Dynamic Meg?*

As Jeremy’s post indicated, Dynamic Ecology is becoming a group blog. I thought it would be useful to have an initial post where I simply introduce myself, lay out some of the topics I plan on blogging about, and solicit feedback on those ideas (and additional ones that you think might be worth covering.)

So, first, to introduce myself. I’m an Assistant Professor in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of Michigan. I only just started here this fall, after spending 4.5 years at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Before that, I was a postdoc at Wisconsin and a graduate student at the Kellogg Biological Station and Michigan State University. I am an evolutionary/disease/community/food web/aquatic ecologist (which of those I feel most like depends on the day). Most of my research uses Daphnia as a model system. (Note: the Daphnia in my avatar is infected with a virulent bacterial parasite that we usually just call scarlet. She’ll die within a couple of days. Poor girl.)

Some of the topics I am interested in blogging about are the standard sorts of things you might expect from this blog (e.g., reviews of particular papers or areas of the literature). Other topics include:

1. Setting up a new lab: I am in the thick of this, having just moved to a new university. I’ve done this once before, which certainly helps, but there’s still plenty to figure out. When I started at Georgia Tech, there wasn’t a whole lot out there even about general lab setup, and nothing about scouting out new field sites while starting a faculty position (or other issues of particular relevance to ecologists).

2. Women in science (and, more specifically, women in ecology). I’m a mom, and issues related to women in science and work-life balance (whatever that means) are quite interesting to me. There were some posts in threads on the ecolog listserv last spring/summer that were jaw-dropping, frankly, and made me realize the topic of women in ecology really needs more discussion.

3. Story-behind-the-paper: I’ve had a few that I think would be of general interest, including the paper that almost made me drop out of grad school, and the one that Ecology rejected that later got a Mercer Award.

4. Twitter and other social media for ecologists: I’m fairly active on twitter, and really enjoy being on twitter. I realize that many people still think it’s a silly waste of time, so I thought I would do some posts laying out why I think it’s a great tool for scientists/ecologists/academics, and also some related to some other issues raised by Twitter (e.g., live-tweeting of talks).

5. Teaching: I’ve taught a pretty wide range of courses so far. (Recommendation: do not develop as many new courses as I have pre-tenure!) At Georgia Tech, I taught things ranging from a large (90ish student), sophomore-level, required (of all Bio majors) General Ecology course through a small, upper-level undergrad & grad, discussion-based courses with no textbooks and almost no lecturing. Here at Michigan, I’m teaching Intro Bio, and trying to incorporate some active learning into the course. (This course, along with the setup of the new lab, means that I won’t be able to blog as often as I’d like this semester, but hopefully I’ll be able to pick up the pace later.)

I’m definitely open to other suggestions (or to feedback on which of those sound particularly interesting or totally not worthy of devoting time to).

*This is an attempt at a joke, based on Jeremy being Oikos Jeremy when he blogged at the Oikos blog. I think this means we should be Dynamic Brian, Dynamic Chris, Dynamic Jeremy, and Dynamic Meg, but that doesn’t seem to have caught on.

11 thoughts on “Dynamic Meg?*

  1. Hy Dynamic(?) Meg
    Welcome to the blog! I´m really excited to see your next posts.
    Just a personal feedback, for me the subject coolness would be: 3 > 4>1>5 – Just waiting to see the history of “…the paper that almost made me drop out of grad school…” =]
    I´m not really into the women in ecology thing, but again, this is a personal matter.

  2. So, now that you’ve fixed the technical glitch and posted the title correctly, is it ok to make fun of you about it? 😉

    Just kidding, if that’s the worst mistake you ever make blogging, you’ll be doing far better than me. Just in the realm of technical mistakes, I once accidentally posted the draft post where I was keeping notes on all my ideas for new posts. Now I keep those notes elsewhere, lest learning how the “sausage” is made puts readers off “eating” it. 😉

    • Yes, definitely fine to make fun of me for it! I deserve it. Still not exactly sure what I did to mess it up in the first place, but at least I figured out how to make it all better. 🙂

      My biggest fear was that I was going to accidentally post it a week ago or so, when I first saved the draft, which presumably would have been somewhat confusing to readers. So, at least I didn’t do that.

  3. What I really like about this blog is the fact that I learn a lot from it. There is deep Ecology behind many posts with the care to explain in the easiest possible way the math or any concept necessary to get the idea. Its also like a daily infromative of the best of Ecology out there.

  4. Pingback: Meghan Duffy named 2013 ESA Early Career Fellow! | Dynamic Ecology

  5. I’m curious about how Dynamic Ecology started. Did Jeremy invited Meghan and Bryan on their first try? Or Jeremy try first with other colleagues? Did Meghan and Bryan accepted quickly without hesitation?

    I ask all these questions because I have a similar initiative and I do not know if my colleagues and friends will follow me in this new endeavor.

    • I have an old post on this:


      To elaborate a bit: when I started Dynamic Ecology, I already had something of a reputation and readership as a blogger from my time at Oikos Blog (which nowadays is rather different than back when it started). Probably that’s one factor that encouraged the people I invited to join me to say yes–they could see from my example that blogging (both in general, and with me specifically) might be worth it.

      In terms of how I decided who to invite, I knew I only wanted a few people because I wanted the blog to develop a distinctive “voice” and I didn’t think an army of people would have that. I initially invited Chris Klausmeier and Brian McGill. I knew Chris a bit, thought highly of his scientific work, and he’d commented occasionally on Oikos Blog. Brian I hadn’t ever met, but I thought highly of his scientific work and he’d commented at length on Oikos Blog. I figured active commenters might want to take the next step and become bloggers. I wanted to invite a third person, and it was Chris who suggested I invite Meghan, whom I’d never met (though again, I did know and admire her papers). Chris thought she might like to blog because she was active on Twitter.

      Chris said “yes” without hesitation as I recall. Brian did too, though I think we might’ve met for lunch at ESA in Portland before he officially said “yes”. As Meghan has related in an old post, she was more hesitant because it was bad timing for her. She was in the middle of moving from Georgia Tech to Michigan and had a bunch of other stuff on her plate too. She spent a sleepless night agonizing over whether to say yes. Fortunately she decided that she’d regret it if she turned it down–that the short-term overcommitment would be worth it in the long run.

      I was *incredibly* lucky that all three of them said yes to a 4-month trial run, and that Meghan and Brian decided to stick with it long term. Because as I now realize, people who want to post as often and as well as Meghan and Brian are *very* rare. And although “commenting often on other people’s blogs” probably is a decent sign you might want to blog yourself, I now realize that “being active on Twitter” is *not* a reliable sign that you might want to blog! Had Meghan and Brian said no, or decided to quit after their trial run, I don’t know what I’d have done. Probably invited some other friends instead–who’d likely either have turned me down, or tried it out but not stuck with it. That Meghan and Brian both said “yes” and stuck with it is one of the three biggest pieces of good fortune in my professional career.*

      I don’t know that my experience holds any lessons for you. I think all you can do is invite people to join you in your new venture and hope it works out. Good luck with it!

      If your venture doesn’t work out because you can’t line up enough people who post often enough, you might consider Rapid Ecology as an outlet for occasional posts: https://rapidecology.com/

      *The other two being getting hired at Calgary (https://dynamicecology.wordpress.com/2011/07/19/advice-how-i-almost-quit-science/), and Dave Vasseur emailing me out of the blue to say he had postdoctoral funding and wanted to do his postdoc with me.

      • Oh Jeremy. Such an incredible journey! Be sure that if you did not give me a lesson -although you did- you did gave me a lot of enthusiasm. Well, I sent the emails yesterday, now I will be the one who has sleepless nights waiting for a positive response.

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