Data management for Bug Counters

I am a population and community ecologist interested in long term, broad scale patterns in organisms that provide ecosystem services and disservices.

Less jargon: I am a data fanatic who likes making equations to describe the things populations of insects do, and how they interact with each other.

Even less jargon: I count bugs, and work with observations produced by other people that count bugs. I get very excited when there are lots of observations. I also like math.

In entomological ecology, at the core of everything we do, it’s counting bugs. We count them and then ask questions about why there are more or less bugs now vs. then or here vs. there. And then we ask questions about what these differences mean.

I’ve been counting bugs since 2002, when I got my first entomological technician job. It didn’t occur to me to count bugs before  then, because I was a physics major at the time. I found I was much more comfortable counting bugs than anything else. Counting bugs was my calling. Hunh.

So, I stuck with it. I counted bugs all the way through a master’s degree, and then, during my PhD, I had a revelation. If I worked with other people that also liked to count bugs, we, together, could count a whole lot more bugs than I could alone, and I could ask bigger, more interesting questions of the data produced by all the bugs we’d counted. My PhD consisted of four chapters. Only one contained data from bugs that I, myself, had counted.

Now that I’m a postdoc, I work exclusively in data produced by others. It’s amazing how often data, AMAZING, GREAT QUALITY DATA is collected, and then forgotten. Its owners get overwhelmed by the next step, get distracted… and, for whatever reason, it doesn’t get out there. It is my job to liberate those data, to get them in a form where they can be analyzed, to analyze, to write them up, and to publish them.

And so, I became a manager of #otherpeoplesdata (I tweet about my trials and tribulations with data produced by others under that hashtag).

I decided to start this blog to offer practical tips for data generators to 1) make my job easier and 2) make their jobs easier. So, that’s really that.



About cbahlai

Hi! I'm Christie and I'm an applied quantitative ecologist and new professor. I am an #otherpeoplesdata wrangler, stats enthusiast, and, of course, a bug counter. I cohabitate with five other vertebrates: one spouse, one first grader, one preschooler and two cats.
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One Response to Data management for Bug Counters

  1. Looks like this has potential to be an amazingly useful blog! Keep it up!

    -Meridith ( – Coming Soon!)

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