What We’re Reading- Aug 14, 2015

Conservation Prioritization on the Cheap
There are many factors that may be considered when setting conservation priorities, one of which is phylogenetic distinctiveness (which we explain here). This paper (open) argues that incomplete phylogenetic trees may be used to identify phylogentically distinct species worth of conservation effort. This goes against the current thinking that perfect phylogenies are needed for such inference. Since perfect phylogenies are more costly than incomplete phylogenies, this method could save money in the short term and allow researchers and policy makers to prioritize species sooner. This paper has already stirred up a lot of discussion which appears in print at Animal Conservation along with the original article, you can see the responses here.

Making a Difference in Conservation
This paper provides some great advice for early career researchers who want to make a difference in conservation science. The authors outline 13 practical strategies that early career researchers can adopt to make themselves and their research more relevant. Think big, value local and traditional knowledge and citizen science, be creative, don’t be afraid to fail, communicate, network and celebrate successes!

Reducing Error in Metabarcoding Studies
Anyone who uses PCR or DNA sequencing will (or should!) be aware of the potential for errors that can be introduced during sample collection or laboratory work (which we recently wrote about). This paper (sub) describes “tag jumping” a recently-recognized cause of errors in metabarcoding studies that use tagged primers to allow samples to be multiplexed. During library preparation, tags may be switched around between amplicons that originate from different samples, creating the potential for sequence reads to be erroneously assigned to the wrong sample. Now that might stuff up your data interpretation! Fortunately the paper also suggests some better laboratory practices, that will help to reduce the risk that tag jumping will occur.

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