A ‘synthetic’ review of a year of PEGE


Conifer phylogeny from Willamette Biology
Conifer phylogeny from Willamette Biology’s photostream

Lynsey McInnes

Lynsey McInnes

We’ve come to the end of a year of PEGE! Well done us! We only skipped one week in the whole year (and it was the week in which I got married) and we managed 16 guest posters. It’s been an entertaining year. Will and I set up PEGE mostly as an excuse to keep in regular contact with each other, to ensure we regularly checked the literature and to learn how to write something more or less thoughtful in a short timeframe (for me, within the length of the train journey from Stirling to Edinburgh). I think we succeeded in all three.

A secondary aim was to get an online discussion going along the lines of a journal club. In this, we did less well. Although we know that the site got substantial traffic (from our fanatical checking of site stats), few people commented. From perusing other blogs, I think this is a hard thing to get going and we’re not going to beat ourselves up about it. I know I read other blogs, more or less regularly, and have never commented on a single one. It’s enough for us if a paper we have highlighted or a comment we have made has impacted someone’s research in any which way. I know that writing these posts has had a positive impact on the way I think about my own research and the links between what I do and am interested in and what else is going on in the PEGE world.

It was almost amusing how quickly it became apparent where Will’s and my interest lie. Regular readers can by now easily guess who wrote which post in an instance. I’ve found PEGE helpful in identifying my emerging interests and I hope to follow up some of these new found leads in my future research.

Apparently, I am super keen on intraspecific diversity and how it affects species’ responses to climate change, niche evolution and range movements. I am not a fan of community phylogenetics and can’t quite believe there is a good way to identify source pools for such analyses. I really like the idea of mesocosm experiments (although I
have no experience of them myself) and am prone to want to roll out any neat analysis on a particular study system to some sort of broad-scale comparative study. If only I had the cash and the expertise (and the time). Both Will and I are concerned with scale, the appropriate scale for various analyses (temporal and spatial), how scale affects the inferences possible and how, ultimately, a sound understanding of diversity patterns requires analyses across scales. Scale, scale, scale.

What’s up next for PEGE? We’ve decided to shake things up a little and to par down to fortnightly posts. In each, we will focus on a classic (we decide what constitutes a classic) paper from the PEGE world and hopefully spend a little more time (TWO train journeys) thinking about the paper and developing our thoughts. It’s been fun scanning the literature for new papers to discuss this year, but we often found ourselves choosing a paper based on an intriguing title and being disappointed by its content (bet you can guess which posts I’m referring to). Now we’ve had the chance to flex our commenting muscles, we’re going to try to put them to better use on ‘bigger’ papers.

Finally, thanks for reading. You know who you are. We’re hopeful that readers have enjoyed our posts and ever hopeful that our readership might grow alongside our comments column. Any tips to make PEGE better, suggestions for classics to discuss next year or requests to be a guest poster, just let us know.

Merry Christmas!

Will Pearse

Will Pearse

Wow, a whole year. I can hardly believe we’ve made it! Everything Lynsey has said is true; I’d just like to add I’m really grateful to everyone who’s read the blog. I’ve been lucky enough to talk with some of you at conferences, in comments beneath articles, and through email, and it’s always fun doing that. Thank you!

If, like I used to be, you’re skeptical of why something like PEGE is worthwhile, please believe me when I say this has been one of the most useful things I have ever done. It’s not just that this lets me constructively engage with scientists I could never otherwise hope to meet, it’s that my reading and writing skills have qualitatively improved. Every week for a year I have had to be constructively critical and engage positively with an article, then scribble out something that people will (hopefully!) find interesting. It makes you leaner, it makes you faster, and it makes you better.

If no one were reading PEGE it would be worth it for the impact its had on me alone. Many bloggers obsessively monitor site statistics – Lynsey and I are no different, but we haven’t actively sought-out more readers in the way I know others do. That’s not to say we haven’t engaged with people – we’ve replied to every comment, and I would like to think the diversity of our guest posters speaks for itself (thank you all!). I’m very happy with the audience we’ve built up (thank you again!) and if you’re thinking about setting up your own blog (do!) be reassured that you don’t have to dedicate hours every week to selling yourself on the Internet. Build it and they will come – but do make sure you email your friends!

As Lynsey said, we’re both obsessed about scale-dependency. Unlikely Lynsey, I like community phylogenetics – while I agree with her that defining source pools is tricky, I prefer to see it as a way of asking questions and don’t expect a single ‘answer’. Moreover, there’s more to community/eco-phylogenetics than source pools. Looking back through what we’ve chosen, I’m struck that there are a number of what I would call ‘case study’ papers, where there is a central story that verifies established theory and fleshes-out specific details for a particular system. Many say scientists are no longer interested in filling in the gaps with studies that have little conceptual novelty; I think it’s re-assuring that Lynsey and I have found so many excellent papers that do buck that trend. Maybe there’s hope yet!

Thanks again for reading, thanks again to all our guest posters, and thanks again Lynsey for writing, listening, and continuing to be my emotional supervisor. On to 2014!


4 Responses to A ‘synthetic’ review of a year of PEGE

  1. Hi Lynsey and Will,

    I’ve been following PEGE during the last year, and it has been fun indeed, so looking forward to the next year(s), happy first blog-birthday, and Merry Christmas (holidays) of course!


  2. Pingback: Happy new year, and back on track! | theoretical ecology

  3. Alan says:

    I just found this, and I like it.

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