Author Archives: ScientistSeesSquirrel

About ScientistSeesSquirrel

I'm an evolutionary ecologist and entomologist at the University of New Brunswick. I think about a lot of random things... some of them appear here.

Some career news: a(nother) metamorphosis begins

Warning: navel gazing.

I’ve not been noted, over my career, for laser-focused stick-to-it-iveness. Instead, I’ve reinvented myself a few times, changing my research focus – among other things – repeatedly. But I’m about to launch my biggest reinvention yet. I’m retiring – albeit gradually and not right away. Continue reading

Let’s stop (usually) with the second round of review

I’m grumpy today about something that hasn’t even happened yet. Yes, that’s probably unreasonable; but I’m grumpy about something that happens too often, and I’m going to make myself feel better by venting just a little. I claim (at least partly because it’s true) that I have a real point to make.

Here’s what I’m grumpy about: second rounds of peer review. Continue reading

Sure, spiders might be insects, but surely bees aren’t fish?

Two years ago I treated you to the story of how in Alabama, spiders are legally insects.  “Hold my beer”, said California, and two weeks ago a California court declared that bees are fish. I know; that’s ridiculous. It turns out, though, that it isn’t ridiculous in the biological way you’re thinking; rather, it’s ridiculous in a scientific-writing way. At least, that’s going to be my take, and I hope you’ll come along. Continue reading

Effective grant proposals, Part 4: Who are you writing for?

Today, the fourth part in my series on writing effective grant proposals. The first three parts were concerned with content, but in hindsight, I’m not sure that I put first things first. That’s because before you write anything, you should think carefully about who you’re writing for – and this is this is true in spades for grant proposals. Who will read your proposal, and decide its fate? If you haven’t answered that question, you’re throwing darts without knowing where the dartboard is.

So, who will read your proposal? Well, the answer is (as it is so often) “it depends”. Continue reading

Should Latin names of species always be descriptive?

It’s an opinion I hear fairly often: those who give Latin (scientific) names to species should always make those names descriptive (this is often phrased as “so they tell you something about the organism”). It’s an opinion I often hear put rather forcefully, as if a well-educated biologist couldn’t possibly think anything else.  Perhaps I’m just not well-educated enough, but it’s an opinion I don’t share. But there are interesting reasons why I don’t share it, why some folks do, and why there’s no simple answer to the question. Continue reading

Do fonts matter?

I sometimes get very upset with folks who hold strong opinions without data underneath them. I will, however, admit that when it comes to font choice, I am one of those people. In particular, I have strong opinions about how bizarre it is when people choose sans-serif fonts for writing documents.* Every time one of my students sends me a thesis chapter in Calibri, I grimace, grumble, and change the font – but I also find myself wondering why this choice has become so common when it’s just clearly wrong (tongue partly in cheek there, but only partly). I was pleased, therefore, to find a completely fascinating recent paper on people’s preference for, and performance reading, different fonts. Continue reading

Why I write the Introduction last

The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. “Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?” he asked. “Begin at the beginning,” the King said gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

– Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Don’t listen to the King.

At least, not when writing a scientific paper. Continue reading

Parasitic Oscillations: new ecopoetry from Madhur Anand

If you’ve been following Scientist Sees Squirrel for a while, you’ll know that one of my pet topics is the intersection between science and the arts. This intersection is certainly smaller than it could be, but it’s not as small as common (mis)interpretations of CP Snow’s “Two Cultures” essay would have it. So I’ve been happy to discover and share with you some particularly interesting mashups between science and poetry – like Richard Kelley Kemick’s collection Caribou Run, and Madhur Anand’s A New Index for Predicting Catastrophes.  We can add to that little collection today, because Anand has a new book of poetry, Parasitic Oscillations, and I’ve just finished reading it. Continue reading

Getting past writer’s block

All writers know the awful feeling: stuck, stonewalled, stymied, stumped. You just can’t find that next sentence, you have a terrible suspicion that your last one sucked, and you’ve a sense of existential dread that you’ll never again write coherent text. “Writer’s block,” we call it.

I put “writer’s block” in scare quotes, because the key to getting past it is realizing that it’s terribly misnamed. Continue reading

Millipede (Taylor’s Version)

That handsome critter above (the left-hand one) is Taylor Swift’s twisted-claw millipede, Nannaria swiftae – just named last month by Derek Hennen, Jackson Means, and Paul Marek. It’s narrowly distributed in the Appalachian mountains of Tennessee; but it might still look familiar, because its naming made a bit of a media splash (it is quite possibly, for example, the only millipede species to ever appear in Rolling Stone). Its namesake will certainly look familiar, as she makes a bit of a media splash about every other week.

In some circles, this naming will have led to some eye-rolling. Continue reading