Potential study species

The reproductive biology of Cactaceae is not well known – only approximately 2% of the 2000 or so species have been studied (Mandujano et al, 2010). Consequently, how they interact with neighbouring plants of different species for pollinators or what this means in a community context are both virtually unknown. In one of the few published experiments that explicitly tested these interactions, researchers focused on the highly invasive prickly-pear Opuntia stricta in coastal shrublands in Catalonia (Bartomeus 2008). Cacti in the Opuntia genus are primarily bee-pollinated; they have large, colourful bowl-shaped flowers and many species are rich in pollen and nectar (Mandujano et al, 2010), suggesting they are very attractive to pollinators. Plants that exhibit these characteristics can interact with other plants in two notable ways for pollinators – they may act as a magnet plant, increasing local abundances of shared pollinators and thus facilitating the pollination of their neighbours, or conversely, they may steal pollinators and reduce the fitness of their neighbours.

To determine the effects of the invasion on the native plant community, the researchers created plant-pollinator interaction networks for both invaded and uninvaded sites. They found that O. stricta acted as a super-generalist in its new range. It was visited by 31% of the insect taxa in the invaded sites and was outcompeting native plants for pollination services. Within the same study, they found that Carpobrotus, an invasive succulent, had the opposite interaction with the surrounding plant community; it facilitated the pollination of the native plants in the system. This highlights the species-specific and context-dependent aspects of these interactions. There are a few species of Opuntia common in the Mojave Desert, and I hope to discover if and how they are interacting with other plants, particularly shrubs and their annual understory.

Attribution Stan Shebs [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Bartomeus, I., Vilà, M., & Santamaría, L. (2008). Contrasting effects of invasive plants in plant–pollinator networks. Oecologia, 155(4), 761-770.

del Carmen Mandujano, M., Carrillo-Angeles, I., Martínez-Peralta, C., & Golubov, J. (2010). Reproductive biology of Cactaceae. In Desert plants (pp. 197-230). Springer Berlin Heidelberg.

A brief comment on writing frequently & well for #scicomm & #openscience

I have been thinking on my workflow (Chris Lortie) as of late. This is in response to the recent post by Alex reviewing a book on dissertation writing he received as a gift from a collaborator.

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Image from cosmopolitan.co.uk humor post on topic.

I love to write. However, it is so tempting to rabbit hole and keep reading more stuff, exploring tangents and connections, and developing alternative visualizations for a paper. As of late, I have come to recognize that this is one part positive (think through a topic well and provides gestation time) and one part negative (procrastination). It is continuum of opportunity that requires balancing the benefits and costs. However, it is crystal clear to me that writing regularly, if not for large projects but for smaller communications, is beneficial and a key form of practice.  If an audience is included in the writing process, even better, as it encourages more careful wording and promoted open-science insights into the process vs. product of scientific inquiry. Tweets, blog posts, detailed notes at meetings (that you then subsequently share), and sometimes even emails are also excellent opportunities to ensure that you are precise and clear.

I have also purchased this book to check out the workflows of productive individuals.

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Finally, I wanted to add that my fav book all time on this subject was by Italo Calvino. Science and literature converge.

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The peeking around the corner is a bit cheesy, but it is a really awesome primer on writing.