbiosis with plants, bringing about not infection but connection.These fungi send out gossamer-fine fungal tubes called hyphae, which infiltrate the soil and weave into the tips of plant roots at a cellular level. Roots and fungi combine to form what is called a mycorrhiza: itself a growing-together of the Greek words for fungus (mykós) and root (riza). In this way, individual plants are joined to one another by an underground hyphal network: a dazzlingly complex and collaborative structure that has become known as the Wood Wide Web.

...The relationship between these mycorrhizal fungi and the plants they connect is now known to be ancient (around four hundred and fifty million years old) and largely one of mutualism —a subset of symbiosis in which both organisms benefit from their association. In the case of the mycorrhizae, the fungi siphon off food from the trees, taking some of the carbon-rich sugar that they produce during photosynthesis. The plants, in turn, obtain nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen that the fungi have acquired from the soil, by means of enzymes that the trees do not possess.

The implications of the Wood Wide Web far exceed this basic exchange of goods between plant and fungi, however. The fungal network also allows plants to distribute resources—sugar, nitrogen, and phosphorus—between one another. A dying tree might divest itself of its resources to the benefit of the community, for example, or a young seedling in a heavily shaded understory might be supported with extra resources by its stronger neighbors. Even more remarkably, the network also allows plants to send one another warnings. A plant under attack from aphids can indicate to a nearby plant that it should raise its defensive response before the aphids reach it..."


domingo, 20 de agosto de 2017


Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo – 1514

La isla de Cubagua, como tengo dicho, es pequeña, y puede bojar tres leguas, poco más o menos. Es llana y el terreno en sí es salitral, y por tanto esteral de todo genero de buenas hierbas. En esta isla de Cubagua, de quien aquí principalmente se trata, es donde en estas partes e Indias más se ejercita la pesquería de perlas. Nunca fue aquella isla de Cubagua poblada de indios por su esterilidad y falta de agua, y por eso venían a ella de otras islas y de la Tierra-Firme a pescar las perlas. A fama de lo cual después los cristianos desde esta isla Española y desde San Juan fueron a poblar allí algunos y a rescatar las perlas.

A la redonda de Cubagua y por delante de ella, a la parte del Levante es todo placeres, y en ellos se cría las perlas en las ostras o pescados así llamados que las producen. Las cuales son allí naturales y desovan y crían en gran cantidad, y por lo tanto se debe creer serán perpetuas, aunque es necesario que sean esperadas y las dejen llegar a perfección de poderse coger, para que sean más provechosas y mejores.

A sido esta granjería muy rica, en tanta manera que el quinto que se paga a Sus Majestades de las perlas y aljófar ha valido cada año quince mil ducados y más, no hablando en lo que se habrá hurtado por algunos: que su poca conciencia y mucha codicia los hace determinar a su peligro para haber llevado encubiertos muchos marcos de perlas y puédese creer que no de las peores, sino de las más escogidas y preciosas.

Los cristianos que en esta granjería entienden, tienen esclavos indios, grandes nadadores, y envíalos su señor con una canoa, y en cada canoa de estas van seis o siete o más o menos nadadores donde les parece o saben ya que es la cantidad de las perlas; y allí se paran en el agua, y échanse para abajo a nado los pescadores hasta que llegan al suelo, y queda en la barca o canoa uno que la tiene quieta todo lo que el puede, atendiendo que salgan los que han entrado debajo del agua. Y después de grande espacio ha estado el indio así debajo, sale fuera encima del agua y así entrando en la canoa, descansa un poco y come algún bocado, si quiere. Y torna al agua, y torna a salir con más ostras que ha tornado a hallar, y hace lo primero se dijo, y de esta manera todos los otros indios.

Algunas veces que el mar anda más alto de lo que los pescadores y ministros de esta granjería querrían, y también porque naturalmente cuando un hombre está en mucha hondura  debajo del agua, los pies se levantan para arriba y con dificultad puede estar  en tierra debajo del agua largo espacio, en esto proveen los indios de esta manera. Echanse sobre los lomos dos piedras, una a un costado y otra al otro, asidas de una cuerda, de forma que de la una a la otra queda un palmo o lo que les parece de intervalo, y el indio queda en medio, y déjase ir para abajo; y como las piedras son pesadas, hácele estar en el suelo quedo, pero cuando le parece y quiere subirse, fácilmente puede desechar las piedras y salirse. 

Y tienen tanta habilidad algunos de los  indios que andan en este oficio en su nadar, que están debajo del agua un cuarto de hora de reloj y algunos más tiempo y menos. Y cuando viene la noche o les parece que es tiempo de descansar, recógense a la isla a sus casas, y entregan las ostras de todo su jornal al señor, cuyos son estos pescadores o a su mayordomo, y aquel háceles de dar de comer, y pone en cobro las ostras.

Otra cosa grande y muy notable me ocurre de esta isla, y es que preguntando yo algunas veces a los señores particulares de los indios que andan en esta pesquería si se acaban o se agotan estas perlas, pues que es pequeño el sitio o término donde se toman y  muchos los que las buscan, decíanme que se acababan en una parte y se pasaban los nadadores a pescar en otra al otro costado de la misma isla o viento contrario y que después que también allá se acababan, se tornaban al primer lugar o a alguna de aquellas partes, donde primero habían pescado y lo habían dejado agotado de perlas, y que lo hallaban tan lleno, como si nunca allí hubieran sacado cosa alguna.

Tiene la isla de Cubagua en la punta del Oeste una fuente o manadero de un licor, como aceite, junto al mar, en tanta manera abundante que corre aquel betún licor por encima del agua del mar haciendo señas más de dos y tres leguas de la isla. A que este licor de Cubagua hallan que es utilísimo y de España lo envía a pedir con mucha insistencia. Algunos de los que lo han visto dicen ser llamado por los naturales stercus demonis , y otros le llaman petrolio.

Crónica real de Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo, tomada del libro: Historia real y fantástica del Nuevo Mundo. Horacio Jorge Becco. Biblioteca Ayacucho. 1999. Se ha modificado la ubicación de algunas oraciones.


miércoles, 16 de agosto de 2017

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything 

-Albert Einstein


sábado, 12 de agosto de 2017


Among thousands

of singing insects, one

singing out of tune


Takajo Mitsuhashi 


jueves, 3 de agosto de 2017


Oh, sal ya, hijo mío, sal, sal, sal entre mis piernas ... sal, hijo de la traición ... sal, hijo de puta, ... sal, hijo de la chingada ... adorado hijo mío, sal ya... cae sobre la tierra que ya no es mía ni de tu padre, sino tuya ... sal, hijo de las dos sangres enemigas ... sal, mi hijo, a recobrar tu tierra maldita, fundada sobre el crimen permanente y los sueños fugitivos ... ve si puedes recuperar tu tierra y tus sueños, hijo mío, blanco y moreno, ve si puedes lavar toda la sangre de las pirámides y de las espadas y de las cruces manchadas que son como los terribles y ávidos dedos de tu tierra ... sal a tu tierra, hijo de la madrugada, sal lleno de rencor y miedo, sal lleno de burla. y engaño y falsa sumisión ... sal, mi hijo, sal a odiar a tu padre y a insultar a tu madre ... habla quedo, hijo mío, como conviene a un esclavo; inclínate, sirve, padece y ármate de un secreto odio para el día de tu venganza; entonces, sal de la entraña de la miserable y opulenta tierra que heredaste, como ahora sales de mi vientre, y habla fuerte, pisa fuerte el suelo de plata y polvo, canta, cabalga, hijo mío, en los corceles de tu padre; quema las casas de tu padre como él quemó las de tus abuelos, clava a tu padre contra los muros de México como él clavó a su dios contra la cruz, mata a tu padre con sus propias armas; mata, mata, mata, hijo de puta, para que no te vuelvan a matar a ti; hay demasiados hombres blancos en el mundo, y todos quieren lo mismo; la sangre, el trabajo y el culo de los hombres oscurecidos por el sol; vendrá oleada tras oleada de hombres blancos a adueñarse de nuestra tierra; contra todos deberás luchar y tu lucha será triste porque pelearás contra una parte de tu propia sangre. Tu padre nunca te reconocerá, hijito prieto; nunca verá en ti a su vástago, sino a su esclavo; tu tendrás que hacerte reconocer en la orfandad, sin más apoyo que las manos de espina de tu chingada madre. Emborráchate, hijo de la tristeza, fornica, canta, baila, vístete con los colores de la tierra, huerfanito hijo de la tierra, para que la tierra resucite en el barro de tu cuerpo hambriento: haz de nuestra tierra una gran fiesta secreta, subterránea, invisible ... una fiesta: no tendrás otra comunión en tu soledad, ni otra riqueza en tu miseria, ni otra voz en tu silencio, que las de las grandes fiestas de la muerte y el sueño, de la insurrección y del amor; sueño, amor, insurrección y muerte serán todo lo mismo para ti: la fiesta delirante en la que te rebelarás para amar y amarás para soñar y soñarás para morir; embárrate bien de tierra el cuerpo, hijo mío, hasta que la tierra sea tu máscara y los señores no puedan distinguir, detrás de ella, ni tus sueños, ni tu amor, ni tu rebelión, ni tu muerte; cúbrete de polvo, mi hijo, para que aun muerto parezca que sigues vivo y te teman, pícaro, ratero, borracho, estuprador, rebelde armado de cohetes y navajas y aullidos y colores, amenazante hasta en tu sometimiento terco y mudo; sabrás esperar, esperar, esperar como nuestros ancestros esperaron la llegada del dios QuetzalcóatI, el dios que huyó espantado de su propio rostro para que tu propio rostro espantable, hijo mío, apareciese con los rasgos de la niebla y el jade, con la máscara del polvo y del llanto; algún día, hijo mío, tu espera será recompensada y el dios del bien y la felicidad reaparecerá detrás de una iglesia o de una pirámide en el espejismo de la vasta meseta mexicana; pero sólo reaparecerá si desde ahora te preparas para reencarnado tú, tú mismo, mi hijito de la chingada; tú deberás ser la serpiente emplumada, la tierra con alas, el ave de barro, el cabrón y encabronado hijo de México y España; tú eres mi única herencia, la herencia de Malintzin, la diosa, de Marina, la puta, de Malinche, la madre ...
Todos los gatos son pardos – Carlos Fuentes