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.

Editing as conversation

This is a joint post from Steve Heard and Carly Ziter.

A few weeks ago, Carly contributed a guest post on editing* as an  act of caring.  This got the two of us thinking and talking about editing – and actually doing it too, because Steve couldn’t resist taking his red pen to Carly’s draft.  Carly made the point that while editing may look like a wall-of-Track-Changes-red act of correction, it’s  also an important act of caring – and this isn’t always immediately obvious, especially to early-career folk.  But there’s something else editing is too, and it’s perhaps equally unobvious to some.  Editing, when done and received well, is a conversation.

One reason it’s easy to feel crushed by the wall-of-Track-Changes-red is that it can feel like rejection of everything you wrote – and like a series of non-negotiable edicts.**  Change this.  Write it this way.  Don’t say that.  Continue reading

A Year of Books (2): duds and diamonds

Time now for the second instalment of #AYearInBooks, in which I track the non-academic reading I do.  Here’s why I’m doing this.

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk (David Sedaris, 2010). Wow, this is a peculiar little book.  It’s a set of 16 very short stories, each one a parable featuring some human quirk (usually, a detestable one) bestowed on a heavily anthropomorphized animal that gets an extremely unpleasant comeuppance.  (I did say it was peculiar).  It took me the first third of the book to decide that this was more than just sophomoric, but once I did I was amused – albeit in a sort of stiffly disapproving way.  I’m not sure if the parables got progressively more clever, or if I just adapted to see more cleverness in them.  By the last, I was chortling.  That last parable, by the way, features a greased-up gerbil sent by an owl to evict leeches from the rectum of a hippopotamus. (I did say it was peculiar.) Continue reading

History, conservation, and privilege: all in a falcon’s name

Perhaps you’ve noticed that I’m a little bit obsessed with eponymous scientific names.  When I notice one, I often find myself trying to guess its origin.  Sometimes I’m right, or at least close.  Falco eleonorae was definitely not one of those times.

Falco eleonorae, or Eleonora’s Falcon, is a mid-sized falcon that breeds mostly in the Mediterranean and overwinters mostly in Madagascar.  It’s a handsome bird whose name poses a question: who was Eleonora? Continue reading

My new book, “Charles Darwin’s Barnacle and David Bowie’s Spider”, is out today!

It’s today!  It’s real!  It’s here!  My new book, I mean.

If that sounds like I’m a bit excited, it’s because I am.  I’ve been working on Charles Darwin’s Barnacle and David Bowie’s Spider for about four years, and finally I can share it with all of you.  Continue reading

Squirrels in the time of Covid19

My metaphorical squirrels, that is.

It’s a strange time in the world, and the particular ways in which it’s strange are changing moment to moment.  In only about four days, my university has gone from business-as-usual to all-courses-online to essential-services-only.  Just like everyone else around the world, we’re all scrambling to adjust, and we’ll continue to do so for as long as it takes.

When times are strange, I think it’s important that some normal things carry on.  I intend Scientist Sees Squirrel to be one of them.  I won’t have much to say here about coronavirus or public health.  Those are important topics, but they aren’t topics on which I have special expertise.  Instead, I’ll continue to blog as I’ve always done: a weird and largely unpredictable (to me) mix of thoughts on such things as ecology, writing, publishing, and – fair warning, since my new book comes out tomorrow – eponymous scientific names and the wonderful stories they have to tell.

So you’ll find me here as usual.  I may not have anything particularly important to say (not much new there!), but if you need a diversion, I’m here for that.

© Stephen Heard  March 16, 2020

 

Eight is (more than) enough: How peer review gets out of hand

A colleague recently mentioned being astonished to receive eight different peer reviews, on a single manuscript in a single round of reviews at a single journal.*  Wasn’t this too many, he asked?  And how could it happen?

Well, I’m here to serve.  Yes, eight is too many.  As for “how could it happen”: that’s a bit more complicated, but I’ll give you a plausible guess. Continue reading

In praise of the red pen: editing as an act of caring

This is a guest post from Carly Ziter – liberally red-penned by Steve, who couldn’t agree more! 

As a PhD student, I’d often arrive at my office (characteristically, late in the morning) to find a marked up manuscript waiting on my desk chair. My advisor preferred to comment in hard copy, you see. The comments were typically in bright red ink, often plentiful (and then some!), and included comments in shorthand – a lost art to me and to my millennial lab-mates.

As grad students do, we shared stories (and a few laughs, and a few complaints) about these comments over the years. One unnamed lab-mate had trouble reading the cursive – now becoming another lost art – and only admitted 4 years into their PhD that they’d secretly relied on a since-graduated colleague to decipher the comments. Another lab-mate came across an online key for shorthand symbols just months before graduating, throwing years of comments into much sharper relief.

While we may have joked about our mentor’s (excellent!) feedback, all of us shared one sentiment. Continue reading