Science communication in graduate school: time well spent or a distraction on the way to a thesis?
Spoiler alert: I am going to try to persuade you that all graduate students should engage in science communication. In fact, our Freshwater Ecology & Conservation lab – made up of 3 master’s and 2 PhD students, 1 post-doc, 1 research scientist, and 1 early career professor – wrote a hot-off-the-press journal article in Conservation Biology about how graduate students can (and should) do science communication. But we know that grad students don’t have time to read any more papers, so a “Cliff Notes” version seemed in order.
If you are reading this blog, you may know something about science communication, by which I mean (very generally) talking about research to audiences other than scientists. Maybe you even have an opinion about it, something like “I wish I knew how to do that better”, or “If only I wasn’t so busy”. Or maybe you already dislike this post, because “I’m still learning how to DO science – I’ll figure out communicating it later!” Continue reading →
Sorry we’ve been MIA for a while, but it turns out we actually have been in action – and plenty of it. An update on what’s been happening with ECE is overdue, but we thought it was also a good opportunity to ask: “What ARE early career ecologists doing when they aren’t blogging about their research?”. Since we are scientists, a graph was in order (Fig. 1), so you can examine the data yourself. Continue reading →
Remember taking a math test in, say sixth grade? There was that painful requirement that you show your work. If 2 + b = 7 and a – 5 = 10, what does a + b equal? Line up those little equations and hammer them out for the teacher, because she doesn’t care if you get the final answer, she wants to see how you got the answer.
Just like sixth grade all over again, the current generation of young ecologists* will have to deal with showing their work. Specifically, there is an abundance of data we are collecting and working with, much of which can be used for multiple purposes, from meta-analyses (See Christopher Lortie’s recent PeerJ pre-prints) to systematic reviews to reanalysis. Based on the era of big data, there is a considerable and ever-evolving discussion on how data should be shared, used and published within the ecological and larger research communities. . Some people find it to be an ethical issue, whether data is made publicly available. In the vein of elementary school math exams showing one’s work and data, various discussions have come up in the social media world lately:
WHAT: We are looking for early career ecologists to participate in a survey of statistical approaches. We will provide you with a small data set and we ask that you spend no more than a few hours analysing the data in any manner of your choosing. If you are interested, please reply to the address below and we will provide you with more information and the data promptly.
WHY: We are interested in the approach used by ecologists in the analysis of a standard ecological data for a commentary on statistical methods. The results may be published in summary form, and no personal identification will be disclosed for any reason. Our results will also be posted to this blog when available.
Left: Caitlin in Peru (photo credit Jess Goldman), Right: Caitlin on the Hill with the Massachusetts-Colorado BESC pack (Left to Right: Paul Tanger, Rebecca Certner, Caitlin McDonough MacKenzie, Jennifer Rood; photo credit Julie Palakovich Carr)
By Caitlin McDonough MacKenzie
In April, I had the honor of visiting the Congressional offices of my home state Massachusetts to lobby on behalf of science funding. I spent Monday morning tromping between snow drifts off the coast of Maine, but by Tuesday evening I was wandering under cherry blossoms along Washington DC’s tidal basin in a T-shirt. I was a week into my field season monitoring flowering phenology in Acadia National Park, but I had traded my down jacket and LL Bean boots for a pencil skirt and pumps, hopped on a tiny eight-seated Cessna at the Bar Harbor airport, and flown to Washington DC as an Ecological Society of America (ESA) Graduate Student Policy Award recipient. Continue reading →
Sunrise on the Colorado River at Lee’s Ferry, Arizona. Photo: L. Reynolds
By Lindsay Reynolds
The Colorado River supplies water to people and ecosystems in 9 western states in the US and Mexico, including almost 5.5 million acres of irrigated lands and nearly 40 million people1. The Colorado, with headwaters in the snowy Rocky Mountains and a path through some of the most arid regions in North America, is one of the most intensively managed river systems in the world. For many years now, research scientists have been warning of impending water shortages in the basin2,3. Last week, the non-profit conservation group American Rivers named the Colorado the most endangered river in the nation. Population growth in combination with limited water and the potential effects of a changing climate are leading down a road to a very dry future. Continue reading →