Monday, April 23, 2012

Metacommunity terminology

The title of my "Teaching Philosophy" statement (that I completely rewrite every year), is "Research-Teaching-Learning Link". In it, I try to point out the obvious and maybe not so obvious connections between these different aspects of my professional life. One of the items that is hardest to prove, though, is how teaching can inform my day-to-day research focus.

And now I can finally provide evidence for this: our comment in Trends in Ecology and Evolution "The terminology of metacommunity ecology". Nothing earth shattering in it, but what we hope would be a suggestion to remove some confusion about the words used in metacommunity explanations. Believe it or not, but this is the culmination of 6 years of teaching community ecology, and 3 years of lab discussions. The impetus was how to explain the different metacommunity frameworks from Leibold et al. 2004. I was always unsatisfied with the lack of structure in Figure 1, and my inability in successfully explaining it to students. So now we have this comment, that explicitly identifies the 2 structuring forces in metacommunity theory, species sorting and dispersal, and how combining them in different magnitudes results in the commonly identified frameworks.

And the Acknowledgements have this in them:
"We thank Kyle Gillespie for comments on these early thoughts, as well as the classes of BIOL 3120– Community Ecology at the University of Guelph for showing us how to explain metacommunity ecology to a broad audience."

1 comment:

  1. Really interesting note, I'm glad I just found it, perfect timing for my qualifying exam ;-). However, it seems to me that the clarifications in this paper are somewhat contrasting with the Fig.1 of Logue et al. 2011. For instance, in the paper, the three paradigms are really described as mutually exclusive (even though the opposite is stated somewhere else in the text) along a dispersal axis.
    Overall on this dispersal axis "species sorting" is placed in the middle, between patch dynamics (highest dispersal limitation for some species), and mass effect (massive rescue effect). The framework is really great and really makes things easier to understand, but could it be actually the opposite?? Where actually for a real species sorting to occur, you need stronger dispersal limitation and high heterogeneity (so that no poor competitors can maintain itself even with high dispersal capacity), while patch dynamics would be in the middle, and then at the end of the spectrum, mass effect??