Manic Fringe


The personal blog of the one and only Luc Gendrot. Internet Superhero. Not really.

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I'm sorry Ecology! I didn't mean it!

Ecology has a symbol? who knew?

I've been guilty of uttering the words: "Ecology is a joke branch of biology". Now before you jump down my throat and tell me how wrong I am: I've seen the error of my ways. In a way.

A lesson I've learned so far in college is that things are hardly ever as simple as they seem to be in undergraduate biology courses. I recently had this lesson applied to my erroneous views of the field of Ecology, because I learned there can be a whole lot more maths involved than I thought (not that math automatically makes things more credible mind you).

I emailed a professor the other day to see about a lab position (the eternal search continues). What interested me about this lab is that it apparently integrates programming and mathematical modeling heavily into the research they're doing, and while I don't know exactly what that will entail, I am still a (somewhat undeserving) proponent of more math and CS literacy in the biological fields. It's the future folks.

I digress. I found myself reading his doctoral dissertation and in the first chapter he builds a model for analyzing niche breadth in animal populations that exhibit varying reproductive selection methods. It's pretty math-y. I'm not through the whole thing, but I've flipped through the remaining parts and there's a whole lot more where that came from.

I'm excited to read the rest of it, but I felt the need to reconcile my 3 year (somewhat ignorant) hatred of ecology by publicly saying: It's not a joke science, but in my undergraduate ecology courses they portrayed it as such by giving us the most barebones, unattractive, dumbed down, lackluster attempt at even giving a glimpse of what ecology can be. (based on what I can extrapolate from this one dissertation).

I think schools should appeal to the math geeks and hard science enthusiasts in the early undergraduate courses by focusing a little more on the core theory behind the maths that we actually do learn. Then maybe I could have avoided being so mean to a potentially pretty cool branch of science. Provided it's all like this.

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