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How to Do Ecology: A Concise Handbook [Kindle Edition]

Richard Karban , Mikaela Huntzinger
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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  • Print ISBN-10: 0691125775
  • Print ISBN-13: 978-0691125770


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Book Description

Most ecology books and courses focus on the facts and the concepts. While these are essential, many young ecologists need to figure out how to actually do research themselves. How to Do Ecology provides nuts-and-bolts advice on how to develop a successful thesis and research program. This book presents different approaches to posing testable ecological questions. In particular, it covers the uses, strengths, and limitations of manipulative experiments in ecology. It will help young ecologists consider meaningful treatments, controls, replication, independence, and randomization in experiments, as well as where to do experiments and how to organize a season of work. This book also presents strategies for analyzing natural patterns, the value of alternative hypotheses, and what to do with negative results.

Science is only part of being a successful ecologist. This engagingly written book offers students advice on working with other people and navigating their way through the land mines of research. Findings that don't get communicated are of little value. How to Do Ecology suggests effective ways to communicate information in the form of journal articles, oral presentations, and posters. Finally, it outlines strategies for developing successful grant and research proposals. Numerous checklists, figures, and boxes throughout the book summarize and reinforce the main points. In short, this book makes explicit many of the unspoken assumptions behind doing good research in ecology, and provides an invaluable resource for meaningful conversations among ecologists.

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Editorial Reviews


"[A] refreshing, concise work aimed primarily at those contemplating or performing ecological research studies. The authors' approach will be equally beneficial to those in various other areas of study. . . . Highly recommended."--Choice

"This 'concise handbook' is excellent in helping the targeted audience, as well as land managers, amateurs, and others in understanding how ecological research is done."--Dan R. Kunkle, Wildlife Activist

"If you have been looking for the perfect gift for an undergraduate contemplating graduate school in ecology, or a beginning ecology graduate student, you have found it in this book. Short, with a conversational tone, this book is a wealth of information for beginning professionals."--Dr. Erika V. Iyengar, American Biology Teacher

"How to do Ecology contains much of the sage advice that good supervisors have been giving their postgraduate students for years... [I]t's absolutely correct and vital information."--Robyn K. Whipp, Austral Ecology

From the Inside Flap

"Almost all graduate students in ecology will take away something valuable from reading How to Do Ecology. Karban and Huntzinger cover a wide range of topics: how to formulate research questions, why to get a field notebook and what to put in it, how and why to incorporate observations, experiments, and models in your dissertation, how to give a seminar on your work and get your results published. Reading this book feels like having a good talk during a long walk in the woods with a wise and experienced advisor who really has the time to distill and share years of thinking about how ecological research works. Get it, and keep it handy, and your work will be the richer and more successful for it."--Jessica Gurevitch, Stony Brook University

"How to Do Ecology may save years of grief and buckets of sweat for ecologists at the beginning of their careers. It puts into words lessons that are usually only learned the hard way. The authors outline the balances and trade-offs that go into designing a successful research program and provide practical advice for achieving long-term goals in ecology."--Jonathan Shurin, University of British Columbia

Product Details

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading for Biology Grad Students December 15, 2007
I found it in the university library and spent a whole afternoon reading it! I was waiting for some books to come from the auto-stacks and found it on the new book display shelf by the circulation desk. It was great luck! There is so much valuable information taking notes was not enough so I ordered it! This is a concise and well-written guide for biology graduate students and even those who have experience in the field. It certainly would improve the level of presentations... I have endured some wretched ones too. My area of work is environmental toxicology studying the effect of endocrine disruptors in a wetland. It is so easy to get lost in the details. I can be too much of a perfectionist and this book already has helped me narrow my focus. Normally, I would have spent weeks working through my perfectionism to arrive at a realistic approach. Enough said.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Food for Thought October 20, 2006
I highly recommend this book for anyone looking to work in ecology (I am currently an undergrad ecology student).

The book packs a lot of practical information and good food for thought into a quick, pleasant, and even sometimes humorous read.

The authors help you determine what question you should research; discuss aspects of experiment design, implementation, and analysis; give advice on how to put together a good article/presentation/grant proposal; and more.

While there probably is no substitute for actual experience, I think this book will help give me a heads-up about some of the challenges to come in my career.

Reading this book is like having a totally productive and understandable meeting with your advisor, but unlike such a meeting, this book actually exists!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very useful for all ecologists, highly recommended August 15, 2012
By Reamy
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm a recent undergrad graduate with extensive research experience intending on pursuing a PhD in ecology. This book was extremely useful and is full of many tips, some of which I already know and use and some of which I foresee being frequently applicable throughout my future career path.

Because the book is so short and very easy to read, I highly recommend it to anyone in ecology, from novices to established experts. It will serve as a good primer for the former group and a good reminder for the latter. The variety of topics which are covered also make is useful for many types of ecologists; everything from presentation formats to experimental design to working with field assistants is touched upon. Obviously the book is brief ("concise" is an accurate adjective), so no single topic is delved into extensively, but the intent of the book is to provide an overview of ecological research and some important unwritten rules that go along with the field, and I think it achieved its intent admirably.

This also provides information that is difficult to find anywhere else. The literature would never touch on the process of doing research like this handbook does. Some of the information from the book I have managed to glean from professionals and colleagues, but this is a slow and somewhat random process. Actually doing research also results in learning some of the insights the handbook provides, but, at least for me, many of the insights come after the fact. I wish I had read this book before completing my senior honors thesis because it helps with such fundamental topics as forming solid research questions before collecting data and understanding the role of statistics in data analysis.

Even if you're a well-established ecologist with years of experience, a quick read of this handbook would be worth your while, while it extremely enlightening for a new researcher like myself.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Grad student manual May 6, 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The title is a little misleading. It would be better titled "How to be a successful grad student in Ecology." Under that title, it does a very good job at explaining what one should think about, do, and how one should proceed as a grad student in their career. The book is a worthwhile read for grad students and new profs.

The only area where I would have liked to see the book expanded is with respect to statistics.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Terrible October 16, 2009
Concise indeed. This book is so oversimplified that it is neither helpful or accurate. We do not get nuanced analyses of contemporary issues in ecological methods. We get no clear guide to the diversity of opinions regarding how to approach ecology as a career and a discipline. Instead, as the title implies, we get a single approach, formed entirely from the authors' opinions. Even with such a simplistic framework, we still get no nuance, no detail, no interesting discussion. Furthermore, the authors' knowledge is somewhat questionable. For example, at one point they refer to Path Analysis and Structural Equation Modeling (never by name, mind you - that would be much too advanced) as brand new but controversial tools. The problem is that they are neither; both got their start among economists in the 1920's.

This book might be useful for a high school student. Or for a high school teacher who wants to delve into experimental ecology with his class. But for a serious professional researcher, even one who is beginning as a grad student? Only if you have no interest in appreciating the richness of approaches that makes ecology a unique discipline.
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