Palimpsest

Evolving notes, images and sounds by Luis Apiolaza

Page 3 of 67

I do not work in that topic, except when I do

—We are planning a conference on changes to silviculture because of forest fires and climate change… Do you wanna come?
—But I don’t work in that topic.
—Don’t you?

To be perfectly honest, I have never seen myself as dealing with forest fires in my research. I do work, sometimes obsess, on the within- and between-tree variability of wood properties and its genetic control. BUT and, this is an important but, one of the ideas of working in my topic is to identify, domesticate and generate new varieties with “good” within-tree wood property trends. Trends that could allow for shorter rotation (time to harvest) plantations or that could have better wood with lower stocking (fewer trees per hectare).

And here comes the connection: one silvicultural response to increased fire frequency is to use lower stockings, reducing fire risk. Therefore, I DO work in that topic and, perhaps, should go to the conference. 😎 

P.S. In the late 1970s and early 1980s there was a fantastic British TV series called Connections, hosted by James Burke. Burke’s aim was to show the interconnection of ideas in history of science. He is also responsible of doing what has been called “the best-timed piece to camera” or “the greatest shot in television” (starting in second 0:43, if you are impatient). Just another connection.

Screenshot of James Burke’s best-timed piece inn camera

Not a miracle worker

—The genetic correlations are very high. Can you check them?
—Sure

The additive genetic variance for one of the traits was essentially zero, which pushed the correlation to get stuck at 0.99. Looking with more attention at the results of the univariate analyses, showed that the experimental design features (replicates, incomplete blocks) were also close to zero.

A cross tabulation showed that some of the replicates had only a single observation (and many of the incomplete blocks had none), although the families had five observations each.

More importantly, and easier, checking the size of the dataset showed 150 observations. One hundred and fifty observations to estimate the degree of genetic control and associations. Way too small!

The small sample size was not done on purpose; it was just left overs from another project that we are sending for publication soon. Small leftovers, small sample size; enough for a pilot study at the phenotypic level, but not for genetic parameters. There are no miracles in data analysis.

A few things that I expect to find in a well-functioning breeding programme

A good understanding of the biological traits that have an effect on profit. Can we identify new, more efficient selection criteria?

A clear awareness of trade-offs between: traits, genetic evaluation options, deployment systems, etc. Trade-offs are everywhere in breeding programmes.

A database system that contains all the data.

A well-documented genetic evaluation system: we can rerun the evaluation and get exactly the same results. The system can be developed in-house or can use commercial software (like asreml, SAS, Bolt, etc) but the code must be available.

Reproductive biology: essential to sort out the best deployment.

Figured/figuring out what are the main environmental drivers affecting performance. It is easy for some species, very difficult for others.

Personnel continuity BUT the programme can survive the proverbial bus running over the breeder.

Tabla de salvación

Mi post Tuesday evening mid-life crisis tuvo buena acogida. Como acá en Nueva Zelanda ya es viernes en la tarde, decidí empezar el fin de semana escuchando “Tabla de Salvación”, en que Leo Maslíah explica en vivo por qué Harrison Ford es un modelo para nuestras vidas. Genial.

Live recording from YouTube.

Tuesday evening mid-life crisis

There was a time, roughly 30 years ago, when my whole career extended to an unknown, distant future. What should I do? Where should I be working? were the questions in my mind during a hot Chilean summer. At that time, New Zealand and Australia were not in the horizon and I had just applied to my first forestry job in Valdivia.

I got that job and three years later I started my PhD. I met people, travelled, gained citizenships, made friends, learned many things, forgot others. Today, thirty years after that summer, I look to the next 10 years in the future and ask myself: What should I do? Where should I be working? The same questions plus What would be the best use of my time?

Now that distant unknown is three decades closer. Should I do more administration and, strange misnomer, “service” to the profession? (as if all the other work was not of service). Should I go for a new push of research work, write up all the ideas thought but not completed and published? Maybe I should transfer all I know to other people.

All of the above, a mix of two, one only… What would be the best use of my time?

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