Does your research intersect with a natural history collection?

Associate Editor Alison Davis Rabosky introduces our exciting new cross-journal Special Feature ‘Leveraging Natural History Collections to Understand the Impacts of Global Change‘. Below you can find out all about the scope of the Special Feature and how to submit your manuscript proposal.

Does your research intersect with a natural history collection?  Do those collections allow you to answer questions in ecology that you can’t ask without them?  Whether serving as indicators of environmental change or as the measurement of ecological response itself, preserved specimens – and their many associated data types – are critical to understanding ecological impacts of global change. If this sounds like your work, we would love to highlight your research in an upcoming Special Feature on how natural history collections (NHCs) promote our understanding of the impacts of global change.

As a curator at one of the largest university-affiliated NHCs in the world (the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology in the USA), my favourite aspect of working in collections is the complex networks of collaboration and community that emerge from such a shared resource.  To me, every specimen jar radiates its own exciting history: the many UMMZ and local collectors who worked together to fill it, the many global scientists who have relied on these specimens to make science happen, and the many curatorial teams who’ve worked every day in the service of something bigger than themselves to ensure that these specimens live forever. Especially in this era of big data, specimen digitisation, and data accessibility, collections have never been more globally available than they are today.

Specimen jars

Our new Special Feature on “leveraging natural history collections to understand the impacts of global change” aims to showcase research using natural history collections to highlight how species distributions, interactions, and phenotypes respond to global change across time scales. This Special Feature will comprise articles in Functional Ecology, Journal of Ecology, and Methods in Ecology and Evolution, as well as Journal of Animal Ecology.

At JAE, we are interested in all approaches to animal ecology that fit within the scope of the Special Feature. We will consider Research, Review, Long Term Studies, How to, and Concepts article types.

We encourage submissions that leverage any kind of NHC data to examine global change impacts on animal phenotypes, populations, or communities across space and time.  We welcome research that examines changes in species distributions or interactions, as well as other impacts to animal ecology.  We are particularly interested in papers that demonstrate how collections allow for innovative tests of ecological patterns and processes, in any capacity.

Everything I’ve written above highlights why collections made in the past are good for ecologists working today.  However, I think that continued integration between NHCs and ecology is important for tomorrow, too. Perhaps now more than ever, we have to be active contributors to collections if we want future generations of scientists to have the capacity to reconstruct the current time period anywhere near as well as we can reconstruct the past.  Collections are more than consumables for us to “use” to enhance our personal research: they are also an entity in which we can invest and transform through continued contributions (which take many forms) for the benefit of others, especially for future ecologists trying to understand what has happened today.  Even if you don’t have a paper to contribute right now, we hope that this Special Feature also serves to inspire the next generation of ecological studies as we tackle such a profound period of global change.

We look forward to seeing your contributions!

Contributing to the Special Feature

Manuscript proposals can be submitted via this online form, deadline 1 June. If your proposal is accepted, your manuscript must be submitted by 1 November 2021.

Manuscripts will then be subject to the same rigorous peer review process as any other submission and must meet our requirements of novelty and broad relevance for an audience of ecologists and/or evolutionary biologists. If not considered appropriate for the Special Feature, manuscripts can still be considered as normal submissions.

Manuscripts will then be subject to the same rigorous peer review process as any other submission and must meet our requirements of novelty and broad relevance for an audience of ecologists and/or evolutionary biologists. If not considered appropriate for the Special Feature, manuscripts can still be considered as normal submissions.

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