Recommended reads #196


A short quiz for my students in lieu of asking about their vaccine status or requesting that they wear masks

You do not have to be a revolutionary to see that some kind of [climate] upheaval has already started and that it can only really be delayed or mitigated than stopped entirely. If the goal of the Biden era is to slow history down, he needs to admit that this new, dangerous era has already begun, and that the old solutions no longer work.”

This week, Dynamic Ecology announced that they’re (mostly) hanging up their hats. When I started up in 2013, Dynamic Ecology was a newer though well established blog that really helped my launch. Our paths diverged some while ago, but as an academic blogger who also is an ecologist, I feel like this is the end of an era of sorts. They explain in detail, but in short, their decision was prompted by a combination of reduced traffic and engagement, and the limited half-life of the blogging muse.

I imagine some folks might be wondering if I’d be tempted to make a similar announcement about this site. And I think the answer is: Well, I sorta kinda already did in January 2019, in the post “Evolution at the asymptote.” I used to post far more frequently than I do nowadays. The difference is that the DE folks said their site “in its current form is coming to an end,” whereas what I said was, “Welcome to whatever this new phase is.” If you’re a regular reader, you know what that new phase turned out to be: I’m blogging less frequently, and when I do, it’s because I have a little thing that I thought would be worth sharing, or a bigger point I’d like to make. And these recommended reads posts clearly are no longer coming out on a weekly basis.

In 2019, I knew I was going to scale back, but also knew I didn’t want to hang up my hat because I felt that there was still a lot to do. I think some of the most impactful things about this site have happened since I made that announcement. of the most impactful things I’ve done with the site have happened since that time. This is a platform where the EEB Mentor Match program finds people who would like more support getting into grad school and landing fellowships. I’m helping connect non-R1 faculty with opportunities to serve as GRFP reviewers, have worked to grow inclusion for scientists of faith in academic communities.

Traffic (on a per-post basis) has not dropped, I’m still adding new subscribers, and oddly enough in the past several months I’ve started to see a marked uptick in the number of emails and direct messages I get from readers who wanted to let me know that things they’ve read here have made a difference. People letting me know that they forwarded their post to colleagues and decision-makers. So even if this site isn’t growing at the meteoric rate it once did, it’s continuing to do the thing that I set out to do. I’m still steadily working towards some asymptote, it seems.

I created this site because I felt like researchers who chose a career path in teaching-focused institutions were undervalued, and that the discourse of what it means to be a science professor somehow excluded folks who had jobs like mine. Moreover, the academic community dismisses talent and capacity of students in institutions like mine. I had a lot to say. And I’ve said a lot. I honestly think that we, as an academic community, have made more than a little progress over this time. But there’s still a very long way to go, and if I can still continue to have an impact here, then I can keep it going.

I’m a different person than I was when I created Small Pond. At the time I was freshly tenured and my job was mostly teaching and running my small research lab. Now, I’m a full professor, the director of a field station and a university consortium, and am out of the classroom for the time being. Back then I had a kid in elementary school, and I’m now about to become an empty nester. I’ve lost people close to me, gone through some other challenges, and I would like to think that I’m wiser and have figured out how to be more kind. I look back at the early posts I’ve written on here and see that they were written by a different person. That’s entirely normal and expected. So while it might look like I’m doing the same old thing after almost a decade, I don’t think I am, because I’m quite a different person now in a very different role. So the trickle of posts here will probably continue, whenever I get inspired to do so — and maybe it’ll be easier for you to simply subscribe by email rather than have to check here. I’m not planning to switch to a newsletter or substack or whatnot, because I’ve got this. But it’s kinda the same thing. See you round.

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