Call for mentors and mentees for #EEBMentorMatch: linking students from underrepresented groups with grad school and fellowship application mentors

Graduate programs still have a long way to go before they reflect the diversity of society more generally. This is a problem both because it is inherently unjust, and because science is done better when people from diverse backgrounds contribute their ideas and talents. To try to help address this problem, Terry McGlynn and I are once again organizing EEB Mentor Match to pair students from groups traditionally underrepresented in the sciences with mentors who can provide feedback on graduate school and fellowship applications.

We are seeking students from underrepresented groups (including but not limited to racial/ethnic minorities, first generation college students, those who have experienced significant financial hardships, people with disabilities, LGBTQIA+ folks, and military veterans) who are interested in ecology, evolutionary biology, conservation biology, natural resources, marine science, or aligned fields and who are planning on applying to:

Last year, we restricted our call to students from minority serving institutions, in part because we were concerned about whether we would have enough mentoring capacity to open the call more broadly. Fortunately, our wonderful EEB community stepped up and we had a lot more mentors than students! So, this year, we’re excited to broaden the call and to invite students from underrepresented groups to sign up for mentoring, regardless of whether they attended a minority serving institution.

We encourage you to keep reading, but here’s the link for students seeking mentors.

We are also seeking mentors who can provide feedback on graduate school and fellowship applications! We are looking for graduate students, postdocs, research scientists, faculty, and others with experience with the graduate school application process and/or NSF’s GRFP and/or Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowships who are interested in working with students from underrepresented groups.

One change from last year’s mentor application is that this year we have optional questions asking whether the potential mentor is a member of an underrepresented groups. We are asking because, to quote from Michigan’s guide for mentoring graduate students:

Students from historically underrepresented or marginalized groups have a harder time finding faculty role models who might have had experiences similar to their own.… At the same time, never forget that you can provide excellent mentoring to students whose backgrounds are different from your own.

Again, we encourage you to keep reading, but here’s the link for people interested in serving as mentors.

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Postdoc position available in the Duffy Lab to work on predation and parasitism!

Meghan is searching for a postdoc to study the influence of predators on ecological and eco-evolutionary host-parasite dynamics! Read on for more info on the position.

Position Summary
A postdoctoral position focusing on the impact of predators on the ecological and eco-evolutionary dynamics of host-parasite interactions is available in the laboratory of Dr. Meghan Duffy in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of Michigan. The Duffy Lab studies the ecology and evolutionary biology of host-parasite interactions, using the aquatic crustacean Daphnia and their microparasites as a model system. The successful candidate will have access to a vibrant intellectual community and state-of-the-art facilities in the brand new Biological Sciences Building at Michigan; the Duffy Lab will move to this building in April 2018.

Responsibilities
The successful candidate for this position will be expected to carry out independent research relating to predation and parasitism, using Daphnia and their microparasites as a model system. The project involves lab experiments (at scales from beakers to buckets) in Michigan; setting up these experiments will involve some field work, especially to collect predators and water for experiments (though alternative arrangements could be made if the postdoc is not able to perform field work). Ideally, the successful candidate would also work on larger scale experiments in cattle tanks in Indiana for 3-4 months in summer-fall 2019, based out of Spencer Hall’s lab at Indiana University in Bloomington.

Depending on interest and abilities, the postdoc will also have the ability to work on mathematical modeling of disease. There will also be the potential to develop additional projects building on the strengths, interests, and expertise of the successful candidate.

This position will also involve mentoring of undergraduate researchers in the lab.

How to Apply
Interested individuals should send a CV, a brief description of research accomplishments and future goals, and the names and contact information for 3 references to Meghan Duffy by e-mail (duffymeg@umich.edu). Review of applications will start on March 12, 2018 and will continue until the position is filled. The University of Michigan is an equal opportunity / affirmative action employer.

Required Qualifications
PhD (by start date) with experience in aquatic ecology, disease ecology, community ecology, eco-evolutionary dynamics, and/or evolutionary ecology

Desired Qualifications
Experience working with Daphnia would be beneficial, but is not required.

Other information
Preference will be given to applicants who can start by mid-summer 2018, though start dates as late as Fall 2018 are possible. Funding is available for at least two years, but is contingent on satisfactory progress in year one. The salary for the position is $48,000 per year plus benefits.

#Readinghour: My plan to read more in 2018

A common theme that comes up when talking with other scientists and academics is that we wish we had more time to read. I’ve been trying to figure out how to do a better job of reading for years, and spent 2015 tracking my reading using #365papers. The goal of that was to read a paper every day – I wasn’t planning on reading work papers on weekends, but I thought there would be enough work days where I read more than one paper that it would offset it. I was wrong. I didn’t get anywhere near 365 (I got to 181), but it still motivated me to read more than I would have – at least, until teaching Intro Bio completely took over.

Having just completed another semester of teaching Intro Bio (and having it take over), I was thinking again about how to reprioritize reading. I decided that I would prefer to have a time goal (30 minutes per day) rather than a paper goal, since I felt like having a paper goal was distorting my reading habits in a way that wasn’t useful.

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New paper on science community blogging!

I really don’t want the blog to turn into a platform for announcing personal papers, but this is another case that seems worthy of an exception. I am a coauthor on a paper that just appeared in Royal Society Open Science that focuses on science community blogging as an important type of blog. In the paper, we make the distinction between two types of blogging: science communication blogging and science community blogging. Science communication blogging is traditional scicomm: communicating science broadly, with non-scientists as a typical audience. Science community blogging, on the other hand, focuses on the process and culture of academia, with other scientists being the primary audience. Dynamic Ecology is pretty much entirely science community blogging. Some other blogs mix the two, and some are solidly on the science communication side of things. One of our arguments is that science community blogging is valuable, even though it often gets overlooked in discussions of science blogging. One piece of evidence supporting the assertion that science community blogs are overlooked: the Wilcox et al. book, Science Blogging: The essential guide, does not mention science community blogs, despite aiming to provide a comprehensive overview of science blogging.

Our new paper (which is open access so available to everyone!) discusses the reach of science community blogs and their value to the scientific community, including as a means of diffuse mentorship and as a means of contributing to scholarly discourse. The diffuse mentorship aspect of blogging is a key reason I blog. I think science community blogs are a great way of ensuring broader access to information that some people have but others do not (such as my post on how to format a CV for a faculty job application or Jeremy’s on how North American search committees work or Brian’s post on the five pivotal paragraphs in a paper). I also think science community blogging is a great way to raise issues that I think are important to consider (such as my posts on not needing to work 80 hours a week to succeed in academia or on being a scientist with an anxiety disorder). At this year’s ESA meeting, a surprising (to me) number of people thanked me for talking about these issues; my favorite may have been the person who stopped me and said “Thank you for being a real person!” This feedback meant a lot to me.

Our blogging paper was led by Manu Saunders of Ecology is Not a Dirty Word; she deserves a lot of the credit for this paper seeing the light of day! The other authors on the paper are Amy Parachnowitsch and Terry McGlynn from Small Pond Science, Margaret Kosmala of Ecology Bits, Simon Leather of Don’t Forget the Roundabouts, Jeff Ollerton of Jeff Ollerton’s Biodiversity Blog, and Stephen Heard of Scientist Sees Squirrel. Simon, Jeff, and Steve were the ones who had the idea for the paper in the first place.

The abstract of our paper is below the break, as are links to posts at the other blogs:

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Last and corresponding authorship in ecology: a series of blog posts turns into a paper

My paper on last and corresponding authorship appeared in the journal Ecology & Evolution today. Normally I don’t plug my papers on the blog, but this one is different: this paper arose out of a poll and a series of blog posts on the site, so it seems appropriate to wrap things up with a quick post today.

I suppose it’s actually not quite accurate to say the paper arose out of a poll. Before that, I had a tweet storm as I thought through issues, and that, in turn, was motivated by needing to decide on author order for a manuscript. When I was at Georgia Tech, I was told that I should be last author on all papers coming out of my lab as a sign of having driven the work. But I have a paper from work I did as a grad student where I am the last author (with my advisor as a middle author) because I did the least work on the project (Cáceres et al. 2008 Freshwater Biology), so the advice I got at Georgia Tech surprised me at first. At Georgia Tech, I was also told that I needed to be corresponding author on papers out of my lab; when I first got to Michigan, I never heard anyone mention corresponding authorship as something that mattered (and that included when I directly asked a couple of people about it). Notably, though, in the past year I did hear colleagues bring it up a couple of times.

I almost gave up on this paper multiple times, because I wasn’t sure it was worth the time. But I kept hearing comments from colleagues at various institutions about author order or corresponding authorship coming up as an issue, especially related to tenure & promotion discussions, so it seemed important to get this information out there in a format where it could easily be shared.

What did I find? This is the abstract of the paper:

Authorship is intended to convey information regarding credit and responsibility for manuscripts. However, while there is general agreement within ecology that the first author is the person who contributed the most to a particular project, there is less agreement regarding whether being last author is a position of significance and regarding what is indicated by someone being the corresponding author on a manuscript. Using an analysis of papers published in American Naturalist, Ecology, Evolution, and Oikos, I found that: 1) the number of authors on papers is increasing over time; 2) the proportion of first authors as corresponding author has increased over time, as has the proportion of last authors as corresponding author; 3) 84% of papers published in 2016 had the first author as corresponding author; and 4) geographic regions differed in the likelihood of having the first (or last) author as corresponding author. I also carried out an online survey to better understand views on last and corresponding authorship. This survey revealed that most ecologists view the last author as the “senior” author on a paper (that is, the person who runs the research group in which most of the work was carried out), and most ecologists view the corresponding author as the person taking full responsibility for a paper. However, there was substantial variation in views on authorship, especially corresponding authorship. Given these results, I suggest that discussions of authorship have as their starting point that the first author will be corresponding author and the senior author will be last author. I also suggest ways of deciding author order in cases where two senior authors contributed equally.

If you’re interested in finding out more, the paper is open access. Something that is fun is that this is the first paper to appear in Ecology & Evolution’s new paper category, Academic Practice in Ecology and Evolution. Also fun is that, after acceptance, the production staff required that I add an author contribution statement to my sole-authored paper. So, I wrote: {continues below the break}

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Applications invited for the ASN Jasper Loftus-Hills Young Investigator’s Awards!

The American Society of Naturalists invites applications for the Jasper Loftus-Hills Young Investigators Award. This year I have the honor of chairing the ASN YIA committee, along with Luke Harmon, Janneke Hille Ris Lambers, and Renee Duckworth. I think it’s great that ASN honors not just one but four outstanding young investigators from across ecology, evolution, behavior, and genetics.

The official announcement for award nominations is copied below, but I wanted to start out with some personal reflections on the recent applicant pool and award winners, along with a specific plea to encourage more topical diversity in our applicants.

Every year’s applicant pool is truly outstanding, and in many respects it’s an admirably diverse pool. I’m particularly glad about the high gender diversity of both the applicant pool and the award winners in recent years. But recent applicant pools have featured a predominance of evolutionary work (particularly on sexual selection and sexual conflict), and a relative paucity of ecology. Ideally, we’d like the applicant pool to include people working on the full range of topics of interest to ASN members. So without wanting to discourage applications from those working in areas traditionally well-represented in the applicant pool, let me emphasize that we welcome and encourage applicants working in any area of ecology, evolution, behavioral ecology, or genetics. The YIA committee is a broad-minded group that includes significant ecological expertise. All applicants from every field will be given full consideration.

Let me emphasize as well that the committee doesn’t favor applicants at a particular career stage, we don’t disfavor applicants who’ve applied before, and we don’t base our decisions on quantitative metrics. You can apply as soon as you are eligible and for as long as you are eligible, and we encourage you to do so. You’ll be considered fully even if you’re still in graduate school or only recently finished your Ph.D. Not all past awardees were in their final year of eligibility. And the committee will evaluate your application holistically and consider your scientific work on its merits, rather than by just counting your publications, or looking at your h-index, or etc.

Looking forward to receiving your applications. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me (jefox@ucalgary.ca). Below is the official call for applications.

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Introducing #EEBMentorMatch: linking students from minority serving institutions with application mentors

Research has demonstrated that science benefits from diversity, but graduate programs still suffer from a lack of diversity, including in terms of race/ethnicity and the type of undergraduate institutions of applicants. Meanwhile, minority-serving institutions are full of students who are talented and passionate about science. Faculty members at these institutions are dedicated to their students and work to connect them with opportunities. But, at the same time, those faculty members are often overextended (unfortunately, minority serving institutions tend to be underresourced) and simply do not have the time to mentor all of their promising students through the process of applying to graduate schools and fellowship programs, including the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program and the Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship. Moreover, most of these institutions primarily serve undergraduates and there is little access to graduate students and postdocs who can serve as mentors and role models.

In other words: graduate programs are looking to recruit more minority scholars, fellowship programs are looking for bright applicants, and minority serving institutions are full of students who are ready to excel in graduate school and research. But, right now, many of those students from minority-serving institutions don’t apply to graduate programs or for graduate research fellowships.

Therefore, we* have created EEB Mentor Match, with the goal of matching undergraduate students from minority-serving institutions (MSIs) who are interested in ecology and evolutionary biology (EEB) with mentors who can provide feedback on graduate school and fellowship applications. We are looking for:

  1. undergraduate students who are considering applying to graduate schools in ecology and evolutionary biology (defined broadly, including programs in conservation biology, natural resources, etc.) and/or to the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program and/or to the Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship;
  2. masters students who are planning to apply to PhD programs in ecology and evolutionary biology (defined broadly, including programs in conservation biology, natural resources, etc.) and/or to the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program and/or to the Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship;
  3. graduate students, postdocs, faculty, and others with experience with the graduate school application process and/or NSF’s GRFP and/or Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowships who are interested in working an undergraduate student from a minority serving institution as they craft their application materials; and
  4. mentors of students at MSIs who can nominate students who are considering applying to graduate school in EEB and/or for fellowships. We will then contact these students to see if they are interested in being mentored and, if so, pair them with a mentor.

Note that this is focused on students who are interested in ecology & evolutionary biology (defined broadly, including programs in conservation biology and natural resources). Our hope is that, by keeping this more focused, we will be able to do a better job of matching mentors and mentees. (Also, there are only so many hours in the day, unfortunately.) We encourage people in other research areas to develop similar resources for their fields!

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Ask us anything and we’ll answer! (UPDATED)

It’s an annual tradition: ask us anything! Got a question about ecology, academia, or anything else we blog about? Ask in the comments! We’ll compile the questions and answer them in future posts.

Past questions have ranged from how to be an ally, to what statistical methods ecologists need to know, to when to accept a “starter” job, to how we’d fix the entire US scientific funding system, to our worst moments in science. So ask away!

UPDATE: This AUA is now closed, we have all the questions we can handle. Thank you to everyone who asked a question, look for our answers in upcoming posts.

Brian, Meghan, and I are off to #ESA2017; please say hi to us!

Brian, Meghan, and I will all be at #ESA2017. Please say hi to us! Even if we’re outside the convention center, or eating a meal, or chatting with someone else at the moment (maybe just wait a minute for a break in the conversation in the latter case). Please say hi even if you just wanted to say “love the blog” or whatever. Conferences are a good time to meet other ecologists–we’d love to meet you. 🙂

p.s. See here and here for advice on the whys and hows of networking at conferences. And here’s Meghan on wandering alone at conferences and Stephen Heard on conferencing as an introvert.