From Swimming with Seagrasses to Statistics
Somewhere down the road ecology evolved from this:
To something like this:
As a member of the Seagrass Ecosystem Research lab here at Florida International University I am, by default, a researcher in two long-term monitoring projects. The first is the FCE-LTER seagrass monitoring project and the other is a seagrass monitoring project in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Both datasets have resulted in mounds and mounds of data throughout the years. As a side project to my dissertation I arrogantly decided to conquer said data mounds and turn out some ground-breaking revelations about benthic community structure in South Florida. There's just one problem: I am buried in MOUNDS of data! To analyze these data, it turned out, would be much more complicated than just getting the R code (R is a stats program that hates me, but it's free so I put up with the abuse!) correct so the program will tell me what I want to know. Here is the first figure I generated from this dataset:
|Figure 1: R-plot, or as my friend Rob put it, "It looks like a unicorn threw up on your computer." Thanks Rob!|
This lack of a relationship is good for the seagrass and macroalgae. However, it has forced me to use my brain in ways in which I was not accustomed. It has spurred me in a different direction with this dataset, though....AND, it's exciting! I'm still in the exploratory stages of the analysis but I'm finding some interesting results. Herein lies the beauty of both long-term datasets and statistics. I am, by no means, a stats whiz - I really struggle with the topic sometimes and throughout my master's degree I threatened the life of my computer, R, and all South Texas seagrasses at one point or another. Though I haven't found anything ground-breaking yet, the sheer amount of data I have at my fingertips allows me to investigate new hypotheses. The benefits are two-fold: 1) I will never be the person who can read a stats book and apply the analysis years down the road. I need the practice - like riding a bike - and with this dataset I get that much needed practice. 2) I get to train my brain to think outside the box and be creative...with MATH! That I enjoy the mathematical brain massage has shocked me.