Are you planning to get creative with your prerecorded #ESA2020 presentation?

The 2020 ESA meeting will be a virtual meeting, with prerecorded talks and posters being uploaded to the meeting website for asynchronous viewing and asynchronous Q&A.

I’ve been thinking about how to get creative and take full advantage of the format. I mean, it’d be fine to just record myself talking about my slides in Zoom. But I feel like there must be ways to do better than that. Ideally ways that would be fun for me as well as for the audience, and that wouldn’t be too much additional work for me.

One idea I had was to let my student give part of the talk. The work I’ll be talking about involves an undergraduate summer research assistant. It wouldn’t be hard for us each to give part of the talk and then splice it all into a single video. A joint talk wouldn’t be possible during a normal ESA meeting, obviously. So it feels like a good way to make the best of a bad situation.

If I was doing a talk that could be given as a “chalk talk”, and I had access to a lightboard, I’d totally film a lightboard talk. (But I’m not, and I don’t, so I won’t.)

What about posters? Is there anything fun and useful you can do with a digital poster, that’s not possible with a physical poster? What about incorporating animated gifs into the poster?

I feel like I’m just scratching the surface of the possibilities here. What are your best creative ideas for prerecorded #ESA2020 presentations?



Academic Parenting During a Pandemic

Post authors: Dana Turjeman, Sondra Turjeman, and Meghan Duffy

This began as a subsection of the post from last week on going back to a new normal as academia begins to reopen, but it became so lengthy that we made it its own post. Students who are parents are often an overlooked group, and advisers who are parents might keep their personal and work lives pretty separate. Certainly, we know from conversations with other academic parents with school-aged (or younger!) children that many of us are trying to figure out how to juggle this new and ever-changing situation. There can be a sense of being alone in trying to figure this out, and sometimes there is little acknowledgment from our institutions or colleagues about the additional challenges for parents with children. We hope that sharing resources, strategies, and concerns will be useful to parents, and will also give people who are not currently home with children a little more insight into some of the things their colleagues are juggling — a little empathy can go a long way.

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The most, and least, influential calls for future research in ecology

Many papers in ecology (and other fields) end with calls for future research. Sometimes those calls are vague as to exactly what future research is needed. Other times they’re calls to pursue very specific research programs.

Speaking as someone who has concluded papers with calls for future research, I have mixed feelings about such calls. On the one hand, new grad students love it when papers identify knowledge gaps, because the dissertation proposal writes itself. On the other hand, I feel like many calls for future research are basically useless (some of mine very much included!) “There are still things we don’t know about X, so further research is needed” is always true, for any X, and so is a totally unhelpful thing to say. After all, nobody ever writes “We now know everything there is to know about X; no further research is needed”! Plus, calls for future research are so numerous that many (most?) of them are bound to be ignored. We’re not short on ideas for future research! So surely only a tiny fraction of calls for future research are likely to be heeded by any substantial number of readers.

Hence my question: what are the most influential calls for future research in the history of ecology? Are there any cases where somebody called for research on X, and then a bunch of other people went out and did that research?

Conversely, what are the least influential calls for future research in the history of ecology? The topics on which people have repeatedly called for future research, only to be repeatedly ignored (hence the repeated calls!) At the ASN meeting in Asilomar a few months ago, Christopher Moore pointed out that theoreticians have spent decades calling for more models of the population dynamics of mutualists. So that’s a candidate for “least successful call for future research in the history of ecology”.



Guest post: 8 Lessons for Teaching over Zoom

Post author: Morgan Tingley

It has been a long ten weeks. As SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19, was spreading rampantly across the United States in late March, most colleges and universities were returning from spring break, looking forward to finishing the academic year and the relief of summer. Here at the University of California – Los Angeles, however, we are on a quarter system, and our new “spring term” started on March 30th, just two weeks after campus officially closed and all classes moved online. As campuses shuttered across the country, an incredible diversity of resources were shared online for how to teach remotely. These resources often included conflicting advice, and also frequently assumed that instructors had months or years to re-design courses around online education.

After quickly becoming both overwhelmed and frustrated with the available advice, I figured that if I just entered the term with a sense of both humor and empathy, the students and I would be able to figure it out. Ten weeks later I’ve emerged mostly unscathed and feeling vastly more proficient at remote lecturing. So for those of you who are currently enjoying your summer breaks, but are starting to feel nervous about the fall (or spring 2021) semester, I’ve assembled below my top lessons for teaching over Zoom.

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Does publication of a meta-analysis encourage or discourage further studies?

Weird question: is there any data on how publication of a meta-analysis affects the rate at which subsequent researchers publish effect size estimates that could have been included in that meta-analysis? For instance, after someone publishes a meta-analysis of the effect of [thing] on [other thing], do subsequent researchers do fewer studies of the effect of [thing] on [other thing] than they otherwise would have? Perhaps thinking that we now know the answer, so it’s time to move on to studying something else.

Or maybe not. After all, lots of factors affect individual researcher decisions on what studies to conduct, besides “has this topic already been meta-analyzed?” And there certainly are cases in ecology in which a meta-analysis was followed years later by a second meta-analysis on the same topic, incorporating new studies that were published after the first meta-analysis.

It would be hard to prove causality here. For instance, if a meta-analysis is published, and subsequent researchers publish few studies of that topic, well, maybe that’s because interest in the topic was starting to wind down anyway. It didn’t wind down because the meta-analysis was published.

Anyone know of any data on this?

I ask about this because I’m interested in what drives the collective waxing and waning of research effort on a given topic.


Saturday blast from the past: helping grad students prepare for non-academic careers

What can individual graduate supervisors, and departments, do to help graduate students prepare for non-academic careers? Anne Krook is a former academic; here’s her excellent advice. Sample quote, to encourage you to click through:

There aren’t many academic jobs, relative to the number of people who want one—but the path to them is straight, narrow, and knowable. In a perverse way, that is comforting to many graduate students and makes them anxious about leaving academia. There are many more non-academic jobs than academic jobs, but there is no single, straight, narrow, knowable path to one.

Going back to (a new) normal: reflections from three academics as universities and society begin to re-open

Post authors: Dana Turjeman, Sondra Turjeman, and Meghan Duffy

This blog is directly connected to a post two of us (Dana and Meghan) published on March 15, right as things in the US were beginning to shut down due to COVID-19. In many places, discussions on re-opening the economy are at full speed (even though many places are still seeing significant, and even rising, levels of infection). We’re now moving into a phase where more people are going back to work (including in labs and doing fieldwork), and where people are increasingly moving about. 

While there are important benefits to a slow, thoughtful re-opening, this doesn’t mean everything is back to normal. The virus is here to stay at least until a vaccine or a cure, or both, become widely available. As things reopen, members of the scientific and academic communities will likely face challenges that will surface for the first time (even as we recognize how fortunate we are that we still have paying work). Here we raise some of the potential challenges that are likely to arise in the coming months. This time, we’re excited to add a third author, Sondra Turjeman, a PhD student in EEB at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. 

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