Connecting Theory and Empiricism
The number of niche-related publications is ever growing and evidence synthesis, and specifically meta-analysis, offers a powerful tool for quantitatively integrating findings across publications. By integrating heterogeneous datasets, meta-analyses allow two important insights that cannot be gained from single studies: (i) An assessment of the overall evidence and its generality and (ii) an evaluation of higher-order context-dependencies and/or hypotheses.
Meta-analyses have recently been complemented by influence synthesis. Influence synthesis builds on bibliographic methods and on modern artificial intelligence algorithms such as deep learning. It is particularly suitable for reviewing established scientific concepts such as “ecological niche”.
We plan to:
The meta-analyses represent the largest part of the project and will focus on population density effects on risk-taking behaviour, individual host-associated microbiomes across lifetime, ecological predictors of niche specialization, among-individual reaction norm variation and sibling dominance effects on behavioural niches. The evidence synthesis project offers a flexible toolbox and modifications (or add-on projects) might be implemented if specific synthesis questions arise from any project within the NC3. Finally, the project will contribute to methods development and will serve as a data management coordination centre.