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  • SFB-TRR 212

    Connecting Theory and Empiricism

    © Antje Herde


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Principle investigators

Prof. Dr. Holger Schielzeth

Prof. Dr. Klaus Reinhold



Alfredo Sanchez-Tojar

Gabe Winter


PhD students

Shreya Dimri

Elina Takola

Individual niche specialisation in the light of evidence synthesis

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:

  1. Conduct specific meta-analyses on topics that are actively studied within the NC3 and on additional topics of great relevance to individual niche specialization
  2. Conduct an influence synthesis of the concept of “niche construction” using topic-modelling analyses
  3. Support data management and curation within the NC3 by organizing training workshops, promoting modern open science developments and providing practical advice on data organisation and curation

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.

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