Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Walkabout wednesday: Jetlagged mice, Calculus and population models.

Mice with jet lag, the effect of adding Calculus to a F&W curriculum, and population models in adaptive management. Also, I think I've been bloggin in my PJs, oops

My Health

Mice can get jet-lag, it messes up their gut biota, and makes them glucose intolerant. The experimenters tested the gut biota of two humans as well, and it seems to apply to us as well. The take home message is that regular sleeping habits are important for health! Big surprise there.

I haven't used margarine for years; the only added oils I use in cooking now are coconut and olive oil. Butter made a reappearance this year when I realized it didn't contain much casein. Turns out I inadvertently strengthened my bones when I ditched the vegie oils. Good news! 

Your Education

Aaron Ellison and Brian Dennis  emphasize the need for calculus as an essential pre-requisite for statistics. A "post-calculus" statistics class is available here at UNL for engineers and others, but I know our Statistics faculty are very unhappy with that course. I think the biggest problem with thinking about a quantitative methods curriculum is that the educational goals are not well defined. For example, Ellison and Dennis say "[O]ur prescription ... should be regarded as a minimum core for those who will ultimately obtain PhDs in the ecological sciences, broadly defined." Fisheries and Wildlife Science is included in their definition of ecological sciences, but I would argue that targeting our curriculum design towards future PhD students will leave 95% of the students behind. Very few of our undergrads will go on to a PhD; more will do master's degrees, but many stop after a BSc. I bet one reason the Statistics faculty don't like the service course they provide to Engineering is that Engineering faculty have different educational goals than Statistics faculty.

Shortly after I arrived at UNL in 2003 we decided to require a single semester of calculus in the F&W curriculum. 1 semester, and we allowed students to take the college of business calculus course as well. Contrast that with Ellison and Dennis' recommendation for 2 semesters of the regular calculus sequence and you can see how far we have to go. Here's the tradeoff: our freshman class shrank >30% when we added that requirement. I'm OK with training a smaller number of better prepared students but the administration doesn't agree; bums on seats makes money.

My son is the poster-child for the irrelevance of the senior year of high school; he completed all his academic requirements as a Junior and is having a ball with photography, painting, culinary foundations etc.. Apparently I'm not the only one that thinks some revision of senior year is needed. The idea is to integrate more college level work into the senior year of high school. I think the goal is to improve the preparation of students for college. I'm confused. Why not just have high school coursework that actually prepares students? 

Our Environment

José  Lahoz-Monfort, Gurutzeta Guillera-Arroita and Cindy Hauser have a new mini-review on Adaptive Management out in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. I like the emphasis on how population models are integral to the process, especially for doing Value of Information calculations.

Feeding 9 billion people is going to be a big challenge. This new online atlas shows data on "yield gaps", the difference between the current yield of a crop and what is possible with and without irrigation. Ken Cassman from UNL wrote a little introduction; at least he acknowledged that diverting water for these crops might come at an environmental cost in other ways. Also food, alot of protein in sub-saharan Africa is provided by fish.


  1. Having trouble with the "a new mini-review on AM" link

  2. Ooops. Try it now. Or click on the link to Cindy's blog over on the right.