Author: Emily Dolson

Avida/Software Carpentry Hybrid Workshop

By Emily Dolson on October 20, 2015 in Information / 0 Comments
Avida/Software Carpentry Hybrid Workshop

This weekend, Josh, Cliff, and I ran a Software Carpentry workshop targeted at people interested in learning to use Avida for their research. After taking the instructor training course in May, we realized that the core skills covered in Software Carpentry (shell scripting, git, and a programming language) align very well with the skills needed to use Avida. The only thing left to do was drop a lesson on Avida in as the fourth session! Since there has been an ever-growing group of biologists interested in learning to use Avida, this seemed like a good idea. So, this weekend, we gave it a try.

Are Stommel plots a useful tool for thinking about evolution?

By Emily Dolson on September 29, 2015 in Research / 1 Comment
Are Stommel plots a useful tool for thinking about evolution?

Stommel plots are a popular tool in ecology for thinking about the spatial and temporal scales at which processes and patterns occur. Named for Henry Stommel, who created the first such plot (shown below), these plots generally have spatial scale on the x axis, temporal scale on the y axis, and some variable indicating strength of effect on the z axis. More recently, the z axis has often been replaced with colored circles, but the concept remains the same. For more information about the history of Stommel plots, see this post. These plots are often helpful in figuring out appropriate scales for data collection and analysis, as well as for conceptualizing how processes and patterns interact. But I have yet to see one that incorporates evolution.

What’s holding artificial life back from open-ended evolution?

By Emily Dolson on September 1, 2015 in Research / 5 Comments
What’s holding artificial life back from open-ended evolution?

At ECAL 2015, Tim Taylor, Mark Bedau, and Alastair Channon organized a fascinating workshop on Open-Ended Evolution, which I presented at (you can watch the video here, but this post will basically cover the same points). Several of us in the Devolab have been thinking about this topic for a while; below is a collection of our thoughts for the sake of continuing this discussion. The question of open-ended evolution emerged from a practical place: organisms and ecosystems in computational evolutionary systems were far less diverse, complex, and interesting than those that seen in nature. The people studying these systems were concerned that this was the result of a fundamental limitation to the systems (although some have also argued that this is just an issue of scale). They began characterizing the dynamics of these systems in […]

Have a useful conversation about work/life balance

By Emily Dolson on August 11, 2015 in Work/Life Balance / 0 Comments
Have a useful conversation about work/life balance

It is a commonly acknowledged problem in academia that success often comes at the expense of having a life outside of work (or at least seems like it has to). As a result, there are many attempts to help academics improve their work/life balance. Unfortunately, these attempts often devolve into motivational platitudes and advice that most people have already heard. And understandably so – work/life balance is a tricky subject to confront! This difficulty results from the confluence of two major factors: Different people want different things out of their lives, so balance means different things to different people. These topics can be so personal that people often don’t feel comfortable discussing them in concrete terms.