UCL Division of Biosciences


CBER External Seminar - Dr Becks Spake, University of Reading

13 November 2023, 1:00 pm–2:00 pm

Title: 'Understanding “it depends” in ecology: muddled inference and meta-analysis'

Event Information

Open to

UCL staff | UCL students | UCL alumni




Amy Godfrey


Anatomy and Medical Sciences

Abstract: Nature is complex and multi-causal, leading ecologists to frequently answer ecological questions with “it depends!”. This complexity makes attempts to gain understanding and guidance about critical issues including rates of biodiversity loss, or the effectiveness of actions such as tree planting, wickedly difficult. In attempt to extend inferences from our studied systems, ecologists routinely fit statistical and meta-analytic models with the often-explicit goal to generalise or transfer inferences about ecological effects to other taxonomic, spatial or temporal settings. However, statistical models and meta-analysis are vulnerable to misinterpretation when ecologists fail to define the assumptions underpinning generalizations and transfers of effect sizes to specific target contexts, and when the scale of measurement is overlooked. In this talk, I will illustrate common inferential errors with a broad range of ecological questions applied to empirical and simulated data sets, and provide some guidance for improving the generalisation and interpretation of ecological effects from meta-analysis.  

About the Speaker

Dr Becks Spake

Lecturer in Ecology at University of Reading

Becks Spake is a Lecturer in Ecology in the School of Biological Sciences, University of Reading. Her work tries to identify how conservation, management and restoration actions can be targeted to enhance biodiversity and ecosystem functions. She use analyses of large spatio-temporal datasets, simulation and synthesis methods to develop quantitative and qualitative tools that can be used to support applied landscape ecology, principally forest and deer management.

More about Dr Becks Spake