PhD Estación Biológica de Doñana

Research, science, ecology, animal, plants, conservation, tips…

PhD Seminars – The importance of “WHAT?”

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April’s roundtable was chaired by Eloy Revilla, scientific researcher at the Conservation Biology Department. He chatted with us about his own scientific career and how it evolved from his thesis times, struggling to know “life and miracles” of the Eurasian badger in Doñana, to the “modeling world” in which he is more immersed now.

This apparently big step is just a question of focus, his piece of advice was not to concentrate just on our study system but to go beyond and find the common characteristics that this system has with something more global. We sometimes are too worried about proving the singularity of our system trying to differentiate from the rest to enhance its value, forgetting that it could be even more valuable if we could transgress with our findings to something more general. (Look at your thesis data again… maybe you are able to find a common methodology for sampling in a determined biome, or design a model to predict probability of presence of your study species which has not been used before!)

The important thing is the researching question and not the system itself.

He encouraged us to not being afraid of apparently arid tools as programming languages, which can help us to do exactly what we want and not only “canned functions” wrapped in fancy programs that we often don’t know what are exactly doing. Programming is a versatile tool useful in many fields, and the maximum abstraction with which we’ll be able to answer nearly any ecological (and not) question. However, if Math are not your piece of cake, don’t despair, Wilson have other suggestions for you ;).

The important thing is the “WHAT?” and not the “HOW?”. If you don’t lose your objectives, many ways of solving your problem will come out (maybe in the form of lines and lines of code in strange languages that you thought were just for those computer geeks at the Informatics faculty).


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