OPS 1-6 - Digital tools for mapping what's been done in ecology

Tuesday, August 9, 2016
ESA Exhibit Hall, Ft Lauderdale Convention Center
Zoe Nyssa, Center for the Environment, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

The history of ecology, as a set of expert practices for studying the environment, is a repository of insights for understanding ecological research today. Using this history, we can begin to identify patterns in research past and present: areas that are relatively over- or under-studied, gaps in and opportunities for the application of methods and approaches from one subfield to another and so on. Fortunately, in the last several years a number of sophisticated and user-friendly tools have been developed for understanding the large-scale contours of scientific research using text mining and text modeling.


This poster demonstrates the utility of text mining approaches for ecology by modelling and visualizing ecological topics over the 20th century using open-source and proprietary packages based on latent Dirichlet allocation (LDA). These LDA tools allow us to explore the development and trajectory of research innovation in ecology, including the growth, application, and decline of ecological concepts over time. Several cases are modelled to demonstrate how the history of ideas in ecology can provide a useful and powerful technique for researchers and students seeking a "big picture" on the state of the art in their field.