Guest blog posts

I am a scientist. Ask me what I do, not where I am from “originally”.

Guest blog post for Dynamic Ecology.

The next time you hear an accent unlike yours at a conference or similar event, I urge you to pause and think for a minute. What is the first thing you want to ask your fellow scientist? Are you really more curious to find out where they are from, or what they study?

Personal journeys towards developing quantitative skills

Gaining quantitative skills takes you on a journey. When we start, many of us feel like we are behind and can never catch up. Those who feel too overwhelmed may never start the journey at all. And if we want to enhance diversity within the field of quantitative ecology, we need to overcome the fear factor in quantitative training. Reflections on our own quantitative journeys highlight that the major roadblock is taking that first step to bridge the quantitative skills gap. In the following blog post, we tell two interwoven stories of personal journeys towards developing quantitative skills to highlight how things can be different for the next generations of ecologists.

Women translating ‘pixels to knowledge’ with the google earth engine

At the June 2018 Google Earth Engine User Summit in Dublin, Ireland, 200 people came together to learn how to use the Google Earth Engine – a planetary-scale geospatial platform – to reshape our understand of the planet. One of the most exciting things about the three-day user summit was all of the people that we all got to meet from different walks of life, representing different disciplines, organizations and career stages.  In the following blog post, we highlight six women using the Google Earth Engine to improve our understanding of global change impacts and make a difference for people around the planet.

Inspiring to meet people with great ambitious and capabilities from different disciplines and at different career stages! From left to right: Lauren Fregosi, Isla Myers-Smith, Rebecca Moore, Shannon Sartain, Gergana Daskalova, Sabrina Szeto, Liza Goldberg. Photo Credit: David Carmichael.

Coding Club – overcoming the fear factor in teaching and learning quantitative skills

Written for the Dynamic Ecology Blog

Just about two years ago we had an idea. What if we set up an informal group and a website to teach key quantitative skills that could be useful to undergrads, grad students, postdocs, profs and ecologists working outside of academia? What if that website was built in a way that anyone could contribute tutorials or help to make the existing tutorials better? What if we taught people how to learn in their own working environment and how to develop their workflow using best practices in open science like version control from the very beginning? What if this content was aimed at people who felt afraid, anxious and behind in their own quantitative skills development. This was the beginning of Coding Club.

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Coding Club – peer learning in programming, statistics and data science

Written for the Software Sustainability Institute Blog

Coding Club combines online and in-person resources to help teach quantitative skills to people at all career stages working inside and outside academia. Coding Club is focused on trying to overcome “code fear” and “statistics anxiety”. Statistics anxiety – the worry about a lack of quantitative skills – and code fear – the fear of programming – can prevent people from engaging with the development of quantitative skills. Our aim is to promote a fun and supportive environment where people can acquire the skills they need to answer their research questions or to progress with their careers either inside or outside academia. We want to step away from labels such as “hard” or “only for those good at math” and encourage people to learn up to their desired level without the pressure of assessments or a strict curriculum.

Chatting about heteroscedasticity – what a jolly subject!

iPads and digital data collection in the field

Written the Dynamic Ecology Blog


Ecology Hackathon at Ecology Across Borders 2017

Written for the Methods in Ecology and Evolution blog

Our dream package – grabr!

Imagine an ecologist. Now imagine a programmer. Did you imagine the same person? If you were at the Ecology Hackathon on the day before the Ecology Across Borders (#EAB2017) conference in Ghent, Belgium (a joint conference between the BESGFÖNecoV and EEF), you probably did (or at least we hope you did!).

Qikiqtaruk Book Club based on Mark Vellend’s “The Theory of Ecological Communities”

This series of blog posts was written on Qikiqtaruk-Herschel Island in the Western Canadian Arctic as part of Team Shrub’s island book club, aiming to read and discuss Mark Vellend’s 2016 book “The Theory of Ecological Communities” while we are out in the field, right next to the communities we study.

There is particular charm in reading about a certain ecological process, be it high- or low-level, and then observing it in action moments later in the field.


Our book club discussions are summarised in four blog posts:

Team Shrub Blog

We are ecologists working to understand how global change alters plant communities and ecosystem processes. We work at focal research sites in Northern Canada and conduct data syntheses at tundra biome and global scales.

I regularly contribute to the Team Shrub blog – you can check out the Team Shrub blog for updates on our research, fieldwork and outreach.


GeoScience Outreach: teaching science communication ‘beyond the programme’ and outside of the ‘Ivory Tower’

Co-authored with Dr Isla Myers-Smith for the University of Edinburgh Teaching Matters blog


Coding Club: a positive peer-to-peer learning community

For the University of Edinburgh Teaching Matters blog


Good teaching – student and teacher perspectives from the Conservation Science course

Co-authored with Dr Isla Myers-Smith for the University of Edinburgh Teaching Matters blog


Why am I a scientist again? – The concept of a data present

Co-authored with Dr Isla Myers-Smith for Dynamic Ecology


Of rare species and men: is our obsession with rare species hampering conservation measures?

Written for the University of Edinburgh Conservation Science blog


The challenges of biodiversity conservation and the use of MARXAN as a decision-making tool

Written for the University of Edinburgh Critical Thinking in Ecological and Environmental Sciences Blog

Superb fairy-wren fieldwork in Canberra, Australia

Written for the University of Edinburgh Principal’s Go Abroad Fund Blog