To celebrate the festive season and my first year of blogging, I’ve abstained from writing another technical post. Instead, here are some links to some great blogs on ecology and natural history. My searches have been pretty random, so if you know of other really good sites, please leave a comment below. My blogs range from vaguely academic to casual field observations, so these links follow the same thread…
My favorite ecological blog site is the Oikos Blog – a refreshingly informal blog from a very formal academic journal. Posts range from really technical to really funny, and often trigger great discussions in the comments section. This is a must read site for ecology post-grad students.
Anyone who is terrorized by the notion of giving a seminar at an academic conference will have their fears put to rest (or perhaps heightened!) by this link from the Oikos Blog on bad conference questions. After reading it, everyone should take time off to elect the biggest “wonk hipster” in their faculty.
The company that hosts my blog, WordPress, boasts that, “403,739 bloggers, 616,918 new posts, 417,719 comments, & 119,701,074 words were posted today on WordPress.com”. No wonder the world’s energy needs are rising. Given this surfeit of self expression, I’m still bemused by how few good blogs there are that present ecological concepts in an engaging way for a broad audience.
My gong for the best Australian ecology blog goes, of course, to John Morgan for his great site on vegetation ecology. John has too many great posts to select just one, so scroll through them all. Why don’t more ecologists write like this?
Similarly, my 2011 award for the best blog on “how to describe your research project in a really interesting way”, goes to one of John’s students, Brad Farmilo. Lots of ecology students and research groups set up blog sites this year, but Brad’s site makes a great effort at communicating science in a really engaging way. If we want to save biodiversity, we ecologists need to improve our ability to communicate our research findings. John and Brad’s sites are great examples of fantastic science communication.
Moving out of academia, Chris Helzer’s site on prairie restoration is awesome. He mixes great photographs with interesting reflections on the nuts and bolts of prairie management and restoration. I shouldn’t be, but I’m constantly surprised at how similar Chris’s issues are to those faced by grassland and woodland managers in Australia. As an example, Oz grassland aficionados will enjoy the post, A skeptical look at mob grazing.
As an aside, Australia’s premier restoration journal, Ecological Management and Restoration has just launched a new site devoted to restoration and rehabilitation projects across the country. Each project is described in about 500 words, and projects can be searched by topic or ecosystem. This is a great resource for restorationists.
I began the year intending to set up a standard (i.e. boring) research web site, with no thoughts of posting a new blog every month, but the blogs somehow took over. My foray into blogging was triggered by two friends, Bert and Manu, who write really different blogs, about natural history and environmental issues. Check out Bert’s post on discovering Aboriginal stone tools in the Strathbogies, and Manu’s post on the state of science education in Australia.
Through Bert’s site, I discovered the wide world of Nature Blogs. To see how beautiful a blog can be, take a look at Farmhouse Stories. WordPress makes great templates for blogging, but this gorgeous site takes things to another plane. (To see it at its best, view it in a web browser rather than on a RSS reader or an iPad). Where do people find the time to visit beautiful places, take great photos, design awesome web sites, write regular blogs, plus get out and enjoy nature? Thanks to a regular commenter on my posts, Watching Seasons, for the link to this site.
If you follow a few of the links above, you’ll find they don’t have much in common stylistically. Some are really technical, some very chatty, some look pretty ordinary while others look awesome. Apart from a common theme of ecology, natural history and conservation, the one thing all of these sites have in common is a burning desire to communicate.
The only reason that bloggers crouch over a laptop late at night is that nerdish compulsion to have people read their stuff. So a big thank you to all of the subscribers and ‘followers’ who regularly read my posts, and to everyone who took the time to post a comment, I’m most grateful. I’d encourage everyone to subscribe to blogs that you really like, as there’s nothing like knowing that lots of people (or even just a few) want to read your next post, to encourage authors to keep posting good content.
Unfortunately, I have no idea what I’ll write about next year. I don’t have a dozen new papers in press that I can write new stories about, so next year’s posts will have to draw upon sources far beyond our research group, perhaps like the last post on savanna fires. It’ll be interesting to see how the stories evolve. Please leave a comment if there are topics you’d really like to read about.
In closing, I’ll leave you with a beautiful visual blog from the artist, Barbara Bash. I hope you enjoy it. Have a great break over Christmas and a fantastic year in 2012.
Merry Christmas, Ian