Warning: navel gazing
If you’ve been hanging around Scientist Sees Squirrel, you’ll know that last July I moved into “phased retirement”, or “semi-retirement” if you prefer. Administratively, I’m now in 62% of a professorial job, and will be for another year before full retirement. I get asked a lot how that’s working out. About a month in, I attempted to answer that question; but for obvious reasons (a month, lol!) it was a poor attempt. Now, at six months, I have a better idea. So if you’re interested (perhaps you’re contemplating something similar yourself), here’s my update.
I knew at the start I wouldn’t be suddenly and magically doing only 62% of the work. Continue reading
I mentioned the other week that one of the books in my “to-read” pile was Gary Grossman’s My Life in Fish – his graphic autobiography (by which I mean it’s heavily illustrated in the style of a graphic novel, not that it’s NSFW!). Now, books sometimes linger on my “to-read” pile for a long time; but I read My Life in Fish last weekend and it made me think.
My Life in Fish is, obviously, the story Grossman tells about his own career (he’s a recently retired fish ecologist). But reading Grossman’s story made me think a bit about my own, and the way our career arcs have been both different and the same. I hope Gary would count this as a win for his book. Continue reading
I was talking with one of my grad students last week, and they confessed to being nervous about their upcoming thesis defence. That’s natural enough; most students are nervous about their defences.* And a lot of scientists, at all stages, are nervous about giving talks. Early in my career, I certainly was. My nervousness wasn’t helpful: my talks (which already weren’t great) got worse as I memorized and then rushed them. And actually, I had no reason to worry. You don’t either, and I’ll explain why.
There are, I believe, two main reasons why people get nervous giving talks. At least, there were two main reasons for my own nervousness. Continue reading
Semesters are winding down for most of us, which I hope means that you, like me, will get a bit of a break. So I thought I’d pull together a few book recommendations. It’s probably too late for you to use these as gifting ideas (unless you, like me, tend to procrastinate that sort of thing). But if you’d like to curl up with a book that’s not technical science reading but is sort of science-adjacent, here are some possibilities. Some are new to Scientist Sees Squirrel; others are books I’ve reviewed or mentioned before but deserve a boost.
Let’s start with something new. I’ve just finished Leslie Forbes’ Fish, Blood, and Bone,* and it was terrific. Continue reading
Content warning: includes examples, motivated by the difficulty of changing species’ common names, that mention ethnic slurs.
Other Warning: longer than usual, and somewhat technical. You’ll be most interested in this post if you’ve ever thought about using web searches to explore changes through time in linguistic usage, interest in fields or topics, and so on.
Over the last decade or so, my research interests have been sliding a little from science (evolutionary ecology and entomology) towards science studies. (Science studies, for those who don’t know the term, is more or less the study of how science is done and communicated.) This began, I’d say, when I was working on The Scientist’s Guide to Writing and thinking about the cultural norms we’ve developed around scientific writing; and it really took off when I was working on Charles Darwin’s Barnacle and David Bowie’s Spider and thinking about the cultural norms we’ve developed around scientific naming. Beyond those two books, you’ve seen my dalliance with science studies in two preprints (this one about humour in titles of scientific papers, and this one about how the etymology of scientific names may influence scientific attention paid to species). Hey, I did warn you in my very first post here on Scientist Sees Squirrel that I reinvent myself often – as a consequence of having a sadly limited academic attention span.
In a post a couple of weeks ago, I built further on my interest in science studies and naming, asking whether and how we can change the common names of species. My analysis leant heavily on some web search utilities, which I used to track the usage of different English names for species through time. Because I know I’m not the only person to consider using web searches as a research tool, I thought it would be useful to lay out some of the things I’ve learned about these. Continue reading