You guys know about Paw Patrol? It’s a kid’s TV show where a band of pups solve mysteries, help people, and do engage in other kid-friendly antics. It’s pretty great. And a few weeks ago, our son started asking where the pups live. Being dedicated watchers of the show, we replied “Adventure Bay”. But he wanted to know where adventure bay is. Let’s use the power of biogeography to find out.
These past few days, I have been re-reading a paper that stimulated me a lot during my PhD. And I found myself wanting to dig in a little bit deeper into the mechanisms of one particular result. Since this paper was published in the 1990s, I never even attempted to look for the code, and started re-writing my own implementation. It made me realize a few things along the way.
There is a whole sub-genre of the ecological network literature working on elucidating “the structure” of bipartite networks (parasite/host, pollinator/plant, …). I am, of course, guilty of contributing a few papers to this genre. The premise is that, by putting together enough data from different places, we may be able to infer some of the general mechanisms that shape different aspects of the structure.
There are very few domains of ecology for which we know any general laws. This is particularly true in the “mess” that is community ecology. Even most recent attempts at conceptual unification rarely go beyond the fact that community ecology is driven by selection, drift, speciation, and dispersal. But so does everything else, as far as living organisms are concerned. Not that we should abandon community ecology, but we need to recognize how little we are able to generalize any of the things we know. Can we replicate ecological results?