Monday, September 29, 2014

My low fat experience

From 1995 until around 2000 I followed a very low fat vegan diet. The target was to achieve < 10% calories from fat. Kris Gunnar over at Authority Nutrition has a typically well researched blog post summarizing the known effects of a low fat diet.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Water, water everywhere

and all of it regulated. The dustup over a proposed rule by the EPA and USACE to define the scope of water regulated by the Clean Water Act has attracted my interest for some time. Congress has now weighed in.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Remembering Scott Field

Last week I heard the tragic news that a dear friend, Scott Field, had died in a hiking accident in Italy. Since then the tributes to Scott have been pouring across the interwebs, especially on Facebook. I wanted to take a bit of time to look through what images and memories I had of this great guy.
I have none. Really. I guess I don't really take pictures of people. I did come across this picture which comes from circa 2004? 2005? I was on the back side of an extended visit to Oz and spent a few days hanging out with Scott at Waterfall Gully in Adelaide. I believe Brendan Wintle stopped by, and some science happened. Beer was involved, and lots of walks in the Adelaide Hills. I think the intent was to combine our 2004 paper on minimizing cost of managing a declining species with our 2005 paper on detectability issues in monitoring. It never happened; I was getting wrapped up in teaching etc. in Nebraska, and Scott was, as ever, moving onwards towards the bright horizons. Our collaboration was awesome for me. He will be missed.

Walkabout wednesday

Not a lot to say this week. I spent most of the week off the internet reading and contemplating existence at Pawnee Lake State Recreation Area. That was good.

I met Josh Tewksbury at the Society for Convservation Biology meeting in Baltimore 2 summers back. He's got an interesting post up with some thoughts on the NGO vs. Academe divide from the perspective of his position as the directory of a boundary organization, the Luc Hoffman Institute. His point that "Science [is] at the side table" is spot on! (ht: Meg Duffy@Dynamic Ecology)

Don Driscoll from ANU has a great piece about feral horses in Australia's Snowy Mountains being pushed to cannibalism in order to survive. There are lots of great connections here to environmental issues in the USA, including feral horses, feral cats, overabundant deer, and mountain lions, to name just a few. Students of Larkin Powell have video of deer eating baby birds out of a nest. So just because you're a herbivore doesn't mean you'll pass up a meaty meal.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

You should measure your fasting Blood Glucose.

And you should make a graph. Here's why.

The plot shows my fasting Blood Glucose values since I moved to Lincoln in early 2003. The dotted lines show the "normal range" reported on your lab results. So I was clearly outside the normal range most of the time since 2004. However, my physician didn't sound alarmed until mid 2009, the point marked with an asterisk. Why not? Well the value considered to be a sign of pre-diabetes is fasting glucose values above 120 mg/dL. We didn't do anything dramatic at that point; all that changed was that John* started ordering a new test, Hemoglobin A1c. My A1c value then was 5.8 % (more on what the means below).
In June of 2011 my A1c value was 6.2, and John decided it was time to declare me a Type II diabetic. I immediately changed my diet, and you can see the effects -- 3 months later my A1c value was back down to 5.0 %, which is the top of the normal range for that metric.
I was lucky; John is an enlightened physician. And he compared values backwards across my various labs, at least one step back. But I wish he'd started with the A1c alot sooner. A1c measures how much sugar is in your blood averaged over a few weeks. This is important because even if your fasting blood glucose levels are good, after a meal your blood sugar can spike way up if you are pre-diabetic. And those peaks damage things I value, like nerve cells! Even though my fasting BG value was lower in June 2011 than it had been, my A1c value was higher. After changing my diet my A1c values have been excellent (between 5 and 5.4), even though my fasting glucose values tend to still be high. So I could have been in trouble on the A1c scale much sooner, if I had been tested. I could swear that I've seen a graph of mortality as a function of A1c that suggested values above 5 were really, really bad, but I've been unable to find it. There are lots of studies that show increasing A1c increases all sorts of bad outcomes, but they mostly bin values together so you can't see the effect of a value of 5.5 vs. 5. Certainly, going above 6 % is bad. 
So, making a graph makes the data trend much clearer than simply seeing the lab results one value at a time. Your doctor won't do this. You can. 
I'm not going to describe the changes I made to my diet to get this result here; that's for another day. However, I want to connect this post to the Adaptive Management theme of the blog. In 1995 I made a major shift in my diet to very low fat Vegan following the recommendations of Dr. Dean Ornish, the McDougalls, and others. I had swallowed the dietary fat = death paradigm of the time. And it worked, at least for a while. I lost weight. My blood lipids improved. But 5 years later my blood lipids were worse than before, and 10 years after that I was diagnosed diabetic. I had to change the underlying hypotheses about the relationship between diet and health, at least for me.  

*Names may be changed to protect the innocent!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Throwback Thursday: most popular posts of mine.

As I'm re-Blogging, I thought it would be interesting to see which posts I've done that garnered the most attention. Here they are, the top 10 by Bloggers "pageview" statistic.

AM for parks and uncertainty vs. risk 862
Rapid prototype of an expert system 571
Making decisions with science 310
Adaptive Co-management 257
The need to include parameter uncertainty 255
Adaptive Monitoring? 177
Talking to the public about risk just got riskier 166
Zen Buddhism and Adaptive Management 152
Making Predictions! 147
AM in the Murray Basin 136

Making this list surprised me. My very first post is up there at #3. Also the size of the page views is pretty large. I mean, I'm not in Dynamic Ecology territory, but those numbers are better than I expected. Now what is it about those posts that makes them destinations?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Walkabout Wednesday

These are things that caught my eye from the internet over the course of the last week. I used to just 'like' or share these on Facebook.

Short term projections from a model that is known to be false in the long term can be useful. In some cases, however, they can be downright alarming, as in this projection of deaths from Ebola in West Africa that accounts for the observed exponential trend. I always wondered how the WHO came up with the number of 20,000 deaths. That now seems wildly optimistic. And here's a link to a more epidemiologically serious approach; "less alarming", but still makes 20,000 dead seem wildly optimistic. Along the same lines, the word "sustainable" appears unsustainable.

Bryan McGill has another post on Statistical Machismo over at Dynamic Ecology. He's responding to the recent response to an article that's now old hat criticizing the estimation of detection probabilities. He digs into one of the appendices and makes some good points. For my part, I'd just like to point out that you CAN optimize a sampling design for something other than bias or MSE of the estimator, and you do get a different answer. Maybe this should be a whole blog post too.

Are calls for academics to be more civil in public discourse really attempts to stifle academic freedom? (ht: John Carroll)

Marcelo Gleiser argues that scientific curiosity is really an expression of spirituality. He defines 'natural spirituality' as "... a connection with something bigger than we are, seducing our imagination, creating an urge to know, to embrace the mystery that surrounds us and the mystery that we are." I like that idea a lot at first glance.

Mountain lions do attack people, and usually end up dead as a result. I think this is actually a sign of population recovery, but maybe that'll have to be a full blog post.

Turns out I was right to blame the cabal of old white guys at the top for the lack of women in our profession. If all goes well, I'll be one of the OWG next year, so I guess I'll have a chance to fix things. As a relatively involved dad with a highly successful academic spouse, I agree that being involved in family reduced our productivity. I don't regret the choice for a minute, and I have been very fortunate that the OWG in my academic unit did not hold that against me.

Redheads are bad news, at least for Gouldian Finches. What is interesting to me about the story is that they made a prediction from a model and then tested it against empirical data. (ht: Patrick O'Connor).

NPR's Morning Edition has a series on the impacts of cuts to biomedical research funding. This morning's show made a couple of good points about the perverse incentives in research that drive scientists to a) overstate their results, and b) not attempt to replicate previously published work. I think these same issues are about a thousand times worse in non-biomedical research like Ecology.

Plastic. It's everywhere in the ocean's and Britta Hardesty and Chris Wilcox from CSIRO have just finshed up the largest sampling effort ever. It's not a pretty picture

Thursday, September 11, 2014

ThrowbackThursday: nothing new under the sun!

I came across this post comparing two prominent reactions to how models should be used in policy when browsing posts from September 2009. Nothing new to add, except that I don't call it the "North American School" of AM anymore, but rather the "Resilience-Experimentalist School". Jamie McFadden wrote the paper on that!

And Spotify has a soundtrack for looking back. Way back!

Rebooting the Blog!

The hardest part about writing a blog, is, well, writing the posts. I haven't posted here for nearly 2 years. I've got alot of excuses that I won't bore you with, but there were good reasons too. Chief among those is the fact that I drew the boundaries for the blog much too narrowly. I've had a lot to write about, except that none of it had anything to do with Adaptive Management. Couple that with the fact that I've become quite jaded about the whole idea of Adaptive Management, and, well, I stopped posting.
Recently I started thinking about starting a new blog, drawn broader, that would allow me to write about the things I care about now. As it turns out I'm too cheap to fork out the necessary dough for a domain name. So I thought I'd try a few weeks of just adding to this blog and see if this is more than a passing phase. I'm much better at (re-) starting things than finishing them, so this is a good filter to see if I'm really serious this time around.
Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wednesday walkabout: why is the EPA taking over farms?

Well it isn't. But this meme seems to be persistent in many places, including here in Nebraska. I googled 'EPA taking over ponds' and discovered many references to this story in Wyoming, which I'm guessing is fuelling alot of this debate. So if your pond is in fact a dam, and you didn't file the necessary paper work to build a dam, then yes. The EPA and the US Army Corps of Engineers are going to get on your case.

UNL made the top 100 on the U.S. News and World Report rankings. Yawn. I'd be more excited if they tracked something other than bums on seats.

I found this piece on debating science with trolls interesting. Thanks to the Huge Possum for the link.

I'm playing catchup here, so I'm going to call it a day. The idea behind 'Wednesday Walkabout' is that there are a lot of little things that catch my attention during the week, that may or may not be important enough to warrant a post of their own. So I'm just going to collect them all together into a single post. Quantity instead of Quality! I learned this trick from Dynamic Ecology's "Friday Links".