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Back to biology: a reading list

Autumn is here and it’s time for students to head back to University. To help our biology students ease back into their studies, we’ve organized a brief reading list. Whether you’re studying human biology, ecology, or microbiology – these selections will help undergraduate and graduate students get back into the swing of things this new school year.

1. “How Should We Study It?” from A Tapestry of Values: An Introduction to Values in Science by Kevin C. Elliott

This chapter discusses how values can influence how research is conducted. Particular examples include varying strategies for agricultural research, assumptions involved in studying environmental pollution, and how the questions that are asked in medical research can reflect implicit values that steer research in specific directions.

2. “Getting and Getting Acquainted with R” from Getting Started with R: An Introduction for Biologists, by Andrew Beckerman, Dylan Childs, and Owen Petchey

R is the preferred software of biologists. This introductory chapter gives you all the information you need to get started using this software for your research – including instructions on how to download R an RStudio from the internet, how to write code for R, and general tips for using R. There are also three short exercises you can practice with to solidify your learning.

3. “Comparing Groups: Analysis of Variance” from The New Statistics with R: An Introduction for Biologists by Andy Hector

If you’re already familiar with R, but find yourself looking for more detailed information on linear model analysis, this book reviews different variations and extensions of these models within R. In “Comparing Groups: Analysis of Variance”, the organization of the results of a linear model into an Analysis of Variance table is explained using underlying statistical concepts and the interpretation of the R output demonstrated.

4. “Biological Organization from a Hierarchical Perspective” from Evolutionary Theory: A Hierarchical Perspective by Niles Eldredge, Telmo Pievani, Emanuele Serrelli, and Ilya Tëmkin

Recently, the philosophy of biology has seen a renewed interest in levels of organization. This selection aims to ground the concept of levels of organization onto an explicit analysis of the specific inter-level relations involved, and also discusses the idea of biological organization being inherently hierarchical, not limited to a compositional view.

5. “Getting your message out using the written word” from Conservation Education and Outreach Techniques by Susan K. Jacobson, Mallory McDuff, and Martha Monroe

This selection relays the importance of how using the written word for education and outreach is essential for reaching vast numbers of people with important scientific information. Discussed with a focus on ecological conservation, the touch points in this chapter relay important techniques for how to disseminate new findings in science to mass and social media, and reviews tips for writing that will be clear and understandable to readers.

6. “Introduction: Darwinian ecology” from Theory-Based Ecology: A Darwinian approach by Liz Pásztor, Zoltán Botta-Dukát, Gabriella Magyar, Tamás Czárán, and Géza Meszéna

In reviewing Darwin’s explanation for the emergence and maintenance of biological diversity, this introductory chapter covers the conceptual basis for a self-consistent theory of ecology. With an overview of seven Darwinian principles, this selection covers concepts such as dynamical system, state description, fitness, regulation, impact, and sensitivity. It also explains and illustrates the important method of timescale separation.

7. “Combining Applied and Basic Research: The ABC Principle” from The New ABCs of Research: Achieving Breakthrough Collaborations by Ben Shneiderman

This chapter suggests that stronger outcomes occur when research includes both applied and basic goals in their projects. Shneiderman discusses current research methods, and how this research can be improved, in the hopes of improving team productivity and encouraging research projects that will more frequently address contemporary problems we face today.

Featured image credit: New York Public Library – Stephen A. Schwarzman Building by Davide Cantelli. CC0 public domain via Unsplash.

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