I have just returned from 3 months of field work on Gough and Tristan da Cunha, and in addition to the hundreds of emails, piles of fliers, and loving family that welcomed me back, there were a couple hundred blog posts in my RSS feed (yes, I still use RSS. It could only be improved if it were coupled with a typewriter). Last year, I did a quick run-through of the posts that tweaked my interest from the massive amounts of fantastic writing that happened while I was away, and I’ll do the same this year. As always, there are heaps of other fantastic posts out there by these same folks, and more, so this is hardly a ’best-of’, but more a ’in-case-you-missed-it-like-I-did’.

So without further ado, below is a quick summary of some of the posts that caught my attention (in no particular order).


Open your mouth and say… science! (Unmuzzled Science)

Canada had an election back in October, and science seems to have been given a bit of a boost, and in particular, government science. A nice summary of what needs to happen next if actions are to match Trudeau’s rhetoric.


Giving Thanks for My Mentors (Chronicle Vitae)

Jeremy Yoder has a great post on the often unsaid good things that mentors do. We’re quick to complain about the negative side, and bad mentorship (and rightfully so), but I’d wager there’s a larger population of good mentors than bad.



We’re Looking to Grow (Liberal Arts Ecologists)

The great blog Liberal Arts Ecologists is (well, was back in August) looking for more contributors!


The Midget Subs of Kiska Island (Aleutian Islands Working Group)

I spent 4 summers on Kiska doing my PhD research, so it’s great to see Richard Galloway write about the beached Japanese midget sub from 1942 at the south end of Kiska Harbour. The preservation of historic sites in such remote areas is a great challenge.


2015 caRd – A diveRsity of Santas (The EEB and Flow)

An amusing evolutionary look at the wide and varied forms of Santa Claus (and related phenotypes) around the world. It seems reindeer transport diverged early, and is highly conserved.


Top 10 signs that a paper/field is bogus (Raj Lab)

There are piles of papers that are simply crap, sometimes the case of ’a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing’, and I’ve wondered in the past why we seem to just ignore these in ecology & conservation. Here are some good tips for spotting those papers (or more broadly, fields).


Dealing with mental health: A guide for professors (Caroline Anne Kovesi in University Affairs)

This is a particularly fantastic piece, and not just because it’s written by someone from my wee alma mater! And more broadly, I think it applies outside academia as well, as a guide to those of us who supervise staff. Just because it’s not for degree credit doesn’t mean some of the same issues don’t apply.


And because they’re perennially at the top of my reading list when I return, some highlights from Dynamic Ecology…:

Why fit is more important than impact factor in choosing a journal to submit to

I generally try to go for fit when deciding when to send papers, and Brian makes the compelling case even more clear. Read those Guidelines for Authors!


Techniques aren’t powerful; scientists are

All tools, in the right hands, can be useful. But one must know how to use them!


The hardest part of academia? Moving.

Having done 3 large (>1000 km) moves, including two >4000 km moves, this resonated with me a fair bit. I think it’s even harder to move internationally (a topic I hope to write on in 2016).


Musings on reading older literature

I’m a fan of older literature, but it must be looked at, at least in part, through the lens of the time. And occasionally when you delve deep to find the source of some oft-quoted ’fact’, and finally see the evidence that underpins it, you just might think twice.


Strategies (and reasons) for being more productive with fewer hours

Meg has some fantastic tips for time management, something I need to work on.


… and Small Pond Science:

A lot of scientists are kind, careful and caring

This certainly matches many of my experiences. We don’t always hear about the positive folks in grad school, so there can sometimes be a negative ’reporting bias’ with respect to bad supervisors. This is part of the reason the Academic Kindness tumblr irked me. See also Jeremy Yoder’s piece above.


If you have a bad advisor in grad school

Though not everyone has a good supervisor-trainee relationship. Terry offers some good advice on what to do in those cases. Non-supervisor mentors are key.


Prescriptive reviews are a scourge

Finally from Terry, a look at whether reviewers should be prescriptive. I sort of disagree with some of this post, as it assumes that editors are capable of, and actually do, provide the critical next steps. Too many editors simply forward the reviewer comments without adding much (or by summarizing the comments. I don’t mind suggestions for what to do to improve the paper, and if it’s simply not possible, will say so in the rebuttal letter, which hopefully the editor understands. Though I will continue to maintain that peer review is much better done over a pot of tea or pint of beer.


Lastly, heaven help us, Terry McGlynn has a science podcast (Not Just Scientists), and it’s pretty awesome.