Reflections on the 2017 Society of Freshwater Science Meeting

I am in Raleigh, NC for the 2017 Society of Freshwater Science Meeting. I arrived here late last night and this is my first full day at the conference. My twitter feed has exploded with lots of tweets about the talks with hashtag #2017SFS. Instead of joining the tweets, I think it is a good idea to write something in a little more detail and share my thoughts on what I have learnt today in this blog.

Given my interests in biogeochemistry, I was mostly hopping between the macrosystem session and the biogeochemistry session today. Thus, what I am going to write will mostly be based on what I learnt from talks in these two sessions.

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Some Thoughts on Post Doc Interview

Many of us graduate students will have to interview for a post doc some time during our graduate school career. How to successfully prepare for a post doc interview is something many of us has thought about. I am by no means very experienced.  In fact, I have only done two formal post doc interviews so far.  But I feel sharing my experiences and thoughts on tips of a post doc interview is useful for others. In this blog post, I want to list a few things I learnt about preparing for and doing a post doc interview.

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How Important Is It to Highlight the Importance of the Paper?

A conventional wisdom in writing papers tells us to always identify a knowledge gap and highlight the novelty of your own paper. You need to clearly introduce why your study is new and relevant. You want to convince the readers why they should care about this study. However, when I think about how I read papers myself, I start to doubt the importance of it in writing papers.

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Proper Consideration of Error Propagation in Data Analysis

This post is motivated by working with my lab mate Elizabeth Guinessey on some data analyses for her thesis. The goal of the study is to investigate how greenhouse gas flux rates differ in various vegetation types in salt marshes. To do that, she chose several locations for each vegetation type. At each location, she put a closed chamber on the ground and measured the concentration change over time in the head space of the chamber. What is the proper way to analyze these data?

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Comprehensive Exams: Uniform or Customized

As graduate students, passing comprehensive exams is one thing we all have to do to get the degree. I recently had quite a few conversations with colleagues on comprehensive exams. I have seen a range of different opinions on the goals and formats of comprehensive exams. I think this is something worth discussing here in a little more details.

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A Follow Up on Plotting Everything Against Everything Else

I wrote a blog post on the practice of plotting everything on everything else in ecology a while ago. Since writing the post, I have had quite a few insightful conversations with colleagues and did some readings on this issue. I think it will be useful to write a follow up and share some insights I gained from these conversations.

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Posted in Academic skills, Statistics | 2 Comments

Do Not Overgeneralize Our Own Experiences

I am motivated to write this blog by several things. These are mostly part of random conversations with friends or short moments of self-reflection. They are not very cohesive but I want to write these pieces out here.  I hope I can convey the idea that it is good to be mindful and reflective. I argue that we should avoid overgeneralizing our own experiences.

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Posted in Academia, Teaching | 3 Comments

Six Things I Learnt from Participating in a Big Collaborative Project

As a graduate student, I was lucky to be part of the Scale, Consumer and Lotic Ecosystem Rates (SCALER) project. This project was a collaborative effort among seven sites to understand the scale dependence of ecosystem rates. I have been working with the team since 2012. The work related to this project is the major part of my PhD dissertation. Participating in a big collaborative project is quite different from finishing a project by myself. I want to share a few things I learnt from this experience.

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T Test without Normality Assumption

We are teaching t test and ANOVA this week in the introductory ecology lab. As I prepare the teaching materials, one thing about t test caught my attention. In many statistics classes, I was taught that the variables under comparison should be normally distributed within each group to warrant the application of t test. If the distribution of the variable is not normal, we should either consider transformation of variable to conform normality, or use nonparametric methods that do not require distributional assumptions. I think I am not alone here. But as I reviewed t test, I start to think that you don’t necessarily need the normality assumption to make t test valid. Here is why.

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Guest Blog: Collaborative Research in Odum School of Ecology

Note from Chao: John and I investigated the research focus and collaboration of faculties at Odum School of Ecology. I posted the analyses on the diverse research areas a few days ago. John has graciously agreed to analyze the collaboration network and write this guest blog. Here are what he has to say about the collaborative research in Odum School of Ecology.

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Posted in Academia, R, Statistics | 1 Comment