Research techniques

Sorry, this page is under construction…

When I get around to it, this page will eventually point to blogs which discuss some of the tools, techniques, and tips that I’ve found useful in my work.

For now, a few snippets into topics I intend to discuss… one day I’ll get to organising them, promise!


What would we do without R? The annual ‘talk like a pirate’ day would certainly not get as much press. R is the most wonderful, cross-platform, cross-discipline, cross-task, open-source software, ever. And I say that even though I have spent more than one afternoon in coding frustration. So go to the main R page to get R, get basic introductions on how to use it (under ‘manuals’), and find out all the things you might be able to use it for (under ‘task views’). It can be a little bit of a learning curve, both to start, or whenever you want to do anything different, but there is so much help out there these days. I have found rstudio to be a really nice interface for R, and often do longer coding sessions in a script editor such as sublime.


While much of my earlier GIS work has used ArcGIS, I’m working on transitioning over to QGIS. Not because I don’t have access to ArcGIS, but rather that I know many people don’t, and I want to make my research more accessible. Sure, you can do spatial stuff in R directly, but QGIS is so much more user friendly (and interfaces with R, so you can have the best of both worlds.

The Marxan software family

Marxan is a freely available spatial conservation planning software, the most widely used in the world. In a nutshell, the basic version poses a minimum-set problem (minimise costs for achieving a target threshold of species representation), or a maximal-coverage problem (maximise representation of species for a set conservation budget), and solves this using a simulated annealing algorithm (in simple terms, it can show optimal landscape configurations for conservation). But I get most excited about some of the newer developments, particularly surrounding Marxan with Zones (which expands the classic binary problem to consider multiple zones, and is also available though the marxan website), the super awesome work Matt has done to help us run Marxan faster and better (see, and some newer developments that luckily I am privy to, due to being part of CEED.

Causal inference

How can we be confident that a conservation intervention had a positive impact? For now, let me direct you to our article in Decision Point, the monthly online magazine for the EDG lab.

Thinking about doing a PhD?

Check out my blogs over on the wilson lab website, on applying for a PhD, or tips that might help while you’re doing one.

Literature reviews

The literature is proliferating rapidly, making it really hard to stay on top of it all, and more so, to be able to sysnthesise it well. This blog post summarises why systematic reviews are good, but also details some alternatives when a full systematic review is infeasible.

Critiquing others

Peer review is an art form, but good peer reviews are really valuable for science.

Working better

At the moment, the only post in this category deals with how I can make working remotely work for me.