Yvonne Buckley – Senior Editor

We are absolutely thrilled to announce that Yvonne Buckley was recently appointed as a new Senior Editor for Journal of Ecology. Yvonne has been an Associate Editor with the journal since 2013 and we’re so excited to welcome her to this new role. Yvonne’s research is focussed on population processes and their applications across disciplines such as biogeography, invasions, human-nature interactions, biodiversity conservation, restoration and environmental decision making. She uses quantitative methods to test theory with observational and experimental data, often collected by multiple researchers over large scales using team science.

Here we interview Yvonne about her research interests, favourite plant species, latest TV binge and invertebrate themed baking creations!

Tell us a bit about your research?

We have a real mix of research going on in the group at the moment, we’re working on optimal collection strategies for animal conservation tissue banks, good targets for plant de-extinction, describing and explaining the structure of plant geographic range structures, testing how the environment might influence plant reproductive strategies, functional consequences of plant commonness and rarity, how land use influences plant occurrence and abundance, how habitat suitability affects plant traits and demography, how plant traits can be used to predict life history strategy, how the environment drives variation in traits and also plenty of work on my favourite ecological model species Plantago lanceolata through the collaborative team science PLANTPOPNET project.

What are you most excited about in the field of plant ecology?

Plant ecology is really going global at the moment. We have the tools now to combine large scale field experimental and observational studies with remotely sensed data at a global scale, which was not possible before. There are many projects ongoing showing how we can work together as a community of researchers to tackle important questions at global scales and shed light on the context dependence of general patterns. At the start of my ecological career we were throwing up our hands in frustration at the lack of general patterns but these new ways of working are really helping to tease out how general “laws” are expressed differently in different locations. The most common answer I give to frustrated ecology students about what the “answer” is to an ecological question is “it depends”. We are now rapidly learning about that context dependency, understanding it will be critical to solving many of the huge societal and existential challenges we are faced with.

What can you tell us about the first paper you published?

My first paper was “Interactions between density-dependent processes, population dynamics and the control of an invasive plant species, Tripleurospermum perforatum (scentless chamomile)” in Ecology Letters back in 2001. It was hugely exciting, this was really the start of the modern era of online submission of papers and fast turnaround times, there were still some journals out there that worked with hard copies that you would send in the post, you would wait months for hand scrawled reviewer comments before revising and waiting more months for publication. It showed me how fast models of publication can change. I’ll also remember that paper fondly as it was a steep learning curve, I very nervously got on a plane to Switzerland to meet with Harriet Hinz to discuss her data and how I was going to model it. I had never modelled anything at this point and felt like a complete fraud. A couple of weeks later on the plane on the way back I remember doodling some equations and making a cobweb diagram to predict population dynamics from data from Harriet’s density experiment…my first model!

Tripleurospermum perforatum. Photo Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

What’s your favourite species and why?

Plantago lanceolata, of course. It can be found in so many different places, it is kind of anonymous until you get to know it and it’s very easy to work with. I’ve come to appreciate its subtle aesthetics, the ballerina-like tutu of creamy anthers around the inflorescence is particularly charming.

Yvonne’s favourite species: Plantago lanceolata.

If you could wake up tomorrow with a new skill, what would it be?

Knowing a new language from a completely different culture. I feel like that would be like opening a magic door to a new world.

What’s your signature dish?

My kids would probably rate my flower and invertebrate themed cakes as my signature dish. They never tire of setting me an annual birthday cake challenge, I’ve made a snail meringue cake, a couple of garden cakes (one was decorated with a real baby carrot from the garden that the birthday girl got to pull out of the cake), and most recently an invertebrate predator cake that was total carnage.

Invertebrate predator cake, featuring a very menacing spider. Photo: Yvonne Buckley.

Please share a [funny] story about a paper you’ve had rejected.

I’ve had plenty of rejections (including from Journal of Ecology!) but am struggling to remember a funny one…My favourite reviewer comment was one that suggested instead of all those complicated equations that I just use a cartoon instead, luckily the editor was happy with my rebuttal and that one got through.

If you could recommend one place for people to travel to on holiday, where would it be and why?

Kerry in southwest Ireland is the most beautiful place I know, dramatic landscapes, great pubs and restaurants (remember them?), lush temperate rainforest and stunning islands (including Skellig Micheal where the new Star Wars movies was filmed).

A view of Little Skellig from Skellig Michael. Photo: Yvonne Buckley.

What was the first album you owned?

I recorded the Bangles “Eternal Flame” on a cassette from the radio and sang along to it regularly.

If any fictional character could join your lab, who would it be and why?

My pandemic project is watching all of Grey’s Anatomy from the start (I missed most of it first time around – don’t judge me), I’m up to series 11 and I’d like to have Miranda Bailey in my lab. I like her no nonsense attitude and heart of gold.

What are you most looking forward to about being an editor on Journal of Ecology?

Having a chance to shape how great science is published and promoted. The field of publishing is changing rapidly, but our need for great quality, expertly peer reviewed science is more important than ever and I’m excited to be part of making sure that high quality work continues to be published in Journal of Ecology.

We hope you will join us in welcoming Yvonne to the Journal of Ecology Editorial Board!

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