This Week’s Good Reads: Fieldwork Fails, Cecil the Lion, and Salamander Disease

1) For some laughs and some camaraderie, check out #Fieldworkfail stories, which are so great that I wrote a full post about it. Some sightings while pooping in the field, shared last week, also would apply to this hashtag.

2) If you were on social media at all this week, you’ve heard of #CeciltheLion, a poached lion in Zimbabwe who suffered a long and awful death at the hands of an American dentist, Walter Palmer, whose guides lured the endangered animal out of a conservation area with bait for a trophy-hunting expedition. The lion was part of an Oxford study and was wearing a GPS collar, which ended up revealing the story of the lion’s killing. I have found it hard to read just about everything about Cecil the Lion, from the story of his gruesome and illegal killing to the vitriolic mob-like backlash. The mob justice the dentist incurred included death threats to him and his family, invasions of privacy (posting his family’s personal information, other forms of doxxing), and the closing of his business. I especially thought David Shiffman’s response on his blog Southern Fried Science was a well-said reflection of my own thoughts: 11 Thoughts About Cecil the Lion.

3) Carl Zimmer published an article in the NY Times on the new species of amphibian disease, Batrachochytrium salamandrensis, that is a threat to salamanders in the U.S. and beyond. I reported on this disease earlier this year, and Zimmer’s article provides some updates. For those unfamiliar, this disease is a species of chytrid fungus related to another pathogen, B. dendrobatidis, that has already caused worldwide amphibian decline. The new salamander disease was discovered in the Netherlands in 2014 and has been quickly spreading through Europe. The disease is from Asia and was introduced through the pet trade. Conservationists and ecologists are calling for measures to regulate the pet trade so that diseased animals cannot be imported to the U.S. The news that Zimmer adds to this story is that a study in Science led by Vance Vredenburg shows the high risk of outbreak for certain regions of North America.

4) And while we’re talking about amphibians, I’m sure that paper and that disease, among other subjects, were discussed at the meeting of The Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles this week. You can follow the conference on Twitter at #SSAR2015:

5) The meeting for the Botanical Society of America also happened this week in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Tweets mostly happened at the hashtag #Botany2015:

6) A new survey study showed about 40 percent of the world is unaware of climate change: Predictors of Public Climate Change Awareness and Risk Perception Around the World, Nature Climate Change, Tien Ming Lee et al.

7) “How Could We Lose This Forest?”–Searching for the DAR Memorial Forest, Peeling Back the Bark, Jamie Lewis

8) Rice Researchers Redress Retraction, Nature News, Virginia Gewin

9) Pervasive and Strong Effects of Plants on Soil Chemistry: A Meta-Analysis of Individual Plant ‘Zinke’ Effects, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Bonnie G. Waring et al.

10) ‘DamNation’: “Desert Goddess” Remembers Arizona’s Glen Canyon, National Geographic Short Film Showcase, produced by Matt Stoecker and Patagonia

11) The arguments and citations here apply to women in science, too: If You Think Women in Tech Is Just a Pipeline Problem, You Haven’t Been Paying Attention, Medium, Rachel Thomas

12) Blogger and researcher Hilda Bastian compiled a comprehensive set of source information on the Tim Hunt scandal. It’s a great resource for anyone writing about it.

13) Scientists Turning Tide in Battle Against Invasive Hemlock Pest, WUNC, Dave Dewitt (The title is, in my opinion, overly optimistic at this point, but the information included is worth a read).

14) Golden Jackal: A New Wolf Species Hiding in Plain Sight, The Guardian, @GrrlScientist

15) Centennial Special: Notable Papers: Ecology, ESA Journals

16) Experimental Evidence that Dispersal Drives Ant Community Assembly in Human-Altered Ecosystems, Ecology, Joshua Riley King and Walter R. Tschinkel

17) Frequency-Dependent Selection on Female Morphs Driven by Premating Interactions with Males, The American Naturalist, Jessica Bots et al.

We’ve All Been There: Fieldwork Fails

My favorite hashtag trend this week (and maybe this year) by far was #Fieldworkfail, where scientists doing fieldwork share anecdotes of times where the unexpected or their own oversight cost them some hard-won data. There’s nothing like fieldwork to teach you to go with the flow because s*** happens. And the community of field researchers really came together to say, “We’ve all been there.” It’s only through these happenstances and missteps of unpreparedness that you learn to do fieldwork well–and to roll with the punches Mother Nature throws at you. The response to this hashtag perfectly captures the humor and perseverance required of field researchers. Check out the Storify of the responses here, organized by theme. The hashtag is still trending, so you can still share your best stories, too. And, below are some of my favorites:

Last Two Weeks’ Good Reads: Pooping in the Field, Scientists in the Twitterverse, and an Ode to Random Choices

1) Ecologists share their favorite sightings while going to the bathroom in the wilds of their fieldwork: What’s the Best Bird You’ve Seen While on the Toilet?, Living Alongside Wildlife, Rebecca Heisman

2) “I don’t know how you can keep up with your field today without the likes of Twitter…. The return on investment of time is well worth it.” Eric Topol, in an article by Neil Savage: Scientists in the Twitterverse, Cell

3) Buzzfeed calls out Science by summarizing all of the really bad press they’ve had in the past year related to sexist content: Read This Letter from Scientists Accusing Top Publisher of Sexism, Buzzfeed News, Cat Ferguson and Azeen Ghorayshi

4) The Really Big One, The New Yorker, Kathryn Schulz

5) A lovely ode to randomness: How to Choose?, Aeon, Michael Schulson

6) New Podcast The Conjectural experiments with what makes good science news both informative and engaging. The first episode delves into climate science.

7) Data Analysis: Create a Cloud Commons, Nature, Lincoln D. Stein et al.

8) Fishing Boats Become Citizen Science Data Platforms, BBC News, Mark Kniver

9) The Scopes Trial Redefined Science Journalism and Shaped It to What It Is Today, Smithsonian Magazine, Kimbra Cutlip

10) Top 10 Ways to Save Science from its Statistical Self, ScienceNews, Tom Siegfried

11) I’m Calling It: Podcasting Is the Future of Journalism, The Tyee, Shannon Rupp



Weekly Good Reads: Blind Experiments, Broadest Impacts, and Writing Explainers

1) Evidence of Experimental Bias in the Life Sciences: Why We Need Blind Data Recording, PLoS Biology, Luke Holman et al.

2) Carl Zimmer’s Brief Guide to Writing Explainers, The Open Notebook, Carl Zimmer

3) Population Trend of the World’s Monitored Seabirds, 1950–2010, PLoS One, Michelle Peleczny et al.

4) Broader Impact Statements: Are Researchers Thinking Broadly Enough, SciLogs, Kirk Englehardt

5) US Postdocs Hope for Overtime Pay, Nature, Chris Woolston

6) To Catch a Cheat: Paper Improves on Stats Method that Nailed Prolific Retractor Fujii, Retraction Watch

7) Grassland Productivity Limited by Multiple Nutrients, Nature Plants, Philip Fay et al.

8) The Imperfect Science of Climate Change Analysis: A Conversation with Michael Mann and Katherine Hayhoe, The Weather Channel, Michele Berger

9) Why Academic Journals Are Teaming Up with Reddit, Medium, Simon Owens

10) Talking with Students, Scientific American, Glendon Mallow

11) Sardines, Both Beloved and Reviled, May Be Vanishing, National Geographic, Maryn McKenna

12) A New Breed of Ranchers Is Restoring the Landscape and Learning to Live with Predators, Pacific Standard, Alisa Opar

13) Lyme Disease Is Spreading Faster than Ever and Humans Are Partly to Blame, Quartz, Gwynn Guilford