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Diego Barneche: What I've Learned

Posted 2013-09-09 by Diego Barneche in Community, Experience Report.

I have been a PhD student @ Macquarie University since late 2011. I'm broadly interested in global patterns of biological diversity, macroevolution, statistical and mathematical modelling as well as programming for science (mostly R based but hoping to get into Python very soon). At present I'm focused on quantitative niche-based approaches that can better bridge macroecology and macroevolution, mainly through theoretical approaches such as the Metabolic Theory of Ecology and stochastic population dynamics. I've recently become an instructor for the Software Carpentry group which taught me how to combine teaching, which is an old passion, and improving my programming skills and writing better scientific code, which is something newer.

One of the great things SWC has taught me was how to be organized and transparent in what I do: pipelining scripts and files, avoiding repetition, organizing projects under version control, testing my functions, you name it. All my PhD chapters are now 100% controlled, meaning that I can reproduce everything from the very first day of the project until the date of submission. I can also now collaborate better, which is a fundamental skill to master in science.

Years ago, I would never imagine that for each publication/project I would have one single directory that is so organized and clean that I could reproduce one entire manuscript/report by running a couple of lines of code. Moreover, not keeping zillions of versions of text files and figures is a great relief not just for the present but also for the future if I ever need to revisit past projects. The more I master these skills, the more my productivity and confidence increase. It's definitely one of the best intellectual investments I've ever made.

I have been working in R packages for the different projects I am involved with, and two of them are available on GitHub at https://github.com/dbarneche. If you are interested in my work please follow me on Twitter as @dbarneche or keep an eye on our lab website at http://acropora.bio.mq.edu.au/people/diego-barneche/.

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