What is ecological synthesis?

To make synthesis, in ecology or any other science, is to connect the dots.

​In other words, we aim at compiling, analyzing, and digesting the huge amount of data, hypotheses, theses, theories, and popular knowledge accumulated in ecology over the centuries, so we can formulate new theories and help improve the existing ones.

​According to Ford & Ishii (2003, The method of synthesis in ecology), a synthesis must:

  1. ​Be made of new results with existing theory. Frequently this involves extending the use of an integrative concept.
  2. Provide a scientific explanation of why something exists or occurs. It is essential to be precise what comprises a scientific explanation so that judgements can be made whether and/or how a concept can be applied in a new situation.
  3. Explain both new and previously obtained information together in a coherent way.

​We also recommend reading two outstanding papers by Lortie & Bonte (2016, Zen and the art of ecological synthesis) and Gurevitch et al. (2018, Meta-analysis and the science of research synthesis).

Finally, the research weaving framework proposed by Nakagawa et al. (2019, Research Weaving) provides us with amazing concepts and tools. We have been considering it in new projects started in our lab.

What are our products?

Research projects based on theoretical synthesis generate different kinds of academic products. Here are some examples:

  1. Systematic reviews
  2. Bibliometric mapping
  3. Meta-analyses
  4. Big data analyses
  5. Data papers
  6. Discursive models
  7. Graphical models
  8. Mathematical models
  9. Perspectives
  10. White papers

Synthesis of our main line of investigation

Check out a synthesis about the assembly rules of interaction networks, which represents over 10 years of research carried out by our lab’s members and collaborators. This story was told in the habilitation thesis of Prof. Marco Mello:

The same story was also told in a keynote in Portuguese:

Connecting the dots between data and ideas

Image by Hugh MacLeod, Gaping Void.

Our logo


Our logo is based on the concept of connecting the dots. Several other concepts were used in the creative process, such as earth, substrate, convergence, divergence, endlessness, yin and yang, discovery, and implication. Its aesthetics was inspired by Escher. The speech below is also a huge source of inspiration for our lab.

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