Preface to fourth edition
My coauthor for the Third Edition, and the original author of Ecological Methods , Sir Richard Southwood FRS, known to his many colleagues and friends as Dick, died on 26th October 2005. For those interested in reading about his long and highly distinguished career his Wikipedia page will direct you to obituaries and his Royal Society biographical memoir. Dick was a wonderful man to work with and a fine head of department. While achieving senior academic positions at an unusually young age, he retained an open and pleasant manner, a love of natural history, and remained accessible to the most junior members of staff, all of whose names he would invariably know. When he was head of the Department of Zoology at Imperial College and I was a first-year undergraduate, I was astonished that he knew the name of every undergraduate in his department.
I was keen to revise Ecological Methods in part to honour Dick's memory, but also because, I feel, the book still serves a useful purpose acting as an ecologist's handbook of methods and sources of information. While The Web now gives ecologists, even in isolated spots, access to a huge amount of information it can be difficult to glean the full range of possibilities for experimental approaches, sources of information and sampling gears. The old problem of how to design a successful sampling scheme and build samplers remains with us.
The trends in ecological research that we noted in the Preface to the Third Edition have continued at an accelerating pace. Computation and data handling has advanced greatly, and the present edition includes many references to R, the computing language and environment for statistical analysis and graphics. The dramatic growth in R packages for ecologists, all of which are offered free of charge, is one of the most important developments since the publication of the Third Edition. I have included many examples of R code in the present edition. Electronic developments in radar, sonar, remote sensing satellites, miniature tags, geographical positioning, movement detectors, lights, digital cameras, mobile phones and batteries have all greatly increased the opportunities for data acquisition. These advances, combined with novel biochemical techniques such as species detection from amplified DNA fragments, are creating tremendous opportunities for ecological research. We now have tools and resources that would have seemed incredible to a 1950s or 1960s ecologist. Yet, many of the techniques we use are still based on the ideas developed and refined between 1930 and 1980. Indeed, some of our sampling methods would have been familiar to our hunter-gatherer ancestors. One of my aims has been to maintain continuity with this great body of earlier knowledge. In part, this is because earlier papers are able to describe techniques and equipment in far more detail than is normal today. But, it is also the case that our predecessors often had great insight, and in many cases we can re-apply their ideas using our superior electronics and data handling to good effect. It is heartening to note that as journals have fully digitised their back numbers, many earlier papers are being regularly cited.
Early ecologists suffered from a lack of long-term time series. With each passing decade datasets are becoming larger and the opportunities for more detailed analysis of temporal dynamics increases. In addition, remote sensing and large-scale observation, as undertaken in particular by bird and butterfly watchers, has greatly extended the opportunity for spatial analysis. Recent concerns about species loss, habitat destruction and fragmentation, and the effects of climate change are dependent on the collection and analysis of temporally and spatially extensive data sets. The collection and handling of these data and the computat