Category Archives: meta

Student blog posts coming up soon…

Mushrooms close-up 1

mushrooms photographed at Lost Lake park.

As long-time readers may know (if anyone has really stayed with me for long through the ebbs and flows of postings here), I started this blog to augment the teaching of a graduate class, and have continued to use it for that purpose (expanding to grad and undergrad classes) from time to time. The blog thus serves as a sometime venue for students to share some of their writing in the context of the class as well. If you search for posts tagged with “student” or “student posting” in the archives, you will find examples of such student writing from earlier classes. I had intended to continue this with classes I’ve been teaching this semester (Fall 09), and students have indeed submitted some interesting writings for the blog. Unfortunately, I’ve dropped the ball on actually posting them, because I got distracted by things like writing grant proposals (two big ones, and several minor ones submitted in the past 5 months; I’ll share more about these projects soon, especially if we actually get funded!), compiling and submitting my tenure file to my department (yes, I’m now being evaluated for tenure – can’t believe I’ve already been here for over 5 years!), and finding speakers for and coordinating the departmental colloquium as well as the Darwin’s Bulldogs‘ Evolutionary Biology lecture series – all on top of juggling a full load of classes during this year when we are all supposed to furlough and work 10% less than usual! Ha – so much for that idea!!

Anyway, enough with the excuses – I came here to tell you that I will soon start posting a boat-load of student essays from several classes this fall. So prepare for an uptick in the rate of postings here – I think you’ll enjoy some of what the students have cooked up too!

My yin and, indeed, yang!

And its all out there in what I do on the internets, of course! According to this, when simply cruising around on the information highways (at least when I use Flock), I am all yang:

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But when I write, on this here blog, I’m more in touch with my feminine side, channeling a whole lot (59%, to be precise) of my yin:

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I wonder if its all this talk of reconciliation that’s just so… you know… feminine?! What do you think, dear reader? And what gender are you?

Untangling the Tangled Banks of the blogosphere

Blogging has been at a low ebb around here lately. Seems to happen routinely as the semester builds and I sink under a rising pile of exams, student writings, committee assignments, and so on. Not too surprising given the rhythms of academic life, especially in a teaching-heavy institution such as ours. Yet, its been three weeks since the fall semester ended, with only two more to go before spring hits, and I am bereft of my blogorrhea! Not sure if this last semester really wore me down more than usual, or if being blindsided by some clever plagiarism in the classroom upset my own writing impulses. Or perhaps it was that attack on Bombay which subconsciously threw me off my game – and this last thought occurs to me because I just noticed that I haven’t managed to blog much at all (or even post student writings over on the other class blog) in the past 6 weeks, ever since those youthful t-shirt clad terrorists invaded the urban landscape of my misspent youth. Somehow I find myself even more distracted, and procrastinating more than usual (which is saying something!). Hopefully, this too shall pass.

Meanwhile, some of you may have come here looking not for any navel gazing on my part, but some good evolutionary biological or other science writing to sink your teeth into, in the form of the latest Tangled Bank #121, due out yesterday. If such is the case, let me doubly apologize for disappointing you.

So where is it, this traveling carnival of the most excellent science writing in the blogosphere, supposed to be in its first incarnation of this Year of Darwin 200?!

I don’t know!!

I honestly don’t know, and haven’t heard anything about it from the grand panjandrum of that carnival, the great PZ himself, despite email queries and tweets over the past week. And without a tentful of entertaining acts gathered by him, I have no show to put up on these pages! Indeed it appears that the carnival may have stalled several editions ago, for the most recent one listed on the main site is #117 from Oct 30th, although Google does turn up #118 as well. At least two editions are thus AWOL, starting with the one due on Nov 26 – the date Mumbai suffered that attack! Weird / spooky coincidence? Or has our beloved Tangled Bank been hijacked and taken hostage somewhere in the nether regions of the blogosphere?

Or am I alone stuck in some strange twilight zone?

Will blogging hurt my tenure prospects?

I certainly hope not, based on the feedback I’ve had here at Fresno State, although some eyebrows are occasionally raised at how much time people think I spend on blogging. It certainly didn’t hurt John Hawks who just got tenure at the University of Wisconsin – Congratulations Prof. Hawk! He has begun sharing his experience of blogging while on the tenure-track in a four-part series:

This is the first of a four-part series on blogging and tenure. Each installment covers a different portion of the tenure process, from starting and establishing the tone of your blog, up to documenting your blog for your tenure dossier. I don’t guarantee anything, and I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I worked hard to develop some strategies in my tenure chase, and you may find some of them helpful.

The full story is divided into four parts. In the final installment, which may be most useful to current bloggers, I will describe the specific strategies that I applied to quantify my blog’s role as a service to the field and to the public. Over the next two weeks, I’ll be discussing strategies to build a blog’s reputation and readership in the years leading up to tenure review, and some ways to integrate research with blogging.

Today, I weigh the pluses and minuses of starting a blog on the tenure track, including the key question of anonymity. This will be especially relevant if you are newly on the tenure track and considering starting a blog. You may also find some of it useful if you have a blog already and are considering shedding a pseudonym and making a blog part of your academic life.

[From How to blog, get tenure and prosper: Starting the blog | john hawks weblog]

I sure could have used Hawks’ advice in the above post (especially where he says, “don’t do it”!!) a couple of years ago when I was contemplating dipping my toe into the blogosphere, but its too late for that now! I will, however, certainly wait for that final installment, especially the promised tips on quantifying a blog’s impact, as I begin to round the turn heading towards the final stretch of my own tenure-track here. Wish me luck!

I’m also looking around to see how many of my colleagues at Fresno State blog (e.g., TheAnthroGeek, Cakeypal, and Cakeypal) whether for fun or academic discourse. Perhaps it is time for us to network internally…

(Hat-tip: John Lynch at Stranger Fruit)

Recovering from the weekend with Philosophers…

…and the following quote goes around in my mind, especially on global warming and other urgent environmental issues touched upon at the meeting:

The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.

– Karl Marx.

And also, this, on a slide in Prof. Dane Scott’s excellent talk:


The First Annual Blogger BioBlitz

Jeremy Bruno of The Voltage Gate sent me an email over the weekend inviting participation in The First Annual Blogger BioBlitz:

In honor of National Wildlife Week, April 21 – 29, I am inviting bloggers from all walks to participate in the First Annual Blogger Bioblitz, where bloggers from across the country will choose a wild or not-so-wild area and find how many of each different species – plant, animal, fungi and anything in between – live in a certain area within a certain time.

Pick a neat little area that you are relatively familiar with and is small enough that you or the group can handle – a small thicket, a pond, a section of stream, or even your backyard – and bring along some taxonomic keys or an Audubon guide, or if you’re lucky enough, an expert in local flora and fauna. Set a time limit. Try to identify the different species of organisms that you find as well as the number of each species that you find. Take pictures if you have a digital camera, compile your numbers, make observations, set up your post however you wish as long as you include your numbers in a digestible fashion (I’ll have more details on that later) – then submit it to me and I’ll include it on the list. We will also be tallying total numbers of each species found, and then a grand total. There has also been talk of coding an interactive Google Map with distribution information, geotagging regions with a blogger’s submitted information.

This is not meant to be a contest, nor is meant to be a hard source of taxonomic data. It is meant to be a fun little excursion to highlight little pockets of biodiversity across the world. I should have a 160×160 button available for distribution in a couple days.

This event was inspired by the National Wildlife Federation’s own project, the Wildlife Watch. They will be posting a downloadable list of springtime critters in the near future that may be of use.

This sounds like a fun activity, and a good way for our fledgling blog to engage in some wider participatory research. So I’ve volunteered to participate, and Reconciliation Ecology will appear in the list of participating sites on Jeremy’s site.

We can discuss the details in class to work out how we participate, and what we can do to make this happen here in the Central Valley. If you are interested in participating, or even simply observing the process of how the network of bloggers takes shape in this project, please join the bulletin board Jeremy has set up. And if you are from the Fresno area, and interested in participating, please leave a comment here, or drop me an email so we can coordinate our local efforts here. And if you know of a cool little local habitat that you would like to learn more about, and this strikes you as an opportunity to get some data, please do share such site suggestions with us also!

Watch this space for more as we work things out.