The Molecular Ecologist Podcast: What do you look for in a journal?

The Boston Public Library (Flickr: Little Koshka)

A new episode of The Molecular Ecologist Podcast is now out on In this episode, we turn to a question that every academic scientist has to answer at some point: How do you choose a scientific journal to receive your paper? Kelle Freel, Shawn Abrahams, Katie Grogan and Jeremy Yoder chat about what they like in a journal, what they consider when picking a publication venue for a new paper, and the various meanings of an “impact factor.”

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Sparrows and spiders and aggression, oh my!

One of the major goals of evolutionary biology is to link phenotypic variation with specific genetic variation, yet for behavioral phenotypes in non-model species, this task remains daunting and generally elusive. Although behaviors are heritable and clearly acted upon by evolutionary forces, they are generally polygenic, flexibly expressed, and context-dependent. Two recent papers, however, accomplished this very thing, in white-throated sparrows (Zonotrichia albicolis; Merritt et al. 2020) and in a species of jumping spider from southeastern Asia (Portia labiata; Chang et al. 2020)!

Top left: Dr. Jennifer Merritt. Top Right: Dr. Chia-Chen Chang
Bottom left: White-striped and tan-striped morphs of the white-throated sparrow, Photo Credit Jennifer Merritt
Bottom right: White-mustached Portia Jumping Spider, Photo Credit Richard Ong on Project Noah
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A genomic march of the penguins

It’s undeniable that penguins are a marine representative of the charismatic megafauna group. I have an affinity for stuff we need microscopes to see, BUT I agree that penguins are cute (just LOOK at these National Geographic photos…they’re even in comics). I’m guessing that many of us have also watched “March of the Penguins”, although maybe you also were today years old when you learned the original French version was narrated in first-penguin by the stars of the show themselves in “La Marche de l’Empereur”.

Our hearts all melt a tiny bit when we see a fluffy baby chick waddle around on the ice. But. Have you ever contemplated how many different penguin species there are, where exactly they’re found on the globe and how they ended up where they currently reside? If you’re like me, (and don’t work on anything remotely related to penguins), you might not be well versed in the diversity of these flightless diving birds.

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Urban ecology, evolution, and racism

Occasionally, while reading the literature, you stumble across a paper that is so eloquent and beautiful that you are awestruck. Since that happened to me this weekend, today’s post is a call to you to go read the incredible synthesis and call to action written by Schell et al. in Science (2020) – The ecological and evolutionary consequences of systemic racism in urban environments. In this paper, the authors affirm that biologists working in urban environments must consider how racial oppression affects the biological change they study.

Lead author Dr. Christopher Schell.
For more info, visit his webpage –

Evolutionary biologists have increasingly become interested in how the environmental change due to urbanization leads to changes in the phenotypic, genetic, and species make-up of urban ecosystems. Indeed, between 1965 and 1989, only 124 papers with the words “Urban ecology” in the abstract were published according to a quick non-exhaustive search of Web of Science (mean = 5.0 papers per year; performed 8-31-2020). However, from 1990 until 2019, the rate of publication increased exponentially to over 1,000 papers in 2019 alone.

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A decade of The Molecular Ecologist

Conveniently, I made a montage-header for The Molecular Ecologist back when we took a stab at crowdfunding in 2016.

I recently took a look through the “Archives by month” drop-down in our right-hand sidebar and discovered that it goes all the way back to July 2010. Which means The Molecular Ecologist had its tenth anniversary this very month — specifically back on July 11, an even decade since Brant Faircloth kicked off the blog with a rundown of essential (Python-centric) bioinformatic tools.

Given that it snuck up on us, and in the middle of the summer, and in the middle of this summer, we don’t have any kind of big event planned. But I didn’t want to let the month close out without marking the occasion. So here’s a rundown of some major events in the history of this fine blog:

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Serendipitous history in the microbial making

It’s been over 100 years since the Dutch Microbiologist Martinus Willem Beijerinck theorized that microbes could oxidize manganese to generate energy for growth. Last week, the first evidence for this theory was published, and you might be surprised about from where these fascinating microbes hail.

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The Molecular Ecologist Podcast: Rivers and rabbit resistance

(Flickr: Leandra Fallis)

A new episode of The Molecular Ecologist Podcast is now out on In this episode,

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Posted in Action Item, career, community ecology, conservation, howto, microbiology, TME Podcast | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Online Resources for Student/Postdoc/Faculty Professional Development

I’m fascinated by the question of how someone learns to be a good scientist, academic, colleague, collaborator, mentor, etc. The obvious answer is that we learn from our peers and mentors during our PhD and postdoctoral training. However, especially as a graduate student but occasionally now, it can feel like I’m flailing around in the dark about how best to handle a problem or respond to a situation. Like any true millennial, in addition to turning to friends and colleagues for the answer, I consult the interwebz.

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Down (Under) The Rabbit Hole

Maybe it’s a wild guess, but most of us have probably learned a little more about viruses lately than we thought we ever would. Little did I know, before this article, that I’d also learn quite a bit about a 3,256 km long network of fences constructed in the early 1900’s and why you can bring it up in the same breath as…(did you guess?)….viruses.  

Let’s start with rabbits and their favorite continent: Australia. Rabbits were first brought to Australia for meat in the late 1700’s and were generally contained on farms. However, European rabbits were released in 1859 to be hunted for sport. It took them no time flat to do what they do best, and they quickly became well established (more info here). Within ~10 years they reached astronomical numbers and completely devastated crops and pastures, leading to soil erosion and threatening native plants with extinction. In just 50 years they colonized 2/3 of Australia… wow and yikes at the same time.

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Posted in adaptation, Coevolution, ecology, evolution, selection | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Where Did This Flower Come From?

Sam Gregory wrote this post as a project for  Dr. Stacy Krueger-Hadfield’s Scientific Communication course at the University of Alabama at BirminghamSam earned a BS in biology and BFA in studio art from Birmingham-Southern College, and is currently pursuing an MS in biology at UAB. He is fascinated by Alabama’s diverse ecosystems, particularly the currently-threatened arthropod communities that serve a foundational role in these systems. Since starting graduate school, he has focused on studying both ecological systems and molecular techniques in order to equip himself for future research.

The valley which lies where India, Pakistan, and China converge has a problem with invasive species. This is unsurprising, as many regions have such issues. More surprisingly, though, is the species which has invaded – daffodils.

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