Science blogging gets some street cred…

I’ve been unfaithful to the Grad Life blog. You may have noticed that I’ve been absent for the past month. I have been spending time with … *gasp* …another blog.

Yes, it’s true.

Logo of the Entomological Society of Canada

But is was all for a greater good.

Today, a very exciting new online venture was launched, and I was a part of it. University of Guelph co-conspirator (er, I mean, c0-administrator), Morgan Jackson, and I have been working like mad fiends behind the scenes for the past few months so that we could announce that the blog of the Entomological Society of Canada is now officially live!

This is kind of a big deal.

Blogging (generally) and science blogging (more specifically) is slowly gaining recognition for its value as a venue for meaningful information dissemination, discussion, critique, collaboration, networking, and outreach.  However, there is still a lot of resistance to blogging, especially in some academic circles. (more…)

A challenge: can you talk to kids about your research?

image from

I’m working on an application. If this thing pans out I’ll be doing science outreach with kids a few times a year. In addition to the usual “describe your research” and “describe your publications”-type sections one typically finds in applications,  it also included this: “Describe your research as you would to a group of 8- to 12-year-olds during an outreach program in half a page or less“.

I have to be honest: this was one of the most challenging exercises I’ve ever been asked to do for any application.  Ever. (more…)

Outreach may not be a useful currency for grad students – but we should do it anyway

The Buddle Lab, with Nalini Nadkarni (centre)

About two weeks ago, an email from my advisor turned up in my inbox that said something to the effect of, “Canopy researcher Nalini Nadkarni is coming to McGill to give a talk and hang out with our lab. This is a great opportunity, so please come.” When I pulled out my Top-Secret Graduate Advisor Decoder Ring and reread the email, it clearly said, “BE THERE OR I WILL THROTTLE YOU”.

I immediately marked the dates on my calendar.

Now, canopies are not my area of expertise. In fact, I mostly work in climatic zones where there are NO trees (or else the trees are small enough that you can reach up and touch the so-called “canopy”), so I really had no idea what the big deal was. I just figured that my advisor’s excitement stemmed from the fact that canopy work is one of the tools he uses to address questions about arthropod ecology. Nevertheless, a few days before Dr. Nadkarni’s talk, I thought it would be prudent to take some time to acquaint myself with our visitor. So I googled, found her web page at Evergreen State College, and read her CV.


Then I watched both of her TED talks. Yes, that TED. You can watch them here and here. My brain-crush amplified exponentially. Not only was she an incredibly prolific and well-respected scientist, she was also an extraordinary advocate of science outreach**. In the final days leading up to the talk, I was all ohboyohboyohboy.


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