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.”

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Recommended reads #195


These recommended reads are all about reviews.

A review of an essay: The problem with rigor. “The rhetoric of rigor turns pedagogy into pathology.”

A review of a tv show: the chair is peak jeans in church culture – I think there is something for absolutely everybody in Brandon Taylor’s review even if you are one of the academic who have yet to watch The Chair. I thought it was insightful about the what TV is and what TV isn’t.

A review of a book: How not to talk to a science denier.

A review (the other kind of review) of Long COVID.

A review of the geographic distribution of GBIF records: “Sampling biases shape our view of the natural world

and lastly a historical review of the ethnocentric origins of the myth of learning styles, which I had absolutely no idea about and this is something that I wish I knew many years ago. Here’s a link to the journal article but here’s one you can read.

Recommended reads #192


Ten simple rules for productive lab meetings

I Signed Up to Write College Essays for Rich Kids. I Found Cheating Is More Complicated Than I Thought.”

What The ‘Return To The Office’ Fight Is Really About – I thought this was a fascinating explanation about how people want to use the office environment as a way of exercising their soft power over others.

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Recommended reads #189


Hey there, Beronda Montgomery’s Lessons From Plants is now out! (indiebound | amazon). Her articles and blog posts are often the most-clicked links on here, so I thought you’d want to know about this.

Cultural capital in undergraduate research: an exploration of how biology students operationalize knowledge to access research experiences at a large, public research-intensive institution. In this new research paper, we learn why some students get access to research opportunities and why others don’t. Guess what makes the difference?!

Preprint: Trends in the representation of women amongst geoscience faculty from 1999-2020: the long road towards gender parity

Audubon has hired a union-busting firm. I don’t think people realize this is where their donations are going?

Resisting the call of exceptionalism. So many great pull quotes that could be taken from this essay from the perennially wise Tressie McMillan Cottom, but I’ll share the kicker: “Sometimes clear writing is a sign of clear thinking, and sometimes clear writing is just a sign of brightly drawn battle lines. You gotta know the difference.”

Here’s a well-done popular article about the discovery of horizontal gene transfer from plants to animals. Specifically, from plant to whitefly (which is not a fly, by the way), who use a plant gene to dextoxify some gunk that plants make to dissuade them from eating. Pretty sneaky, eh?) Here’s the original article in Cell. Wait, have I ever linked to a Cell article before? I doubt it.

Happy birthday to Adelaide! She seems absolutely charming.

Recommended reads #183


Has more than a month passed since I’ve done a rec reads post? My gosh. Which in 2020 time, is, like, 27 years? This is a relatively condensed list of things I’ve bookmarked since the last one. And there are no takes on the election. (Though if you do find a 10,000 word insider’s view of exactly how the Four Seasons Total Landscaping thing went down, because oh man, this will be such a hilarious and pathetic story, please let me know? Because I don’t want to miss that.)

From panic to pedagogy: Using online active learning to promote inclusive instruction in ecology and evolutionary biology courses and beyond

The science of learning vs. proctoring software

Our HyFlex Experiment: What’s Worked and What Hasn’t

The pedagogy of anxiety

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Recommended reads #181


The author of the infamous Carreira letter just became the Editor-in-Chief of the flagship journal of the American Chemical Society. (This month, he issued another nonpology. He says he regrets writing it. I sure bet he does!)

An American teenager who doesn’t speak Scots wrote many of the Scots Wikipedia entries. Now Wikipedians are figuring out what to do.

It took divorce to make my marriage equal.

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Recommended reads #180


A detailed account of how Eunice Foote conceived the role of atmospheric gases in climate warming in 1856, and how she designed and conducted her experiments. It’s pretty cool.

Is lecturing racist?

What is the effect of Article Processing Charges on the geographic diversity of authors? Are paywalled journals more accessible to publish in for people in the Global South? This preprint manuscript is about a study takes advantage of a “natural experiment” in publishing space, and if you have thoughts about equity and access in scientific publishing, I bet you’ll find this fascinating. Last author Emilio Bruna explains this paper in a concise twitter thread.

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Recommended reads #179


Here’s a big list of ways to convert typical active learning approaches to a physically distanced classroom, asynchronously online, and synchronously online. It looks supremely helpful if you’re thinking, “I want to do more active learning while teaching in the pandemic, but how?”

Ten simple rules for successful remote postdoc

How the grad students at the UMass Amherst Geosciences department redesigned their seminar series to enhance DEI

It looks like immunity to COVID isn’t so ephemeral, which is good.

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Recommended reads #176


An extremely helpful guidebook to HyFlex teaching. (Which is when courses are delivered both in person and online at the same time by the same faculty member. And which is what some of us are being expected to do in the Fall!?). This Georgetown site also has other helpful guides to prepping for remote teaching in Fall 2020, too.

When professors hit on students, it harms their academic performance. We know this because a series of experiments have now been published. How can you ethically do an experiment on this? Looks like you gotta read the paper.

Some folks did an experiment with a randomized design to find out whether tweeting about scientific papers improved their citation rates.

A meeting report from the Gordon conference on undergraduate biology education research. A lot of great stuff in there.

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Recommended reads #175


‘Keep the volume low’: Being black on campus

“The world has never been fundamentally fair and decent for most people in most places, and yet they manage to build lives full of meaning and suffering and joy.”

I shared this not long ago, but it seems that not everybody is yet aware of or talking about this landmark paper in PNAS. The summary says: “By analyzing data from nearly all US PhD recipients and their dissertations across three decades, this paper finds demographically underrepresented students innovate at higher rates than majority students, but their novel contributions are discounted and less likely to earn them academic positions. The discounting of minorities’ innovations may partly explain their underrepresentation in influential positions of academia.”

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Recommended reads #174


Here is a piece of educational research on the relationship between undergraduate research and depression, another product Brownell lab at ASU. The article includes specific recommendations for those doing research with undergraduates to promote inclusive research experiences for students with depression. Sounds like a must-read for all of us with undergrads in our (currently virtual) labs.

When universities start teaching in the Fall, what choices does the pandemic give us? Here’s a full taxonomy of fifteen options. (Including HyFlex, which seems to be popular even though it’s also perhaps the most difficult for faculty to pull off well?) What is your university saying it will do, and what do you think they will actually do when the Fall arrives?

As if you didn’t know this, but: Colleges that are reopening are making a big mistake.

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Recommended reads #173


Teacher evaluation form for Spring 2020, from McSweeney’s

This is a very handy and straightforward resource to help you create an accessible online course.

Asking little kids to “do science” is substantially more impactful than asking them to “be scientists.” Just in case you wondered whether words matter, and whether subtle differences can have a big impact.

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Recommended reads #168


Here is a rather substantial list of sites with online laboratory modules for a great variety of STEM disciplines. If I was teaching a lab this semester, and was compelled to teach online on very short notice, I’d probably be spending hours combing through what’s available. It looks really useful for this moment that we are in. It was assembled by folks on a POD Network listserv*.

It looks like folks who have more than a tangential relationship to the Pruitt affair are now being quite mum, as Dr. Pruitt has done gone lawyered up and sent out a bevvy of nasty letters bearing what I imagine is letterhead from a very scary law firm. I only know about this from this news story that came out in Science yesterday. The kicker in that article, a quote from the EIC of Ecology Letters, pretty much sums up the slowly unfolding situation: “I don’t think it looks promising that a simple, nonfraud, compelling explanation will surface.”

From the pages of Nature: “You can’t fight feelings with facts.”

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Recommended reads #167


What if we didn’t grade? A bibliography.

Joe Travis’s essay for the E.O. Wilson award in Am Nat is a contemporary ode to the enduring significance of natural history that I think will emerge as a classic. There are so many pull quotes I’d could share with you, but, just go ahead and read it.

Conserving honey bees does not help wildlife. Always nice to see something on this topic in the pages of Science.

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Recommended reads #163


It’s been a whole month since the last one of these? How about I prune this down to the gems, how about that?

You want to write for the public, but about what? This is a short and very sweet guide to being an academic in public. It does a great job of explaining how you need to talk outside what you have been trained to think what your lane is.

Rationality vs Reasonableness — how do people consider them to be useful measures of judgement in our daily lives? This is some cool science. (also, did you catch my recent deficit model post?)

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Recommended Reads #161


Teaching more by grading less, or differently

Here is a sublime profile of biologist Art Shapiro. And apparently, everybody I know who has worked with him says it’s spot on.

A librarian discovers many rare books have had images of beetles cut out of them. It sounds like a disaster, but turns out to be a very cool story.

If you haven’t figured this out, these photos have no correspondence to the content of the posts (usually), they’re just bookshelves, often mine.
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Recommended reads #159


Hitman 2’s new game lets you quit being an assassin and become an ornithologist: “Here’s how it works: After using your trusty piano wire to kill an ornithologist and swap into his cargo shorts and binoculars, all you have to do is press X to toss aside your silenced pistol, point out the nest of a plum-throated cotinga to your research assistant, and embark on a full-fledged research career in the King’s College Avian Biology Department.”

Color me surprised. A new study claims that in laboratory-oriented fields, mentoring from postdocs is impactful for PhD students, but not for mentoring from the PI. And that PI tend to ignore established best practices for mentoring, and just go from the hip based on their own prior personal experiences. (As a disclaimer, I haven’t actually read this article, by the way, just saying what the abstract and folks have been saying. Since it’s in a fancy journal, be primed to expect big claims that may or may not be appropriately generalized from the actual findings.)

Working from affirmation, not for affirmation. Continue reading

an old school wooden card catalog

Recommended reads #158


A very nice paper on efficient teaching, showing how small tweaks can result in big educational gains.

“Dr. Kathryn Milligan-Myhre works in the field of host-microbe interactions. In this mSphere of Influence article, she reflects on the people and scientific ideas that influenced her journey from a small town in Alaska to a faculty position at the University of Alaska Anchorage.”

If you are, like me, someone who studies things that are not humans and you’re interested in studying humans, you absolutely need to talk to people who do that for a living.” Continue reading