I’ve read two new papers this week that got me thinking about how and why we define ourselves as researchers.
One was this excellent paper led by Brian McGill on why macroecology and macroevolution, once essentially part of a single discipline, need to reconverge as they both have complementary goals. As the authors note, macroecology tends to focus on spatial processes, while macroevolution tends to focus on temporal processes. In reality, both types of processes are linked across scales and influence each other. To address fundamental questions about biodiversity and ecosystem function, we need to consider both together.
This segregation across related disciplines is a real problem that we need to address – we’ve seen it with agricultural science and ecology, freshwater & terrestrial ecology and more… Continue reading
What do you say when someone outside your work circle asks what you do?
I’ve tried a few different responses, depending how much time I have to explain details. I sometimes think I should say ‘I’m a scientist’…it’s more recognisable, and maybe more ‘legitimate’ to doubters (ecology is a misunderstood discipline), and it makes the point that ecology is a bona fide science. But it’s also ambiguous.
What if the person I’m talking to thinks ‘science’ is just the physical or medical sciences? It gets a bit awkward when I hear back something along the lines of ‘Oh medical research is so important, I’m so glad you’re doing something to help’. When I say I’m an ecologist, it’s equally disheartening how many blank or confused looks I get. Continue reading
It’s been over three years since I wrote my first post here. This column started as a creative outlet for my writer’s soul, as I tackled the confines of academic science writing.
I also saw it as a way to champion my new career. When I wrote my first post, I had encountered many people, including family and friends, who were genuinely puzzled over what I actually ‘do’.
I remember my stint in the unemployment queue during the fiscal fiasco. “I’m an ecologist”, I said to the government careers adviser.
She looked at me blankly and replied “Sorry, a what? How do you spell that?” Continue reading