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Friends, I’d like to share a new writing project I’ve started, called Better Know a Fish!
Ever since my very first pet fish (two swordtails and tiger barbs in a large jar… no they did not live long), I’ve been a huge fan of our finned friends. I admire the freedom that fish have as they swim and maneuver underwater, as if weightless. I’m fascinated by their tremendous diversity, and their contributions to our own species and society — even if they are frequently overlooked in favor of things feathered and furred.
As I write in the blog’s introduction, “Why Get to Know a Fish?”:
There’s been a lot of fuss about caddisflies lately, thanks to the item on BuzzFeed (http://www.buzzfeed.com/babymantis/10-beautiful-things-created-by-animals-1opu) with pictures of caddisfly-assembled jewelry.
I was poking around my old saved blogdrafts, and found this from some years back that seemed appropriate. It’s a scan I made of some of my caddisfly case collection.
Caddisflies are insects in the Order Trichoptera, which means “hair winged” — and indeed they have tiny little hairs on their wings. They are rather related to the Lepidoptera — butterflies and moths. Adult caddisflies basically look like little tiny moths with long skinny antennae, while caddisfly larvae look like little caterpillars, and they also spin cocoons to pupate.
Except that caddisfly larvae live underwater, in streams and lakes. Not all build cases — some go around naked, some form little silk tunnels, while others build little nets with rocky goalposts to trap debris and food from the flowing current, like these Hydropsyche larvae I had in my aquarium once.
You can see this one using its silk glands to connect strands from one rock to another, and back and forth. (No word on what kind of web the crack-dealing caddis spins.)
Biologists from the Papua New Guinea National Museum and the U.S. Geological Survey have discovered a new species of gecko, adorned like a bumblebee with black-and-gold bands and rows of skin nodules that enhance its camouflage on the tropical forest floor.
Specimens of the lizard, which measures about 5 inches from head to tail, were collected in May 2010 in Sohoniliu Village on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. Herpetologists George Zug of the Smithsonian Institution and Robert Fisher of the USGS Western Ecological Research Center described the new species in a report published in Zootaxa this month.
“The discovery of a new species from deep in the forests of New Guinea is a cause for celebration, adding one more chapter to ‘The Book of Life,’” remarked USGS Director Marcia McNutt. “Now the real work begins! To fill those pages with the wonders of this new creature, its place in the forest ecosystem, its adaptation to its environment, and perhaps even novel strategies for coping with disease from which we will ultimately benefit.”
“We’ve officially named it Nactus kunan for its striking color pattern — kunan means ‘bumblebee’ in the local Nali language,” says Fisher. “It belongs to a genus of slender-toed geckos, which means these guys don’t have the padded, wall-climbing toes like the common house gecko, or the day gecko in the car insurance commercials.”
On Monday, February 13, 2012, I will once again have the pleasure of visiting the University of California-Davis graduate student seminar, “Translating Research Beyond Academia: Communication Strategies”. Here are my notes for the session.
Why Communicate Science?
- Because it’s fun.
- Because it’s fun when your parents actually understand what the heck you do/want to do for a living.
- My take: Publishing your findings is one thing, but it’s just as important to clearly and effectively convey the significance of your research to your dean, a reporter, a senator or a stranger at a party. Simply put, the more people who know the implications of your research, the more opportunities may come for collaboration, funding, influencing public policy and improving societal awareness of science. (http://younglandis.wordpress.com/2010/10/15/communicating-science-through-context)
Why Learn How to Use Blogs
Communicate your research to the public
- Foster interest in your research
- Become a source for information
- Defend your science (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/23/139852035/shrimp-on-a-treadmill-the-politics-of-silly-studies)
- Required Reading: http://io9.com/5873948/you-are-bitching-about-the-wrong-things-when-you-read-an-article-about-science
Interact with others in your academic field
- Find students/advisors
- Engage in critique/punditry (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/loom/2011/12/02/happy-birthday-arseniclife/; http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2012/01/23/independent-researchers-find-no-evidence-for-arsenic-life-in-mono-lake/)
- Get help in your research? (http://smithsonianscience.org/2011/03/facebook-friends-help-scientists-quickly-identify-nearly-500-fish-specimens-collected-in-guyana/)
Organize and showcase your research
- Online notebook
- Field blogging (http://seaplexscience.com/; http://www.werc.usgs.gov/ProjectOutreachNews.aspx?projectID=221)
- Interactive thesis (http://landis2009commutesheds.wordpress.com/)
Fundraise for your research
Venture into Science Communications
- Brand yourself (http://www.kirstensanford.com/)
- Hang out with your friends (http://deepseanews.com/)
- Work for that magazine you’ve always dreamed of (http://blogs.nature.com/; http://news.sciencemag.org/; http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/; http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/)
- Become a professional journalist (http://www.aaas.org/programs/education/MassMedia/; http://scicom.ucsc.edu/; http://journalism.nyu.edu/graduate/courses-of-study/science-health-and-environmental-reporting)
- Write about your passion; (http://www.persquaremile.com/; http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/tetrapod-zoology/)
THE Conference About Science Blogging