The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.

Tag Archives: Blogging

Happy Third Blogiversary to me!

I opted out of doing a year-in-review-type post in January, deciding to celebrate my blog’s anniversary instead!

This third “instar” feels great.

I think I have finally found a comfortable niche in the big wide world of invertebrate blogs.  I’m enjoying the new weekly”long-form” posts in which I explore different aspects of my life as grad student. I’m think I’m making good progress with my photography.  I’ve reached out to G+, Twitter, Facebook, Research Blogging and a few other spaces in new ways and, as a result, have expanded my readership, as well as my own exposure to great new things to read and learn from.  These three-year-old digs have a new name and a new focus, and gosh, it feels fine.

The cherry on top, of course, is you. Yes YOU. So many great people who I’ve come to know and appreciate. I’ve even met some of you in person, and look forward to expanding my IRL list even further at different events this year. You quiet ones, the ones who show up but don’t comment – I appreciate you too, and I hope you’ve been enjoying this space as much as I do.

Anyhoo, I should probably do at least a little re-cap of the past year’s stuff, eh?  Shall we? I’ve decided to highlight the features that were most often viewed by you, the readers.

Most popular image of the year:

Acorn weevil taking off (Curculio sp.)

Acorn weevil taking off (Curculio sp.)

Hands down, “The Flying Weevil” has to be the winner. It’s been viewed on Flickr almost 800  times, it won me first prize in the Ontario Entomological Society Bug Eye photo contest, it was featured on Scientific American blogs not once but TWICE, and it recently showed up here too. And now I have it on t-shirts and mugs. Oh, also, it is my new header. I love this image, but I also hate it, because I’ll likely never get one this good again. *sigh*

Most-read posts of the year:

These received the most page hits of all the posts I wrote in the past year. I love these top three posts. They manage to span some of my own most important areas of personal interest (my research, my photography, and my online communication activities). In fact, I think they represent some of the highlights of my year.

#1: Why I Spend So Much Time on the Internet

I’m actually pretty tickled that this was the winner – no small feat, either, considering it only went up two months ago! Communicating about science is something I’m rather passionate about (duh) and I love the many ways that online social media facilitate this process! I am thrilled by all the recent buzz about this subject.

#2: BugShot 2011 = Awesome

Alex showing us the diffusion ropesThe photography workshop headed by Alex, Thomas and John was AMAZING. I had way too much fun, took many pictures that I’m proud of, learned millions and met many awesome people.  If you haven’t heard, BugShot 2012 is coming soon to a Florida research/conservation area near you.  Since my student budget is not conducive to traveling to Florida, I am currently crowd-sourcing and selling buggy swag to raise funds to help me get there (I’m already 1/4 of the way to my goal, thanks to many awesome people!).  I really hope to see some of you there!

#3: Mind-controlling beetle parasite

A beetle infested with a Gordian Worm/Hairworm 2This post spread like wildfire and earned me an “Editor’s Selection” nod on Research Blogging. I should have known – people LOVE parasites! They’re so disgusting and so amazing all at the same time! This beautiful beetle (and its little friend) came from my trap collections from Iqaluit, Nunavut, and will play a role in my PhD research.
I’m looking forward to many more fun posts and great photos in the year to come!

Why I spend so much time on the internet (#ScienceShare)

Internet Forever! (Image from: Allie Brosh at )

Internet Forever! (Image from: A. Brosh

During the course of an average day, when I’m working on any number of academic pursuits from my home office, I visit a bunch of web sites: library data bases, insect identification aids, online scientific journals, statistical software help pages, how-to lab/procedural pages, etc.

I also spend time on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Flickr and a big ol’ pile of blogs.

I’ve been thinking about the title of a talk I’d like to give. It would sound something like, “Why I spend so much time on the internet.” Lately, I’ve had a number of very interesting discussions with other grad students, faculty members, and online sciencey-folks about the roles and effects of social media on the way we think about science, do science, and communicate about science.

Let me be frank: I’m really, really excited by the buzz about the topic (Morgan Jackson provides a great round-up of blog posts at his blog Biodiversity in Focus ), not only in different social media venues, but also in more traditional, academic forums.

A recent paper in the journal of Innovative Higher Education by D. Powell, C. Jacob and B. Chapman provides strong arguments for the benefits to academics of blogging and other social media, with implications for research, teaching and learning, and outreach. I get the sense that academics can more intuitively appreciate how social media can be used in outreach activities, and even in teaching, but many are still very resistant to the notion of incorporating social media in their research activities.

Here are some reasons why scientists should embrace social media:

  • Social media can be used to identify research opportunities and find collaborators.
  • You can get real-time feedback from other researchers, helping you refine your research questions, methods, and interpretation of experimental results, well before the formal publication stage.
  • You can easily get this feedback from a larger, more geographically and disciplinarily diverse base of expertise than you would likely reach via traditional means.
  • From a more altruistic perspective, other researchers can benefit from online transparency and accessibility, often in ways that cannot happen in traditional media. For example, lab methods or data collection instruments can be demonstrated in photographs or video (saving other researchers the trouble of trying to decipher complex methods sections if they’re interested in replicating specific protocols in their own work).
  • Blogging can help you become a better communicator, by improving writing skills and language proficiency.
  • Sometimes journalists get it wrong. You can tell the public about your research in your own words.
  • Blogs, by their very nature, permit the rapid distribution of information to a very wide public audience. Your new paper will get more attention and readership if it gets cross-posted on multiple blogs and Twitter than if it only gets delivered to paying subscribers of a particular journal.
  • You can access alternative modes of funding for your research.
  • It is fun; also personally and intellectually rewarding.
  • Soon, everybody will be doing it: get with the program.

I’m being a little tongue-in-cheek, but I mean it in all seriousness. I will even go so far as to say that scientists must embrace these new tools. I think that social media are going to be the catalysts for a major paradigm shift in the scientific community, in terms of who we perceive as being the audience/receptors of science and who we perceive as being our collaborators.

P.Z. Meyers at Pharyngula cautions researchers not to be dismissive about the role of blogging/blogs in scientific discourse, and highlights the need to develop the pertinent skills:

I can imagine a day when this kind of presentation [blogging about a new study] becomes de rigueur for everything you publish, just as it’s now understood that you could give a talk on a paper. It’s a different skill set, too, and it’s going to require a different kind of talent to be able to address fellow scientists, the lay public, and science journalists. Those are important skills to have, and this kind of thing could end up making them better appreciated in the science community.

Boraz Zivkovic at Scientific American’s A Blog Around the Clock discusses the evolution and future of this paradigm shift in his post, “The scientific paper: the past, present and probable future” more eloquently than I ever could; please take some time to read the entire post.

This evolution will not happen overnight. There is still considerable resistance to the notion that blogs and other new media might have a role in “real” science.

Take, for example, this comment left on the Tree of Life blog (Jonathan Eisen, UC Davis evolutionary biologist), by the author of a paper that was critiqued by both the blog author and commenters:

I would like to provide my response to several comments that have been mentioned here that will not arise in a peer-review setting and that make blogs a dangerous venue for information delivery as it reduces the credibility of findings regardless of scientific support [emphasis mine].

To which I say: “Really? Reeeaaallly?” Blaming the medium for the message (which could have easily been shared between professors in a lunch room, by grad students participating in a journal club discussion, or by a dissenting colleague in a conference talk) is, frankly, asinine.

Blogs encourage discussion, the sharing of ideas, and open debate. We may not always agree with or appreciate what is said (especially if someone is criticizing our own work), but that’s life. Sometimes statements may be made that are not based on factual information, but you can bet your bippy that if misinformation is published (either in the form of a comment or a post) readers will be quick to point it out. Edits or retractions can happen immediately, and we don’t have to wait for the next issue of X journal to come out to hear other opinions or see corrections made.

What is unique, and arguably better, about blogs compared to more traditional discussion venues is that blogs allow real-time discussion in a public forum. To quote Powell et al.:

Conversations about scholarly work that in the past have been restricted to faculty hallways, conferences…publications and response in subscription-based journals are now also occurring in openly accessible online spaces, opening up the dialogues to a broader audience…

Said another way, social media is just another kind of “hallway talk…in a really, really, long hallway”. (Thank you Bug Girl  for that most excellent insight.)

I think nay-sayers need to understand that no one is suggesting that we do away with traditional means of publication (journals, books, conference proceedings, etc.). Rather, social media should be embraced as a compliment to these traditional communication tools.

There are, of course, some kinks to iron out. There are issues of copyright, intellectual ownership, co-authorship, and the risk of being “scooped” by other researchers (although, regarding that last point, read this: “On getting scooped in ecology“). Although Powell et al. mention some of these concerns, no suggestions for addressing them are offered.  While these factors certainly present challenges, surely they are not insurmountable; it simply speaks to the need for additional discourse and the establishment of standards for these new media forms.


Douglas A. Powell, Casey J. Jacob, & Benjamin J. Chapman (2011). Using blogs and new media in academic practice: potential roles in research, teaching, learning and extension Innovative Higher Education

Wherein I celebrate a talk, cry over natural history, and do new things to this blog

I am finally back from conference-madness-land.  The annual Entomological Society of Canada meeting wrapped up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Wednesday.  To summarize:

1. It was super-fun and my brain is full of ideas and delicious nerdspeak.

2. I am super-stoked that I gave my first talk as a PhD student and I didn’t get boo-ed off the stage; not bad for having a data set of, oh, about ZERO ENTRIES less than a month ago, and for having frantically finished making my last slides the morning of the talk (this is not something I plan to make a habit of, because it is nauseatingly stressful). I am highly motivated to make next year’s talk awesome.

3. I am super-depressed by the tsunami-like wave of molecular biology sweeping over the ento research world, because it seems to be crushing every last little terrified, clinging speck of natural history work to smithereens.

Since when are genes more interesting than the animals to which they belong? *LONG DEEP SIGH*

 (Note: Morgan at Biodiversity In Focus tweeted about this Natural History Network today. It is freaking out my web browser for some reason, but when that settles down I hope to hear some good news about this subject. )

Acorn weevil taking off (Curculio sp.)

A weevil (a photo taken at BugShot). Entirely more awesome than a SNP. Amirite?

Anyhoo. You may have noticed something a little different around here: the blog formerly known as “Fall To Climb” is henceforth the domain (figuratively and literally) of “The Bug Geek“.  Also, I was a very nice person and made your lives easier by linking my old blog name to this one, so you don’t even have to update your readers (you’re welcome), but you can (but no pressure).

I am going to be messing around with the layout and things a little over the next few weeks, so bear with me if things are glitchy or stupid-looking.

Now, first things first: blogroll update. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while and just haven’t gotten around to it. Since attending BugShot 2011, I have added a number of fun new bug blogs (some of which belong to BugShot attendees) to my blog reader, but haven’t yet mentioned them here. Some may be old news to you, but just in case: – bug photographs and photog tips by Scott – more bug photos, with bonus natural history (yay!), and a dash of general geekery, by fellow (undergrad) student Alex Webb – portraits of insects with dreamy, beautiful, natural light by Rick Lieder  – great photos and field notes by Charley Eisman – bugs and other critters in the Ozarks, by George Sims (he gets bonus points for getting the words “bugs” and “booger” in the same domain!) – bug photos from Edmonton, Alberta, TONS of natural history, referenced literature … swoon! – “Bug Squad” – a great new bug blog out of U California Agriculture and Natural Resources, by Kathy Keatley Garvey

If I’m missing anybody, let me know! I hope you all find something new and fun to enjoy here 🙂

Edited to add: Forgot one! It’s got beetles!  Awesome beetles! By Jon!

Ooh, found another! – Great photos, natural history, from the UK!

A facelift for Fall To Climb?

Clearly I spend way too much time on the internet and blogging and/or thinking about blogging, because the subject at the forefront of my brain right now is the name or “brand” of this blog (unless my advisor is reading this, in which case he should stop reading and go back to whatever he was doing, safe in the knowledge that I am utterly consumed with thoughts of Kug beetles. Seriously. My desk is covered with them at this very moment. Go back to work.)

Now, for the rest of you: I want people to easily find and read this blog. I want to spread entomo-goodness far and wide.  I want to expand my readership and the people in my network, because, frankly, I keep finding more awesome people and things to read out there. I’m very aware that the number of Canadian-based insect blogs is not exactly hefty, and I think it’s time for Canuks to step up and get noticed (because, like, we have bugs too, eh?).

See? A bug! From Canada! Ok, not a bug, a fly (maybe Dryomyza anilis - thanks Morgan!)...but it's definitely an insect!

The name of this blog was selected years ago when I had no idea what the blog would be about. Now that I’ve got a bit of a “thing” going here, it’s clear that the name “Fall to Climb” has little to do with the blog’s current persona.

So I’m thinking, perhaps it’s time for a change.

BUT. If a change means losing touch with the people that I know and love RIGHT NOW, I’m not sure I’m willing to take the risk.

So, please humor me, people I know and love.  What do you all think?

%d bloggers like this: