A few good molecular ecologists: six months and 116 posts later

My usual Wednesday spot on The Molecular Ecologist is primetime real estate: a lot of journal table-of-contents get sent out on Tuesday/Wednesday and whole slew of people are in the office looking at computer screens.

This usually produces a nice readership on Wednesdays, expect for when I drew the unlucky straw for Christmas Eve. On December 24th, I posted a review of the first three months of posts from the five newest contributors to the blog. Since no one probably saw that post and we have just arrived at the end of our six month agreement as contributors, I’ve updated all the data to reflect our full tenure. For good measure, I’m publishing it on a Thursday to steal some of Arun’s fame.

Hopefully this can be used to catch some things you might have missed, see the past and future direction the content, and recognize the unique contributions from each contributor.

The Stats

The daily posts from new contributors resulted in an almost 50% increase in pageviews to The Molecular Ecologist compared with the same six month period a year before (~7,000 pageviews/week).

These last six months have also resulted in a 40% increase in new visitors. Many of these new visitors make up the 700 new followers combined from Twitter and Facebook.

Most-viewed posts

1. Estimating the ticks and tocks of molecular clocks 

When I sat down to actually do analyses of molecular data, I was confounded by the array of options to treat DNA sequences with a molecular clock. Relaxed clock? Strict clock? Local clock? I had no idea what was going on.

2. Admixture maps in R for dummies

And voila! What took me four lines of code in R, involved days of learning ArcGIS to do the same thing (not to undermine the way cooler things that you can do with ArcGIS).

3. From cats to rats: two studies on domestication and tameness 

The road to a kitten-video-dominated world began ~9.5 thousand years ago when cats first showed up in human settlements in Cyprus….

4. A population genetics R-evolution

Uphill, both ways, in the snow, without shoes … quite apt when thinking of the dark days, in the not too distant past, in which a separate input file was needed for each popgen analysis…

5. LaTeX hacks to save your life (and your co-authors’)

I despise table formatting in MS Word. I daresay a lot of people do.

Hot on social media

Facebook: Melissa’s “Speciation by selection (and drift) in the sea” was recommended almost 250 times

All of these characteristics should theoretically lead to panmictic populations with little chance of divergence and yet marine ecosystems, particularly coral reefs, are among the most species-rich on the planet.

Twitter: My review of Vince Buffalo’s “Bioinformatics Data Skills” was mentioned almost 50 times

So there you are, staring at a bunch of fasta files wondering how to use someone’s poorly-documented python scripts.

The journals

Highlighting and discussing primary literature is one of the main goals of TME. We’ve cited over 275 papers from 78 unique journals over the past six months.

Journals

Unsurprisingly, the most cited journal is Molecular Ecology. Surprisingly, Stacy’s love for the Journal of Phycology pushes it into the top ten.

In addition to citing and discussing journal articles, contributors often discuss specific issues within publishing, including the trouble with values, how we select journals, and pushes for better statistical oversight.

The taxa*

Taxa

Taxon-specific posts are the minority, but mammals rule when a single taxonomic group is discussed by a contributor. I can’t help but blame Noah and Arun for this.

*I realize these groups are a hodgepodge of nomenclature/common names and were chosen for simplicity, so please don’t send me any taxonomy hate mail.

The subjects

Categories

What is most interesting about the self reporting of categories within posts is that it shows the specializations of each author and how we’ve all found different niches over time. Here are each author’s top five categories with the total number of unique categories they’ve used:

  • Stacy: Evolution, Genomics, Natural History, Adaptation, Conservation (25 total)
  • Rob: Pop. Genetics, Genomics, Software, Phylogenetics, Comm. Ecology (33 total)
  • Noah: Genomics, NGS, Population Genetics, Adaptation, Methods (20 total)
  • Melissa: Genomics, Adaptation, Evolution, Methods, Speciation (26 total)
  • Arun: Pop. Genetics, Genomics, how-to, Evolution, Mutation (19 total)

In short: Arun is the king of how-to and has written extensively on mutation/selection. Stacy is more likely to write about natural history and conservation. Melissa and Noah discuss methods more often than the rest. I have the largest spread across different categories, which exposes me as the least-specialized (and most junior) of the group.

The future

Where are we going next? Most of that depends on you, the audience. We all take note which posts and categories elicit discussions in the comment sections, get bounced around twitter, and recommended on Facebook. Targeted feedback produces targeted content.

Other good news? We’ve all been invited to continue this grueling pace for the next six months, rounding out a complete year of news, perspectives, commentary, and techniques.

Thanks for reading!

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About Rob Denton

I'm a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at UConn. I'm most interested in understanding the evolutionary/ecological consequences of strange reproduction in salamanders (unisexual Ambystoma). Topics I'm likely to write about: population and landscape genetics, mitonuclear interactions, polyploidy, and reptiles/amphibians.
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