New Program for Studies of Environmental Niche Evolution
Late last year, Dan Warren, Michael Turelli, and I wrote a paper about niche evolution in which we developed new metrics and statistical tests for comparative studies of environmental niche models (ENMs). Our basic metrics permit quantification of similarity between ENM model projections generated by two or more populations. These metrics may either be explored in a phyogenetic context, or used in association with pseudoreplicated datasets to test two null hypotheses at opposite ends of the niche similarity continuum : (1) ENMs are identical and, (2) ENMs no more similar than expected by chance. Although our methods could work with several types of niche modeling algorithms, they are best suited to output generated by the maximum entropy method implemented in the program Maxent. We have now written a program of our own called ENMTools that interacts extensively with Maxent to implement the analyses discussed in our paper (more accurately, Dan Warren wrote a program and Michael and I beta tested it). Dan has done a masterful job with this Perl application, which presents as a simple GUI interface on any platform capable of running ActivePerl (including Linux, Mac OSX, and Windows). In addition to performing the methods we've already introduced, new functionality is being added constantly (although some of the coolest stuff is purposely left unexplained so we can publish the methods before they start getting used by others). Dan has set up a website and a blog to keep people informed about the latest developments, and hopes you appreciate his retro-internet stylings.
Dechronization is authored by evolutionary biologists interested in the development and application of methods for estimating phylogeny and making phylogeny-based inferences. The goal of the blog is to provide a forum for discussion of the latest research and methods, while also providing anecdotes, tidbits of natural history, and other related information.