Monthly Archives: May 2010

Grading could be worse…

One could use a general rubric like this to grade student exams or term papers:

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although, such a broad rubric may not suffice to capture subtle differences in student achievement:

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Luckily, for my students, recent events have left me with a more benevolent attitude towards all mankind than a mere two weeks ago, and a general joie de vivre which could present as a tendency to, as the above puts it, “care a little less“! And I have a feeling the students may not object to that either. On the contrary, even the most anxious of my students may, for once, find themselves grateful for my procrastination…

But I do need to get these final piles of grading done!!

Baba Brinkman raps up Geek Week on the Rachel Maddow show!

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640

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It is so cool to see Baba Brinkman hit the mainstream media now, after wowing so many of us in smaller shows around the world. We were lucky to get him on our campus early in the Darwin Bicentennial year, when he was performing at the Fresno Rogue Festival. Great to see Rachel Maddow putting him on to rap up her first Geek Week!

What next? The Colbert Report, dare one hope? I’d love to see that rap duel, wouldn’t you?

Baba Brinkman raps up Geek Week on the Rachel Maddow show!

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

It is so cool to see Baba Brinkman hit the mainstream media now, after wowing so many of us in smaller shows around the world. We were lucky to get him on our campus early in the Darwin Bicentennial year, when he was performing at the Fresno Rogue Festival. Great to see Rachel Maddow putting him on to rap up her first Geek Week!

What next? The Colbert Report, dare one hope? I’d love to see that rap duel, wouldn’t you?

Posted via web from a leaf warbler’s gleanings

On saving a culture of co-existence between humans and wildlife

The people who share space and resources with wildlife are among the poorest and most disempowered in our country. Conservation efforts today are focused almost entirely on securing wildlife habitats and policing forest boundaries, but they ignore the costs the mere presence of wildlife places on human communities nearby. If we do nothing to reduce the burdens conservation places on them, or at least to share in their costs, we will only ensure that the cultural space they make for wildlife is lost. And that loss is bound to leave us immeasurably poorer, both ecologically and culturally.

That final para from an essay in the Times of India simply states an inescapable conclusion from the history of wildlife conservation in India; a conclusion that nevertheless continues to evade many a conservation biologist in the country (even discounting the old-school wildlifers), not to mention bureaucrats and politicians who actually have the power to implement conservation policies.

Do read the entire essay, penned by my good friends MD Madhusudan and Pavithra Sankaran of the Nature Conservation Foundation, a conservation research NGO that the former founded while in graduate school over a decade ago, and that is now one of the leading conservation research organizations in the tropics.

And if you do visit the NCF site, or know people there, you might also join me in congratulating another NCF scientist, Aparajita Datta, who has just been recognized by National Geographic as one of the Emerging Explorers of 2010! She too plays an important part in understanding, saving, and creating cultures of coexistence in difficult parts of the country.

I don’t know what sort of reaction this article has generated among the average reader back in India – but just knowing that there is a vibrant group of young biologists building a new culture of human-nature coexistence (reconciliation ecology, if you will) in India gives me hope that not all is lost. That is, if people pause enough to listen to them and absorb the message.

The news is often full of poop, but how often do you see a real poop expert on the news?

Another reason to love Rachel Maddow – her priceless moments of geek!

The squeaky wheel gets the worm after all…

That is one of my favorite mixed metaphors of all time, courtesy of Ted Case, who taught a pretty awesome Ecology class that I took as a grad student at UCSD a long time ago. He was discussing something about parent-offspring conflict and how the bird that makes the most noise gets the most benefit when parents come to stuff their nestlings’ mouths with fresh caught worms. Ergo, the squeaky wheel gets the worm!

I was reminded of that last Monday, within the first hour of a grant writing workshop I’m attending all this week, sponsored by CSU Fresno’s RIMI project and NIH. In webinar (from NIH Program Officers) after seminar (from our Dean and RIMI faculty here) we were told that one of the key things we should do early in the grant writing cycle is to get in touch with a relevant NIH (or NSF) Program Officer, to run initial grant proposal ideas by them (best in the form of a short concept paper), and then to stay in regular contact with them while developing the proposal, and through the review process after submission. As one NIH officer put it: “remember what they say in Chicago: do it early, and do it often” (the it being, of course, getting in touch with the relevant Program Officer). Its not as easy as it seems for a beginning (or unsuccessful) grant writer, nervous as one is about putting one’s ideas on the line to begin with. But I think we often don’t realize that Program Officers at these granting agencies are not gate-keepers trying to keep us out of the exclusive club, but guides who can help us find the right way in – if we work with them and let them help us! Get them on your side so they may even advocate for you!

Be the squeaky wheel, if you really want that worm…

While listening to this sage advice from several speakers, I worked up the courage to nag my Program Officer at NSF. You see, I (insanely at the head of a team of 18 collaborators) had submitted a grant proposal for a multidisciplinary urban socioecology project a year ago, under the new Urban Long Term Research Area Exploratory Award competition. Last August, we got good reviews, and were put in the encouraging “fund-if-possible” category, just behind 17 other projects that got funded right off the bat! For us (and four others) it turned out not be immediately possible to fund – but we were told to wait. And waited we did. I nudged the Program Officer in charge of our grant in November, and was told to wait a while longer. And wait we did. Amid the madness of the spring semester I didn’t get around to asking again, and grew increasingly apprehensive.

Along come these grant gurus this week, exhorting us to “stay on the radar screen of the Program Officers“! So, on Monday afternoon, I sent another email to mine, asking for an update on the status of our proposal, and updating him on some of the interesting (unfunded) progress we had made on the project in the meantime. And waited.

Today (Thursday), while in another session of the workshop, I got an email from my NSF Program Officer, apologizing for the delay in the decision, and telling me they had now found enough money to fund our project! In full!! Thank you very much, o friendly guide (not gatekeeper) for helping find a way to get us into that exclusive club of NSF funded researchers! And thank you, grant gurus of the RIMI, for making me get back up on that radar screen.

So there you go… this squeaky wheel did get the worm, after all!

Now if you want to know how that worm turns out, keep an eye on this blog for I will be sharing some details of our grant proposal here soon, and continue to keep posting results from our project as it develops.

A 9-year old’s lovely doodle of Rainforest Habitat on Google’s homepage

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Have you seen this wonderful work of art on Google’s homepage today? Dare I hope this lovely treatment of the famous Google logo gets at least as much attention as their recent one on Pac-man’s 30th anniversary? Perhaps not, despite being far cooler. For the rainforest habitat has been around a lot longer than Pac-man – but we’ve been gobbling it up almost as fast as he does those pac-dots! It is good to see, however, that at least some 9-year-olds are thinking about the rainforest more than about video games – and gratifying that this design won the top national prize in the 2010 Doodle 4 Google contest! In the International Year of Biodiversity no less.