Why I spend so much time on the internet

Internet Forever! (Image from: Allie Brosh at www.hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com) )

Internet Forever! (Image from: A. Brosh www.hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com)

This is a recycled post from my personal blog, The Bug Geek. I’m sharing it here now because it’s rather timely for me: I’m preparing a talk on this subject, with an emphasis on its relevance to grad students, for the Entomological Society of Canada annual meeting in about two weeks; it’s part of a special symposium entitled “From the Lab to the Web”. Also, it’s clear that McGill is one academic institution that is embracing online activities as an important component of learning, teaching, and outreach. These are exciting times, folks….


I’ll update in November with some tips and caveats for grad students. In the meantime, enjoy, and please share your experiences and opinions!

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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.

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Field season report #2: the research

Now that the “oooh, aaaah” part of my field work is out of the way, let’s talk research, shall we?

My PhD work is a component of a research program called the Northern Biodiversity Program. It involves several professors from several universities, about a dozen grad students, a postdoctoral researcher, and a multitude of private and public partners.  The word that must best describe a project of this scope is: “collaborative”.

col·lab·o·rate  (k-lb-rt)intr.v. col·lab·o·rat·ed, col·lab·o·rat·ing, col·lab·o·rates

1. To work together, especially in a joint intellectual effort.
Although we all share the same overarching objective, our personal research goals and areas of specialization are quite different. On this trip to the Yukon, I traveled with: an arachnologist studying spider population genetics; a hymenopterist doing biodiversity inventories of wasps using molecular techniques; another arachnologist interested in the distribution and life history of a species of pseudoscorpion; and another hymenopterist working on parasitic wasps and their caterpillar prey.  Me – I study beetles.
Our sampling methods and research questions essentially had zero overlap, with the exception of the locality: it’s what brought us together for this particular field trip.  In a nutshell, it meant five different types of critters being targeted for sampling/collection using five completely different methods in five different habitat/terrain types.
Hm.
This is the kind of situation that has serious potential to turn a group of nice, sane, rational adults into cranky, snarly, whiny ass-pains. It’s true. I’ve seen it happen. It’s very easy to get all “ME ME ME” in the field, wanting nothing more than to spend all your time basking in the glow of your own beloved study subjects, and getting royally snarky over any time “wasted” on other people’s work.
Happily, this is not what happened on my trip.  I have proof:

Happy campers, L-R: Barb (wasps), Katie (spiders), me (beetles), Laura (wasps and prey), Chris (pseudoscorpions). Photo by Chris Buddle.

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