I’ve just returned from about 4 months away doing field work on Tristan da Cunha, the most remote inhabited island in the world. I had an absolutely fantastic time, and will reflect on my experiences a bit over the winter. One of the things I look forward to on returning from the field (where there is little or no internet connectivity, poor email and phones, and a myriad of amazing experiences in nature and natural history) is catching up on all the amazing blogging and writing from my time away. Below I’d like to highlight a few that caught my attention or various reasons, and add some thoughts of my own. These are certainly not the only amazing stories from the last few months, and there are others that gave me much more to think about that I’ll write about later. So without further ado, here we go:
It’s no secret that I believe natural history is important and has a place in the modern scientific curriculum, so I was thrilled to see this initiative from the Ecological Society of America’s Natural History section. The photos and stories on Twitter embody the innate curiousity about the natural world, and the importance of observing the world around us.
Kate Clancy recounts three experiences that each took place in an hour and a half. In particular, her musing that keeping the grass watered and green is a metaphor for the struggles and uncertainty of working to improve the learning and research environment while others seek to overhaul/decimate/table-flip it is worth thinking about.
I’m obviously late to the much-lauded New York Times op-ed by Hope Jahren but it’s too important to not include here. Personally, I really identified with her sadness (and perhaps frustration) at not being able to travel to countries where she felt unsafe, even though this changed her research path, and obviously influenced the questions she pursued. I’ve mentioned this in passing in the context of LGBT field scientists, too. We still have work to do.
This piece from The EEB and Flow makes some excellent points in the context of how non-scientists use credentials to pass themselves off as scientists. But what struck me and made me twinge a bit was the table that highlighted the four things needed in order to be a scientist. It included:
- publishing peer-reviewed papers
- being asked to review papers
- securing research funding
- training students
What I take exception to is that the list seems to be very/entirely academia-centric. As a scientist working for an NGO, supervising students isn’t part of my job description. And I doubt it is for many in government (though many do). Similarly, I would argue that many field staff that I’ve worked with are indeed scientists even though they have not published papers, secured funding, reviewed papers, or trained students. I’ll be writing more on non-academic science in the future, so stay tuned.
Along the same lines, Ambika Kamath led a workshop on how to make women and minorities more welcome in science, and posted her thoughts and recommendations for others wanting to tackle topics of bias in a workshop environment. Props for including orientation and gender!
In which Tim Poisot casts the “I’m always busy!” trope as an example of the Red Queen. Teach those time management skills early!
Dez Huber tackles a comment by National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enrick Sala and makes the case that teaching is the “basic training” or boot camp for the next generation of conservation scientists. Couldn’t agree more.
A student in Chris Buddle‘s field biology class had a squished mosquito in their field book, and wrote a poem about it. Natural history can be an inspiration for the arts as much as for science.
Chris Parsons has an interesting analysis over at Southern Fried Science of the number of marine conservation papers in various journals, and finds them less likely to be published in general conservation journals.
Two interesting papers
I don’t often highlight specific papers, but there are two that have come across that are worth looking at. AS Glen writes in the Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America on the “golden rule” of reviewing – review for others as you would have others review for you. And over at PLoS Computational Biology, Rougier et al. gives some advice for improving figures. I’ll also plug what I see as a “classic” paper by Don Kroodsma on figure legends.
Again from Tim Poisot, an analysis of the gender disparity in various ecological journals. Spoiler: it’s not great.
Rebecca Schuman nails it once again in this must-read on the prevalence of alcoholism among faculty, and the consequences for those who don’t partake (or even with less frequency).
How to tell what your UK or US prof/colleague means in handy tabular format.
Finally, but certainly not least, I’d like to highlight a new initiative to profile LGBT scientists that Beth Hellen started recently called LGBT STEM. I highly recommend you check it out, and if you’re an out worker/student in STEM, submit your own story. Jeremy Yoder highlighted (again) the perceived lack of queer STEM mentors for young scientists, as was described in Jack Andraka’s op-ed in The Advocate.