The year my blog broke

candles4I’ve now lasted 12 months in blogland, which is pretty amazing. Especially as I didn’t really know what a blog was a year ago.

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”. 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.

From John Morgan’s blog on “Ecological divides”

From John Morgan’s blog on “Ecological divides”

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

UPDATE (July 2012): The main writer on the Oikos Blog, Jeremy Fox, has now started his own blog, called Dynamic Ecology. It’s well worth a visit.


11 thoughts on “The year my blog broke

  1. Your blog was one of my favorite finds this year! There really is a dearth of ecology bloggers – hopefully you and Jeremy Fox are inspiring some new ones.

  2. Hi Ian, thanks so much for your kind words about my site, it’s just great of you to do that! 🙂 I am looking forward to following you here, your research looks very interesting. All the best to you, and Merry Christmas. -Cait

  3. Hi Ian – thanks for your Blogs – the investment you’ve put into your site is one of the reasons I started doing the same. It’s fun, engaging, and challenging to think about ecology – and this seems to be the best way I can communicate outside of the corridors of my department.

    Keep up the great work – JOHN

  4. Ian – it was so nice to see that others had seen my blog and actually stuck around to read it. You can never tell who actually reads the posts (rather than stumbling across the page from a Google search and away again in a flash).

    I really enjoy reading your posts and look forward to getting email notifications of your most recent blogs. Have a lovely Christmas break and I look forward to seeing more blogs in 2012.


  5. And just for some further encouragement from someone who you didn’t recommend! I’ve been enjoying reading your blog for the past couple of months, always entertaining and informative.
    My personal fav was the Callitris vs Eucalyptus experiment write-up although Im biased having been one of the students. Those field trips proved to be very good reinforcement of counting lessons that I undertook in prep 🙂
    All the best

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