Thursday, December 1, 2022

December 2022 science summary

Victoria sunrise

Happy December,

In the spirit of the paper on gratitude below: thank you all for helping me to be a better scientist and a better person. Almost every month I get a note or two from someone who found the summary useful, or who had a question / critique / idea that I learned from. That engagement has helped me push myself to keep doing these, which in terms helps me be a bit more well-read. So thank you!

Also, while they're too long to summarize briefly like I do with papers, I want to recommend the books "Think Again" by Adam Grant and "Noise" by Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony, and Cass R. Sunstein. Taken together, they've given me a lot of ideas about how to get better at reevaluating my beliefs, improving how I review evidence and draw conclusions, and generate estimates. Email me if you want some notes I took on my favorite parts of each!

As a follow-up to the Thanksgiving holiday, I wanted to share a review of a paper on gratitude by Wood et al. 2010. It's a broad review of research on the topic and fairly wonky, but I found a few things useful. I liked how table 1 lists complementary aspects of gratitude: noticing how grateful you are overall, feeling gratitude towards others, focusing on what you have (vs. what you lack), feelings of awe, expressing gratitude (internally and to others), being present, living to the fullest b/c of awareness that life is short, and feeling lucky when thinking about how things could be worse. They cover quite a lot of research on gratitude and how being more grateful is associated w/ better quality of life (although there's some question how much gratitude causes well-being vs. is just correlated). The biggest boost to feeling good came from writing a letter thanking someone and reading it to them in person, but keeping a daily diary of three things you're grateful for seems to be easier to keep up and helps you feel better for longer.

Reich et al. 2022 is an interesting experiment of how boreal forests might respond to 1.6C or 3.1C warming, using open-air heaters in an actual forest (as well as simulating reduced rainfall by covering some of the soil) to see how they respond. Conifers experienced slower growth (Fig 2) and higher mortality (Fig 1). How much varied by species, with balsam fir showing the worst impact. Compared to current conditions, warming or limited rain each reduced balsam fir growth by ~1/3, while the combination reduced growth by ~2/3. Seedling survival went down by ~40% at 1.6C, ~72% at 3.1C, and ~84% at 3.1C plus less rain. But others like jack pine had much smaller effects, and some trees like maples had similar survival rates and more growth under warming (even with less rain). So they predict that conifers will become less dominant, over the long term being replaced by deciduous trees but in the short term more likely replaced by invasive woody shrubs (since the deciduous trees aren't common enough to spread fast). There is an article about this written for general audiences at

Santos et al. 2017 is an interesting paper on using fuzzy logic to assess beef sustainability in the Pantanal. As background - fuzzy logic doesn't mean 'sloppy reasoning' - it's actually a real thing which more or less centers on non-binary logic models. For example, old thermostats are non-fuzzy (they turn on when cold and turn off when warm enough), but newer ones are often fuzzy (adjusting fan speed, turning auxiliary heat on or off, etc. depending on performance). In this case, they take a ton of practical indicators, map each onto a 4 point scale, and combine them into a single "overall sustainability index" (see Figure 1). Check out Appendix I for the list of how well each indicator matched expert judgments.

Valladares et al. 2022 used drones to figure out what kind of habitat giant otters in Peru most preferred. They found giant otters preferred oxbow lakes with the largest water surface area, the least floating vegetation (more open water), and more dense forest canopy cover along the banks of the lakes.

Reich, P. B., Bermudez, R., Montgomery, R. A., Rich, R. L., Rice, K. E., Hobbie, S. E., & Stefanski, A. (2022). Even modest climate change may lead to major transitions in boreal forests. Nature, 608(7923), 540–545.

Santos, S. A., de Lima, H. P., Massruhá, S. M. F. S., de Abreu, U. G. P., Tomás, W. M., Salis, S. M., Cardoso, E. L., de Oliveira, M. D., Soares, M. T. S., dos Santos, A., de Oliveira, L. O. F., Calheiros, D. F., Crispim, S. M. A., Soriano, B. M. A., Amâncio, C. O. G., Nunes, A. P., & Pellegrin, L. A. (2017). A fuzzy logic-based tool to assess beef cattle ranching sustainability in complex environmental systems. Journal of Environmental Management, 198, 95–106.

Valladares, N. A., Pardo, A. A., Chiaverini, L., Groenendijk, J., Harrington, L. A., Macdonald, D. W., Swaisgood, R. R., & Barocas, A. (2022). High‐resolution drone imagery reveals drivers of fine‐scale giant otter habitat selection in the land‐water interface. Conservation Science and Practice, December 2021, 1–14.

Wood, A. M., Froh, J. J., & Geraghty, A. W. A. (2010). Gratitude and well-being: A review and theoretical integration. Clinical Psychology Review, 30(7), 890–905.