Global networks in ecology

This is a bit of an aside to comment on a topic that is becoming increasingly relevant not only to my graduate career, but I think to ecology in general: large-scale collaborations. The days when an ecologist could just throw some tools and some PVC in a rucksack and head down to the ol’ rocky intertidal are slowly being usurped by complex and sophisticated national and international networks (even though we still use a heck of a lot of PVC).

While some might lament the death of the “backyard ecologist,” I for one welcome the change. Large-scale networks generally preserve the inference gained from local-scale experiments–after all, many are simply conglomerates of the same experiments done in a bunch of different locations–with the added benefit of being able to investigate the generality of patterns and processes in nature as a whole. And isn’t generality kind of the goal of all science? As humans, we would like to think that the natural world obeys some base set of laws that apply regardless of where you’re working or what you’re working with (even though on some dark and rainy days, I think that may not be the case).

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