[Coral-List] reef resilience, hypothesis testing, and the need to know one's animals

Rupert Ormond rupert.ormond.mci at gmail.com
Thu May 26 11:14:49 EDT 2016

Mention of the decline in student ID and natural history skills reminds 
me of an occasion, quite some years ago, when I draw this issue to the 
attention of our Faculty Board.

I complained that half our students could no longer tell ducks from 

At this one colleague quipped that...actually...ducks were dinosaurs.  
(I should have de-prioritised alliteration?)

At which another explained that given a suitable DNA sample they could 
even ID both the species and sub-species!

But as this thread indicates, many younger researchers do have 
surprisingly limited knowledge of reef organism natural history...so 
thankfully my experience still seems useful!



Rupert Ormond
Corresponding Secretary, ISRS

On 25/05/2016 17:43, Alec Scott wrote:
> Hi all,
> I just wanted to add to this conversation an article about the decline of
> natural history training in ecology that was recently brought to my
> attention by a former professor who studies grassland ecology (just to
> highlight that this is happening across the whole field):
> Scientific American write-up:
> http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/artful-amoeba/80-percent-of-young-environmental-scientists-could-use-more-natural-history-training/
> Original article:
> http://bioscience.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2016/04/08/biosci.biw043.full
> Cheers,
> Alec
> On Mon, May 23, 2016 at 4:28 PM, Douglas Fenner <
> douglasfennertassi at gmail.com> wrote:
>> Peter,
>>      Your views on the field biologists and the lab scientists has a
>> parallel in an old article by Chuck Birkeland, which supports what you say.
>> Birkeland, C.  2009.  Important roles of natural history in ecology.
>> Galaxea, Journal of Coral Reef Studies 11: 59-66.
>>      As Chuck points out, if you don't know the natural history of what the
>> organisms are doing, you can get the interpretation of the fancy technical
>> data wrong.
>> Cheers,  Doug
>> On Sun, May 22, 2016 at 3:47 PM, Peter Sale <sale at uwindsor.ca> wrote:
>>> Hi Listers,
>>> A couple of weeks ago, Joe Pawlik drew attention to a new paper of his in
>>> BioScience.  I read it, read a little bit further, and was prompted to
>> put
>>> some thoughts on my blog, mainly about how we have to know our study
>>> organisms or ecosystems well if we are to be able to generate, and then
>>> test hypotheses about them.  I think Pawlik's paper, and the 2012 one by
>>> Roff and Mumby make clear that we still have numerous competing
>> hypotheses
>>> to account for the failures of reef resilience following disturbances
>> that
>>> lead to loss of coral cover, and far more variation from place to place
>>> than would ever be apparent when reading accounts of what I call the
>>> herbivore-mediated hypothesis of coral dominance.
>>> I fear, rightly or wrongly, that our ability to generate and test
>>> hypotheses about coral reefs is getting weaker, at the very time we need
>> it
>>> to be getting stronger, because of the general down-grading of field time
>>> in undergraduate and graduate education, plus an appalling erosion of
>> basic
>>> biological knowledge because that is considered old-fashioned and
>>> unnecessary.  (I also admit I learned some new things (for me) about
>>> sponges after reading the Pawlik paper!)
>>> Anyhow, my thoughts are here: http://www.petersalebooks.com/?p=2237
>>> I hope this does not annoy, because I do not want to have to wear a
>>> bullet-proof vest under my aloha shirt in Honolulu next month.  I'll be
>>> very interested to talk to people about this topic, and also about your
>>> views on the fate of coral reefs over the next few decades during ICRS.
>>> Note that my blog post includes the statement that it is precisely
>> because
>>> coral reef ecology is relatively strong as ecology goes that I feel free
>> to
>>> demand it get stronger.  As I conclude at the end, careful, detailed
>>> monitoring of the gradual loss of coral cover across the reefs of the
>>> world, without any success in building understanding of why and how,
>> would
>>> simply be a time-consuming effort to document the demise of one part of
>>> Earth's biodiversity, a description of a part of the sixth extinction.
>> Not
>>> of any great value once the extinction is over!
>>> Peter Sale
>>> Distinguished University Professor (Emeritus)
>>> University of Windsor
>>> e-mail:                  sale at uwindsor.ca<mailto:sale at uwindsor.ca>
>>> web:                      www.petersalebooks.com<
>>> http://www.petersalebooks.com/>
>>> Twitter:                @PeterSale3
>>> _______________________________________________
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>>> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>>> http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
>> --
>> Douglas Fenner
>> Contractor for NOAA NMFS, and consultant
>> "have regulator, will travel"
>> PO Box 7390
>> Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799  USA
>> phone 1 684 622-7084
>> Join the International Society for Reef Studies.  Membership includes a
>> subscription to the journal Coral Reefs, and there are discounts for pdf
>> subscriptions and developing countries.  Check it out!  www.fit.edu/isrs/
>> "Belief in climate change is optional, participation is not."- Jim Beever.
>>    "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not to their own facts."-
>> Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
>> The political hurdles facing a carbon tax- and how to overcome them.
>> http://www.vox.com/2016/4/26/11470804/carbon-tax-political-constraints
>> Earth's hot streak continues for a record 11 months.
>> https://www.yahoo.com/finance/news/earths-hot-streak-continues-record-152700358.html
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>> http://www.theclimategroup.org/what-we-do/news-and-blogs/solar-can-power-more-than-100-times-americas-current-electricity-needs-new-report-finds
>> website:  http://independent.academia.edu/DouglasFenner
>> blog: http://ocean.si.edu/blog/reefs-american-samoa-story-hope
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