Category Archives: Research

Spreading the word: presenting at the IAVS conference

Fieldwork for plant ecologists in Norway normally begins in June, and the hard work we put into our site maintenance and data collection pays off when we are able to share our findings with vegetation scientists from around the world. From the 20th to the 24th of June 2017, a conference was held on the beautiful island of Sicily, and for those who could take time out of their busy field schedules this was a great opportunity to catch up with colleagues and present, discuss and disseminate our work.

This conference was organised by the IAVS, an international association for plant and vegetation scientists from around the world. This was the 60th annual meeting that the IAVS has organised and its theme this year was extremely relevant to the research we conduct in Bergen: “Vegetation patterns in natural and cultural landscapes”. The programme covered topics from invasive species and conservation planning, to diversity patterns in grasslands, and varied from strictly theoretical to more applied approaches. And what a location! Palermo is beautifully situated on the north coast of Sicilly, and the shorefront was meters from the entrance of the hotel. The posters were presented in the botanical garden in the open air, surrounded by citrus trees and cacti. This is the first outdoor poster session I’ve attended – if only Bergen had such predictably good weather!

There was a lot of good work presented, much of it relevant to our own experiments. It was highlighted several times how important land-use change is in addition to climate change, and that the scale and method used in experiments should influence the interpretation of findings from ecological studies in grasslands.

Our own study sites in Norway are part of a cultural landscape, owned and managed by landowners and farmers. It is always exciting to present our findings on an international platform, which is only possible through these collaborations.

The presentations and posters were complemented by a mid-symposium excursion, giving all participants a day to digest the overwhelming amount of information we’d heard, and a chance to network in a relaxed setting and see a bit of the island. Eight excursions took us in groups to various parts of Sicilly to look at the flora and cultural landscape.

Aside from conferencing, there was also time to explore the city, and go for a few coastal runs!img_1322img_134019457727_10209907040618046_2060785164_oimg_1353

A trip to Finland

At the beginning of February, the Nordic Society Oikos held their biennial conference. This year it took place in Finland’s oldest city and previous capital – Turku. Organised primarily for researchers in Ecology in Nordic countries, this event is an opportunity for those in similar fields to share their findings and build collaborations. This was the perfect time for some of the FunCaB team to present our preliminary findings in addition to networking.WP_001861

Altogether, we were seven from the Biology department. Four of those seven presented results from projects using the FunCaB sites, and Inge Althuizen presented the first true FunCaB findings! Her poster displayed the first results of soil carbon and nitrogen across all of our sites. So far, she has found that precipitation has a larger effect on these soil properties than temperature. Terezie Novakova, a Bachelors student on the project last year, presented her first poster. She found that warming favours Carbon allocation to vascular plant species in semi-natural grasslands in Western Norway.

In fact, this week was a week of firsts. For some of the team it was their first time to Finland. We were blessed with cold, sunny weather, and we even had some time to explore the old town in the evenings and after the conference. For others, it was their first conference. An exciting opportunity to present results and discuss ideas with researchers and students alike. And for me, it was my first conference talk! I showed the new results from a graminoid (grass) removal experiment. What we’re seeing is a slight facilitative effect of graminoids in alpine plant communities. However, this effect appears to be determined more by between-year seasonality than climate gradients. Despite slight hiccoughs during the preparation, the talk seemed to go quite smoothly (to be elaborated on in another post!).


The team in Turku (photo: Terezie Novakova).

Our fellow colleagues from Bergen presented a very diverse range of topics. Are hikers and grazers causing an upward shift in plant communities in the Scandes? What happens to plant species richness in the Tatras mountains when grazing is stopped? What role does Nitrogen addition play in determining species richness at various grazing intensities? What are the effects of climate change on phenology in alpine plant communities? Outside of our team, there was an even wider range of topics. The plenary sessions discussed the influence of paleohistory on present-day patterns in biodiversity and ecosystems (Jens-Christian Svenning), population scale drivers of individual variation and demography in migratory birds (Tomas Gretar Gunnarsson), and the evolutionary consequences of the transition from outcrossing to self-fertilisation in plants (Tanja Slotte). Alongside the talks, the posters added yet more interesting studies and questions. How can we engage kindergarten children in scientific and mathematic learning? What is the impact of agriculture on wading birds in Iceland now and in the future, and what are the farmers’ stance on the issue?


In all, it was a stimulating week. We’re presenting our findings at the ResClim All-Staff meeting from the 4-6 March 2016.

(Photos from top left: Richard Telford on behalf of Siri Haugum; Terezie Novakova; Kine Blom; Inge Althuizen; Amy Eycott).

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How to prepare a manuscript for publication?

If you are a scientist, you want to publish your work at some point. Other scientists in your field should read and learn from your work. And in science a publication is usually a paper in a journal. Publishing a paper can be hard work if you do it for the first time (also later), but you’ll learn and get better at it. The first step is to prepare a manuscript that you send to a journal. Here are some of my experiences, how to do it.

I am an ecologist and some things might only apply to this field, but I think most journals have a similar style and these ideas can be used everywhere.

Each journal will provide author guidelines. It is very important to read these very carefully before starting anything. The journals specify what type of articles they are interested in. Think carefully if your study fits into the journal. A good idea is to look at a recent issue to see what kind of articles there are. Some journals ask for an abstract before telling you if they want you to send in the full manuscript. Another important point to check is if you are ok with their conditions? For example, some journals want you to provide your data, or in some journals you have to pay for colour figures. Make sure you are aware of their requirements.

Content and structure

  • Language: most articles have to be written in English. If you are not a native English speaker it is a good idea to let a native speaker read your text or somebody with lots of experience.
  • Title: add a short and catchy title. It’s the first thing your reader will see!
  • Whatever you do, be consistent throughout the manuscript: use the same expressions for things and write in the same style.
  • The key words should be words not used in the title but important terms in the manuscript
  • Usually research articles follow this structure: title page, abstract, introduction, method and materials, results, discussion, acknowledgements, references, tables, figure captions.
  • What information is needed on the title page?
    • Title
    • Author names and their affiliation, email address
    • Running title: is an abbreviated title, which is usually printed at the top of the text pages and allows the reader to determine which paper they are looking at.
    • Corresponding author: is usually the author that is responsible for the correspondence throughout the publication process.

Formatting style

  • Use a recent paper as a template. Not to copy but as guidance.
  • Add line numbering: it’s easier for anybody reading your text to refer to a specific position in your text.
  • Double spacing makes the text more readable.
  • Do not justify the right margin. It is maybe not as aesthetically pleasing, but far more readable.
  • Add page numbers! Have you ever printed a 30-page text and then mixed the pages?
  • Keep to the word count or page allowance. If you don’t, it is very easy for the editor to reject your manuscript.
  • Check the requirements for figures and tables: quality of figures, where and how to place the legend, are coloured figures allowed or do you need to pay for it and how should you refer to them (Fig. 1a or Figure 1A). How do you submit figures and tables? Some journals want them in the text (e.g. one table per page), some want you to upload the figures separately.
  • How does the supplementary material need to be presented? In a separate file? And how should you refer to the supplement material (see Appendix Fig. S1)?
  • What format of your manuscript is allowed? Word, LaTex, PDF,…
  • Check your reference list very carefully! Number allowance, format, order. It is very easy to make mistakes here and not all programs provide correct references. Are the species names in italics? Usually there should not be Capital Letters in the Title unless it is a Location or a Name.

By following these instructions, it is not guaranteed that your paper gets accepted. But if you keep to “the code” the editor is more willing to have a real look at the content of your manuscript and not send it back right away.

Good luck preparing your first manuscript and let me know about your experiences.