Journal news: Executive Editor announcement

Looking ahead to 2023, we are excited to announce that Nate Sanders is stepping into the role of Executive Editor.

Professor & Director of the E.S. George Reserve at University of Michigan, Nate has been a Senior Editor with the journal since September 2015 and has led on a number of exciting initiatives in that time; most recently an upcoming Special Feature, ‘Leveraging natural history collections to understand the impacts of global change’. His research interests include macroecology, global change ecology and community ecology. He tends to work on ants but dabbles with other taxa when necessary.

Get to know Nate in our ‘meet the editor’ Q&A below.

Nate takes on the Executive Editor role from Jean-Michel Gaillard (Directeur de Recherche, Research Unit ‘Biométrie et Biologie Evolutive’, CNRS, University of Lyon). Jean-Michel has shown fantastic commitment to the journal and has steered us through the globally unprecedented times of recent years. His understanding, not only of the field but of the journal’s scope and reach, have been of tremendous value. We thank Jean-Michel for his time as Executive Editor and are pleased to confirm that he will be staying on as a Senior Editor into next year.

Meet the Editor: Nate Sanders

What do you remember of the first paper you published?
Three key memories stick out: (1) the first time I plotted the results of the experiment and saw that, sure enough, neighbouring ant colonies affect resource use and behaviour, (2) getting the acceptance letter in the mail, and (3) getting a box of reprints that I quickly mailed out to colleagues around the world. Strange that that was only 22 years ago!

When was the last time you had a paper rejected?
Ha! Good question. I have a colleague who claims to have never had a paper rejected. I have had many rejections, including several this fall.

If you could wake up tomorrow with a new skill, what would it be?
I’d love to be a skilled banjo player. My older son is, and I’m jealous.

Are you a good cook? What’s your signature dish?
I think I am a good cook (but a not-so-good baker)! My mother-in-law gave me a Jamie Oliver cookbook many years ago, and that started me on my path.  I don’t think I have a signature dish, but one of the only things everyone in my family eats is fresh pesto from our garden.

Yellow labrador sat by Christmas tree
Rosalind feeling festive

Which small thing irritates you the most at work?
Hearing how busy, busy, busy everyone is.

How do you deal with stress?
Walks with my wife and our yellow lab Rosalind (named after Rosalind Franklin, FYI), getting beat at FIFA 22 by my younger son, piddling around in our yard.

Who inspired you most as a student?
It’s too hard to name one person, so I’ll name several: Dave Dussourd, Deane Bowers, Deborah Gordon, and Dan Simberloff. Many people still inspire me.

If you could recommend one place for people to travel on holiday, where would it be and why?
Northern Michigan is pretty spectacular. The forests, lakes, and small towns offer up something for nearly everyone. But please, don’t everyone go visit all at once.

You can meet more of our Editorial board here on the journal website. And, if you’re attending British Ecological Society’s 2022 Annual Meeting in Edinburgh, Nate will be there, so do say hi.

Almost 50%: representation of women within Journal of Animal Ecology

This International Women’s Day, Journal of Animal Ecology’s Editors reflect on the path to improving the representation of women within our editorial board, and invite you to discuss how we, as a journal, may continue to support gender diversity overall.

In 2007, Journal of Animal Ecology was in a period of growth. Submissions had increased greatly over the preceding years and our editorial board consisted of 43 expert ecologists covering a range of specialties within the diverse animal ecology field. Over the next seven years, growth continued, with submission numbers rising from just under 800 in 2007 to just over 1000 in 2014. And the board kept up; increasing to 64 individuals. Things were looking good. That was until we turned our attention to the balance of male and female editors.

JH_IWD.JAE (003)

Some of the faces that have made up your journal editorial board

In 2014, just 14.1% of our editors (Senior and Associate) were female. This was actually an improvement on the 4.7% in 2007 but nowhere near representative or balanced enough. Clearly, something had to be done if the journal was going to reflect, not only society at large, but also the diversity of ecologists who may submit manuscripts to the journal.

It was at around this time that active efforts to increase gender diversity began to ramp up. When approaching people to join the board, and through our open calls, the journal made a conscious effort to approach and support more women whose scientific expertise were (and still are) an asset to the journal. A further seven years later, in 2021, 44 of our 95 editors were female, and today, there are 87 expert researchers on Journal of Animal Ecology’s board; 43 of them are women. That’s 49%. Finally, near something that reflects our society – both the British Ecological Society, where current membership data shows 55% female, 42% male, 1% non-binary, 2% prefer not to say and 1% prefer to self-describe; and beyond.

Former Executive Editor, Ken Wilson was largely responsible for leading the charge to increase the representation of women on the board, of course with enthusiastic support by the rest of the editorial team and the BES:

This is one of the things I am most proud of from my time as Executive Editor, but it wasn’t without its detractors because although we managed to achieve gender parity, in the process we also had to lose a number of excellent long-serving (male) Associate Editors who had been with us for the maximum nine years. Hopefully, the current Senior Editors can continue to diversify the editorial board even further.

Importantly, we note that in the above we have referred to female and male, women and men, but we fully recognise the fact that there are multiple dimensions within and beyond gender diversity. Like the rest of the BES, Journal of Animal Ecology is committed to promoting a community of ecologists which is as diverse as possible. We are pleased with where we are as a journal but believe there is more to be done so that our editorial board, and our authors, reflect the incredible diversity of ecologists working on the ecology of animals in every corner of the world.

We remain all ears regarding how members of the BES, our authors, and ecologists more broadly would like us to continue improving. Please do not hesitate to get in touch at

Journal of Animal Ecology Senior Editors: Jean-Michel Gaillard, Darren Evans, Lesley Lancaster and Nate Sanders
Editorial Office: Emilie Aimé and Kirsty Scandrett

Professor Simon Leather FRES (aka @EntoProf): JAE Associate Editor (2005-2014)

Blog post by Ken Wilson (@spodoptera007)
Former Executive Editor, Journal of Animal Ecology

I was deeply saddened to hear of the recent death of Professor Simon Leather FRES following a period of ill-health.

I got to know Simon mainly though our interactions at Journal of Animal Ecology, where Simon was an Associate Editor for 9 years and I was a Senior Editor. During this time, Simon handled numerous (mostly entomological) manuscripts, providing carefully-written and balanced recommendations to the Senior Editors. He also edited and compiled a Virtual Issue for the journal highlighting our classic entomological papers, which he used as a platform to bemoan the recent lack of insect papers in the journal (more on this later!). In addition, Simon published 5 papers in the journal, mainly on his beloved aphids (e.g. Wellings et al. 1980, Leather 1986, Ward et al. 1998), the last of which was an insightful commentary on the long-term effects of climate change on aphid populations in the UK (Leather et al. 2015).

Simon and Ken having a beer together at the BESSfe meeting in Lille, 2014.
Credit: Former JAE Senior Editor, Tim Coulson

Simon was always a keen advocate for invertebrates and this would include regular nudges to me, as Executive Editor, to put more 6- or 8-legged creatures on the front cover of the journal. At the time I joined the Journal, this decision was actually being made by the Assistant/Managing Editors in the BES offices, but as a result of Simon’s badgering, I made sure that the Executive Editor was always involved in the decision-making process and that as many different taxonomic groups as possible featured on the journal cover over a given year. Though this didn’t stop him wanting more!

Simon used to regularly criticize the journal on Twitter and elsewhere for the relatively small number of entomological papers that we published, and he argued that invertebrates used to be more fairly represented in our esteemed journal in the past. This argument used to be made so regularly that in the end I decided that we needed to see some data to test his claims. This ultimately resulted in me publishing a blog post in this same forum.

One paragraph of the post nicely sums up the conclusions of my analysis: “Annoyingly, Simon was correct – as usual … Over the last 4 decades, the number of papers JAE published that included ‘insect’ as a key word has roughly halved …. By contrast, the number of vertebrate papers has increased over the same period.” To be honest, I suspected that Simon was right all along and was not at all surprised to have to concede the argument, and my blog post attempted to explain why this was so.

In response, Simon posted on his own blog site, Don’t Forget the Roundabouts, a treatise provocatively entitled: “Where have all the insects gone? Perhaps they were deterred by Editorial Board composition!”. (As an aside, when researching this piece, I was delighted to see that Simon had ‘tagged’ this blog under Bugbears, along with other similarly provocative posts, including “Is it time to abolish Vancouver?” and “British Ecological Society Annual Meeting 2018 – representing ecologists but not ecology?”).

Simon began his blog post by arguing that I had produced a “spirited response”, but as his title suggests, he argued that the decline in insect-focussed papers in the journal was due to the journal editorial board being dominated by vertebrate ecologists, deterring entomologists from submitting insect-focussed manuscripts to the journal, whilst also pointing out that in the 1970s, when Simon started his PhD, the editorial board was equally biased, but in favour of invertebrate ecologists! And rightly so, Simon would say, as the vast majority of animals on earth are invertebrates.

In his day job, as well as conducting great research, Simon was also responsible for teaching a large number of entomologists as a Professor at Imperial College London and then Harper Adams University. I am perhaps unusual in being an entomologist who was never taught by Simon, but via his MSc modules, in particular, Simon was responsible for training literally hundreds of entomologists around the world and his legacy will last for a very long time through them, as well as via his papers and books, including his latest offering: Insects: A Very Short Introduction, which unfortunately he didn’t live to see in print.

RIP Simon. I will miss our ‘pantomime’ sparring over entomology, especially during the Christmas Annual Meeting. Oh, yes I will!



LEATHER, SR (2015) Onwards and upwards – aphid flight trends follow climate change. Journal of Animal Ecology 84(1): 1-3.

Ward, SA; Leather, SR; Pickup, J; Harrington, R (1998) Mortality during dispersal and the cost of host-specificity in parasites: how many aphids find hosts? Journal of Animal Ecology 67(5): 763-773.


What makes a great paper for Journal of Animal Ecology?

In this video Executive Editor Ken Wilson discusses what he is looking for from a great paper for Journal of Animal Ecology. The message from Ken is that papers must have a clear structure, clear message, clear narrative & be genuinely novel.

Ken goes onto discuss our popular feature papers including Synthesis and ‘How to…’ papers. Ken discusses how synthesis papers are reviews focused on long term cases studies of particular systems or environments  while ‘How to…’ papers are methodological papers aimed at readers new to to a field and are designed as a guide of how to us a particular technique.

If you are interested in submitting a Synthesis or ‘How to…’ paper our guidelines for these paper types can be found here. If you would like to discuss a proposal please contact the editorial office at

Special Special Features

Special Features (SFs) are collections of papers on a specific research theme. For example, here at Journal of Animal Ecology we have had recent SFs on movement ecology and metabolic currencies and constraints, as well as a cross-journal British Ecological Society SF on demography. Recently, the senior editors of JAE met to discuss the role of SFs in our journal and how we could shake things up a little. Continue reading

Journal of Animal Ecology prize for early career ecologists

Competition_236015_Proof 200x200Both the British Ecological Society and Journal of Animal Ecology have long been champions of research by early career ecologists. Indeed, there are many examples of early career researchers publishing their first papers from their dissertation in the pages of Journal of Animal Ecology. To continue, and hopefully enhance, that tradition, Journal of Animal Ecology is very happy to announce a new award targeted at early career researchers. With this award, we hope to inspire early career researchers working on any aspect of animal ecology to submit reviews or syntheses that might either summarize their dissertation work, provide new insights into classic areas of animal ecology, or might shed light on emerging fields in animal ecology.

Nate Sanders
Senior Editor, Journal of Animal Ecology

Continue reading

Demography beyond the population: Integrated demography comes of age

Assessing variation in population abundance over time and across space is a long-standing goal of population ecologists. Up to now, two main approaches have been mostly used to identify the factors driving observed fluctuations in population abundance. First, a pattern-oriented approach, based on the monitoring of population size, involves the analysis of time series of counts. In the most recent applications, these analyses lead to partitioning observed changes in population growth into different contributing factors, like current or past population density, environmental conditions, or demographic stochasticity. Second, a process-oriented approach, based on the monitoring of demographic parameters, involves the construction of age- or stage-structured demographic models. The steady increase of case studies aiming to monitor known-aged recognizable animals over most of their lifespan, the availability of statistical methods allowing reliable estimates of demographic parameters to be obtained from field data, and the development of a powerful framework to build a large range of matrix population models have all led to this process-oriented approach becoming a standard tool of population ecologists. It has become the gold standard in the context of both the management of exploited populations and the conservation of endangered populations. However, analyses of detailed monitoring of individuals have also revealed the existence of marked individual differences in most life history traits studied so far, which have been mostly ignored until now when using population-scale demographic modelling. To account for such sources of within-population variation, a trait-based demographic approach is required. Nowadays, Integral Projection Models (IPMs) provide a way to obtain more realistic demographic models that encompass the association between demographic parameters and, for instance, phenotypic traits. In their most extended version, IPMs include the four biological functions that are necessary and sufficient to obtain the distribution of a given continuous trait in a population at a given time from the distribution of the same trait in the same population one time-step before. These functions are the survival function linking survival probability to the trait value, the recruitment function linking the number of recruits to the trait value, the growth function linking the trait value at time t+1 to the trait value at time t, and the inheritance function linking the trait value of the offspring to the trait value of the parents.

Following the British Ecological Society Symposium “Demography Beyond the Population” that was held in Sheffield about one year ago, four papers derived from this symposium have just been published in Journal of Animal Ecology as part of the British Ecological Society Cross Journal Special Feature: Demography Beyond the Population. From the analysis of the contents of these four papers it appears that a new, integrated demography, comes of age. Continue reading