Greetings and welcome to my blog!
My name is Marcus and I’m a sixth year graduate student and 4th year PhD student in the Conservation Biology Graduate Program at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities campus. My research focuses on the development and implementation of biological monitoring techniques for Minnesota’s 11,842 lakes. I work with hundreds of biological surveys that have graciously been provided to me by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Not surprisingly, I have spent the last six years of my life confined to 161 Alderman Hall wading through piles of data. I rarely see the sun and I spend a lot of time tinkering around with R (http://www.r-project.org/).
Fellow classmates have suggested that I have something to offer regarding my knowledge with R. Whether or not that is true, I have started this blog as a means to communicate some useful tips and tricks I have learned in the five years I have been using R. I have accumulated literally hundreds of .R files on my hard-drive, some of which have been useful in my own research and some of which were never useful to me but may be useful to others. I hope to share some of these tidbits through this blog. I will never post data from the DNR (although this is public property) but will post script I have developed to explore these data that likely have use in other contexts. I also work extensively with ArcMap and Python and may post some GIS-related topics from time to time. My latest obsession has focused on reproducible research using Sweave and LaTeX, so expect some posts regarding these topics. I also place a lot of importance on how results are displayed in figures and tables. I spend an absurd amount of time creating pretty pictures so expect a few posts related to R graphics (and ‘easy’ table creation using the xtable package).
I have no official training in computer science despite what some may view as an irrational obsession with R. It’s an absolute miracle that I don’t have carpal tunnel and am not morbidly obese. Most, if not all, of my fellow classmates would be disgusted at the amount of time I spend on the computer. Most students in my field thrive off of field work and, in my opinion, do not have as much opportunities as I have had to develop their computational skills. I have found that many young and talented graduate students in the ecological sciences have skills in other areas that far exceed mine, but they lack adequate training to help them tackle the beast that is R. I’m approaching this blog with the philosophy that the skills I have learned are the product of countless hours in front of a computer, while others have been learning a different set of skills outside of the office. My hope is that the information I present here will assist others in their own research but may also be helpful to individuals in other disciplines.
I encourage productive discussion and criticisms of my posts. I hope that this information is helpful in some way, regardless of your background or expertise.