Lab Activities

Writing Group

Our lab runs a bi-weekly writing group for students, post-docs, and supervisors. We view writing not as the end-point of the scientific process, but a continuous part of that process. Writing is a way of learning, challenging preconceptions, and communicating our knowledge. There is also no part of the thesis or scientific process where one should not be writing. Writing Group provides incentive to actively keep writing, while improving our writing and communication skills.

We submit writing (up to 4 pages or 2 figures and tables with captions) and reviewers are assigned to each submission. Written comments are provided. We meet as a group and the reviewers for each submission provide oral feedback on the submission. Submissions often include sections of thesis chapters, manuscripts, figures, abstracts for conferences, revisions and responses for a manuscript, or sections of a website. Some documents where we draw inspiration are the BES guide to peer reviewing, Writing Science by Schimel, Parker et al 2018 Nature Ecology and Evolution, Andrew Hendry’s “baby-werewolf-silver bullet” blog, as well as other ‘how to’ documents.

Feminism in science

In the Wildlife Evolutionary Ecology Lab, 2018, we endeavor to create a safe space and encourage discussions on inclusion and intersectionality in society with a focus on academia and science. Our discussions are inspired by the annual Symposium for Women Entering Ecology & Evolution Today (SWEEET) held at the Canadian Society for Ecology & Evolution conference. We have discussed a variety of topics at these meetings, including ways to make our work environment a safe and comfortable space for all people, the role we have as scientists and citizens to be aware of our biases and privilege when conducting science, as well as the importance of being an ally. Some resources we have circulated and discussed include ‘how to be an ally’ (Rapid Ecology Blog, 2018) and ‘diversity fatigue is real’ (Mariam Lam, 2018) among others.

Paper challenges

Each year since 2016 the lab has participated in a ‘paper challenge’ over reading week (2016 and 2017) or at the end of the winter semester (2018 and 2019). Our philosophy so far has been to put our heads together and test big ideas with the data we have access to, primarily because some of these ideas integrate theory or methods that may not be possible for a single student’s thesis chapter. While this approach has produced some interesting ideas, we have learned what works and what doesn’t work. As of spring 2019, we are very close to publishing our 2017 paper challenge manuscript and we are super excited to share it! Check back here periodically for updates and links to our paper challenge manuscripts as they are published!

Workshops

Periodically, students in the lab will run a workshop for our group. To date, we have had workshops on using data.table for data manipulation and ggplot2 for plotting, version control with Git, writing R functions and developing R packages from Alec, behavioural reaction norms and social network analysis from Quinn, resource selection functions from Mike, and integrated Step Selection Analysis (iSSA) from Christina (see below for more on iSSA’s!). These workshops are excellent ways to disseminate information about a particular technique or method to others in the group.

Integrated step selection analysis club

Integrated step selection analysis (iSSA) is an extension of step selection analysis, which addressed the interdependent processes of movement and resource selection by estimating their parameters simultaneously (Avgar et al. 2016). iSSA club, organized by Christina (Prokopenko et al. 2017) and Katrien, is a supportive co-learning environment which assists the completion of projects using iSSAs. In this group, we give and receive feedback throughout the research process - from proposal, coding using amt (Signer et al. 2019), results interpretation, to a completed manuscript. The first iSSA club is underway - stay tuned for manuscripts from this cohort which test hypotheses addressing the complexities of space-use behaviour in study systems across Canada including wolves in Manitoba, elk in Riding Mountain National Park, and caribou across Newfoundland.

Invited Speakers

Each year the Biology Graduate Student Association, faculty in Biology, and the Wildlife Evolutionary Ecology Lab endeavor to invite scientists to come to St. John’s to give invited seminars and when possible workshops for graduate students. Recent speakers have included Dr. Susan Lingle (University of Winnipeg), Dr. Adam Ford (University of British Columbia), Dr. Joel Brown (University of Illinois at Chicago and Moffatt Cancer Centre), and Dr. Phil McLoughlin (University of Saskatchewan).

Fieldwork

Members of the Wildlife Evolutionary Ecology Lab do in a wide variety of fieldwork. In 2018 and 2019, students were tracking caribou on Fogo Island (Newfoundland), tracking snowshoe hares and conducting cafeteria-style feeding experiments in Terra Nova National Park (Newfoundland), observing belugas in the St-Lawrence Estuary (Quebec), tracking elk in southern Manitoba, and conducting wolf kill site investigations in eastern Manitoba and in Riding Mountain National Park in western Manitoba. Most students have projects within a specific system that are field intense. However, wherever possible we try to create opportunities for students to have short, but meaningful experiences with field systems that are not central to their individual projects. Our diverse fieldwork experiences and keen interest the natural history of our study systems often percolate into our research and, so far, resulted in the publication of one natural history note on caribou parturition dates as well as numerous other exciting natural history observations.

Departmental activities

Students in the Wildlife Evolutionary Ecology Lab are active participants in various department activities, including a behavioural ecology journal club run through the Cognitive and Behavioural Ecology (CABE) program; Eco&Evo, an ecology and evolution discussion group run by professors in the biology department; the weekly seminar series run by the Biology Graduate Student Association (BGSA); and the annual Biology Graduate Student Symposium, also run by the BGSA.

Outreach

We value science communication as an integral part of the scientific process and actively seek opportunities to share our research with audiences outside of academia. For example, we have participated in the Science Rendezvous at MUN, where we interacted with members of the public about our project on wolves and moose in eastern Manitoba. We also have an ongoing outreach project on Fogo Island, where we both informally and formally speak with members of the public about the Fogo Island Caribou Project. We have also done outreach presentations for school age groups and we are in the process of developing a Mammal Outreach presentation that will be used to illustrate and discuss the ecology, life-history, and morphology of mammals.