As scientists, we live for those lightbulb moments. I imagine we’re more likely to have these moments if we know more natural history, which lets us piece together fundamental facts about our natural world in a new way.
The times have changed, and our curriculum is not keeping up.
In the various majors offered by our Department of Biology, I’m convinced we’re not providing our students the most useful set of quantitative skills. After browsing the catalogs of a variety of other universities, I think we’re not alone.
One hundred baby! Woo hoo!
Why is it when we talk about science outreach and science education/communication, it’s always focused on kids? The adults are also where it’s at.
This short piece about how and why scientists use social media fits just perfectly in with my perspectives and experiences.
The liberal arts are important, people say. I agree. Some of us scientists will point out that science is a part of the liberal arts. Okay, sure. But what do people mean when they say “the liberal arts?”
My department just did something really cool, and I’d like to tell you about it*.
On a Saturday, my department, along with our campus Center for Innovation in STEM Education, held a family research day.
Rethinking my exams: “Why do we even do exams in college, anyway?”
It’s been hard to wait a whole year, I know! Taxonomist Appreciation Day is coming up, on 19 March!
I imagine museums, science departments, and libraries will have costume shows, trivia, art competitions, and potluck taxonomic salad festivals. Meanwhile, the talented scientific artists of BuzzHootRoar are running their annual taxonomy pun contest!
Here are their instructions:
Many research strategies, developed inside large research institutions, don’t work well in small teaching-centered institutions.
One of these strategies, I suggest, is the use of a biological model system.
Five practical ways you can help a first generation student succeed. If you’ve ever thought positively about anything I’ve written or shared on this topic, I bet you’ll really appreciate this piece by Abigail Dan. I bow to its wisdom and excellence.
Obsessed with smartness, by James Lang. I love this almost as much as the preceding piece.
Why facts don’t change our minds, by the inestimable Elizabeth Kolbert.
Is it possible that you’re spending too much time on research? If you wish, that’s a question that you can ask yourself. It’s not really my business*.
I’ve read a lot of research proposals and manuscripts. Some manuscripts were rejected, and some proposals didn’t fare so favorably in review. What have I learned from the ones on the lower end of the distribution?
Here’s an idea. It can’t explain everything, but it’s something to avoid.
Alan Townsend wrote an op-ed that I think you really need to read: Science might save my daughter. Don’t kill it. (And in his blog, which I absolutely love and have linked to on previous occasions, he explains why he wrote the piece.)
Science censorship is a global issue – a short letter to Nature written by three Aussie ecologists.
Unlearning descriptive statistics. I thought this was really interesting.
I’ve been working on Penstemon digitalis for a long time now. I first met the plant as a starting PhD student looking for a new system to make my own. I wanted something local (to Ithaca, NY), a plant that was dependent on pollinators with pre-dispersal seed predators (those are insects that lay eggs in the fruit and the young larvae eat the seeds). I wanted to study conflicting selection on floral traits by mutualists and antagonists, not what my dissertation ended up being about but that is a story for another day. In my search for a species to work with, I also wanted something with larger seeds than Lobelia siphilitica that I had just spent my masters cursing over and to be taller than Collinsia parviflora that I broke my back over during my undergrad.
I don’t remember my New Faculty Orientation that well. Why is that?
A few days ago Canada was abuzz with messages about mental health for Bell Let’s Talk day. The social media campaign resulted in Bell donating 6.5 million dollars to mental health initiatives in Canada, which is great. But I’m not sure that one day a year when everyone feels comfortable talking about mental health publicly actually helps reduce the stigma around mental health, one of the stated goals of the Let’s Talk campaign. Any other day of the year, it’s still pretty difficult to bring up mental health issues, so this post is partly an effort to continue the conversation.
I’m going to have to suspend business-as-usual. Please stick with me, while I connect some dots to explain how critical this time is for the United States, and, as a corollary, for the world. If you’re reading the news, but not yet marching in the streets, I think this is for you.
Right now, everything counts on Americans who may choose to stand up for our democracy. We’ve been cramming for this exam for months. Now we’ve got our number 2 pencil out, and we’re heading into the exam room. Are we going to pass through this test?
There is a lot going on, but I’d like to point out the central issue at hand.
I feel a bit guilty that I came upon some cool reads, in the precise moment that my country stopped being a proper democracy. This list is more decline-of-democracy-related than usual. But still even if you’ve had enough of this, there’s enough in here about other things I hope it’s worth your time. In part, because there’s a link in here about how to keep on keepin’ on while still doing your best to resist the the new authoritarian government that has taken over the US.
But I do have things to share, some of which aren’t even about our brave new world.
Just in case you didn’t know, academia.edu is a for-profit venture that exists primarily to gather our information and sell it. Ungood. I’ve stayed away from it for this reason – this article explains how they ended up with a .edu even though they’re not a .edu.
America’s great working class colleges. This is such a great piece of journalism (admittedly I think this in part because it says things I try to say here often and get it better than I could). Here’s the interactive feature that accompanies the article, which I really suggest you play around with – if anything to get an idea about how the institutions that you are personally familiar with compare to others in ways that you might not have seen visualized before. It was an education for me, surely.
This is a good visualization of gerrymandering. Which (I don’t argue here) is specifically how we got into this hideous mess.
Question: When you’re teaching, how much should you cover?
I propose a couple answers:
Answer A: You shouldn’t cover much, because the more you cover, the less they learn.
Answer B: Trick question! You’re not supposed to “cover” anything! If you teach a topic by just making sure it gets covered in a lecture, then you’re not really teaching it.
A friend asked the other day about recommendations for good popular books about ecology. Initially, I kind of drew a blank. Which surprised me.