Recommended reads #55


Liberal arts college, or celebrity baby name?

The New Yorker has a great piece about the backyard biodiversity work being done by the entomologists of the Natural History Museum of LA County.

Carl Zimmer on writing about science: “Imagine you’re a crime reporter writing a story about a shooting at a nightclub. Now imagine that none of your readers know what a gun is.”

Speaking of which, Ed Yong does a masterful writeup about a remarkable new discovery involving endosymbiosis.

Science is an art. You’re damn right it is!

Science students need the liberal arts.

“…A post about structural biases I’ve perceived within the NSF Biology system…They also aren’t inherently bad or need to be fixed, they just exist based on the pool of reviewers/panelists and timing of the grant cycles.”

Caroline Tucker has a nice review of a recent paper about a Periodic Table of Niches. If you think about convergent evolution – and how can you be an ecologist who sees the world and not be obsessed? – this post and the associated paper (Winemiller et al.) are good brain food.

Public higher education in the US used to be free or really cheap. Oregon is helping take a step back to where we used to be.

What overparenting looks like, from a Dean’s perspective.

A cool spatial data visualization (aka, a map) of logbook entries from ships of the 1700s and 1800s.

I’m behind the times, but I just heard about DORA, the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment. In short, it’s a concrete declaration to evaluate research based on its content and merit, not where it was published. Worth learning about.

And, PNAS says some convincing words about how they’re more interested in impact, not impact factor.

How to apply for a field job.

Meat is a complex health issue but a simple climate one.

There is a humorous and fascinating “Shit Academics Say” twitter account. This is the backstory in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The job market is not a lottery. Saying you got ‘lucky’ allegedly perpetuates a pervasive and damaging myth.

Dynamic Ecology has just passed the three year mark. Brian, Jeremy and Meg wrote a post reflecting on what they’ve learned from writing for the site, and what surprised them. It’s a really interesting read, at least it was for me, as I’ve had a highly convergent set of thoughts and experiences. Seriously, if you want to know what I think about my experience blogging, then just go ahead and read what all three of them wrote. If you’re thinking about investing a nontrivial amount of time into blogging, then I imagine you’d have the same feelings as well.

Sports and politics-of-sports writer Dave Zirin explains why he’s done defending women’s sports.

Profiling Alex Morgan: routine sexism and a little plagiarism from

Nature covers the crisis facing North American herbaria.

How things are not necessarily 100% peachy right after tenure.

How can you be colorblind and racist? This is how.

A paean to the arctic and its insects.

Why we still collect butterflies.

Colleges and universities can’t have it both ways: “the institutions that are going to successfully navigate the transition that higher education is undergoing will be those that can most quickly figure out who they are and how they can best fulfill their niches. Those who try to continually operate under the rules of the old system likely have bleak futures.”

“You Draw It: how family income predicts college experience.” Both the tool, and the associated fact, is fascinating. And of course a source of worry.

“Science is about the future.” A worthwhile short comic about the measurement of scientific worth.

On a related note, “The Nobel Prize is bad.”

What it’s like as a “girl” in the lab.

This story is precisely why the public needs to understand natural history. Or at the very least, to be able to differentiate bear from non-bear.

A post about increasing your chances of getting funded by NSF. The short version is: work your ass off. But this post tells you specific ways to work your ass off in a way that increases your odds.

Here is a problem-solving puzzle that is interesting. I saw this in the context of a few facebook conversations, and the selection of people correctly ‘solved’ the puzzle and those who didn’t correctly ‘solve’ it was fascinating to me.

Data Scientist Jessica Kirkpatrick writes about confronting her own racism.

Contingency is now the exploitative norm in higher education rather than the exception.

Another piece that explains why using slide shows for teaching is horrible and why people still keep using it.

Take a video tour of E.O. Wilson’s office.

College is not a commodity. Stop treating it like one.


That’s all, folks. You might have noticed that it’s been a while since a recommended reads post, which normally comes out on alternating Fridays. Well, I took a vacation. A real vacation. For two whole frickin’ weeks which I didn’t work at all, except for remote advising of students conducting fieldwork. It was glorious. (If you want see some of the cool stuff I saw, natural beauty and kitsch, from northern California and Oregon, you can find them on Facebook or Instagram.)