Monthly Archives: August 2022

On creativity and science

Just a couple of weeks ago, I gave a talk at the joint annual meeting of the Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution and the Ecological Society of America. It was, admittedly, a weird one, and I thought I’d record a version of it for those who might have been interested but couldn’t be there in person.

My talk consisted of some reflections on creativity in science, and in writing about science. Continue reading

Another accusation: did David Starr Jordan name a fish after himself?

I’ve just read Why Fish Don’t Exist, Lulu Miller’s fascinating biography of David Starr Jordan.* Jordan was a brilliant taxonomist of fishes, the founding President of Stanford University, and (sadly) a prominent and committed eugenicist. Miller’s biography explores his life and connects it to her own, and to some big philosophical questions, and it’s well worth reading.  But you know how everyone sees the world through the lens of their own special little interests? Well, this sentence jumped out at me:

“I am on my way to behold the only fish in the entire sea that David Starr Jordan named after himself”.

Jordan named a lot of fish species – a couple of thousand, about 20% of the fish species known in his day. One of them, it would appear, is Agonomalus jordani. Did Jordan really name a fish for himself? Continue reading

Convenience and ecological knowledge

Do you know the old joke about the fellow who was looking for his keys under a streetlight?  A neighbourly passerby came up and offered to help. “Did you lose your keys here?” he asked.  “No,” the fellow replied, “over there in that alleyway – but the light’s better here”.

This is quite funny until you realize that as ecologists, we do it all the time. Continue reading

So, how’s (semi) retirement going?

I’ve now been semi-retired for one month: I moved to my new 60% appointment on July 1. Already I’m getting asked what it’s like, and how it’s going. I’ll update you occasionally on this journey, but here’s my early answer to “what’s it like?” and “how’s it going?”.  I don’t really know.

Here’s what my summer has looked like so far. I still have 5 grad students (weirdly, my decision to begin retirement didn’t make them suddenly and magically finish up and defend) Continue reading

Going to the archive, and why

I don’t have a new post for you this week, but I’m going to link to an important old one and explain why.

The other day, I had what felt like the mother of all anxiety attacks. Continue reading