I know my work is fascinating and important. But that doesn’t mean people outside of my immediate research network do! By occasionally contributing non-peer reviewed pieces to popular outlets, I get a chance to introduce my interests and ideas to a broader audience. A large part of being a scientist is communicating ideas, so learning how to write for different audiences has been an important (and fun!) part of my PhD education. Contributions are hyperlinked to external pages.
In Fall 2016, I asked Dr. Elizabeth Bach of the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative if she had considered a blog exploring “soil health”. This poorly described concept is everywhere, from the halls of academia to rural rowcrops of the corn belt. But no one really knows how to measure it, or whether it can be used it to tackle Big Questions in soil ecology. My blog post is a small step towards addressing this, by asking farmers, agency personnel, and scientists to define “soil health” in their own words.
In summer 2016, Dr. Elizabeth Bach reached out to me about writing a blog post describing the paper I co-authored with Becca Bevans (a master’s student in my research group), and Drs. David Angeler (Swedish Agricultural University), Craig R. Allen (USGS’ Nebraska Coop Unit), Sara G. Baer (Southern Illinois University), and Diana H. Wall (Colorado State University and The School of Global Environmental Sustainability). Dr. Bach runs the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative, and thought our paper, “Adaptive Management for Soil Ecosystem Services”, might be of interest to the GSBI blog readers. Becca and I jumped at the chance -what a cool honor! You can find our entry here!
In winter 2015-16 I talked to Chris Helzer, prairie ecologist extraordinaire, to shine a spotlight on some of the excellent conservation work being done in Nebraska by a small, committed group of state, federal, and private land managers. This was a great way to showcase how pooling limited resources and willingness to experiment can more effectively mitigate the impacts invasive species, habitat fragmentation, and biodiversity loss than scattered, individual efforts. Check out the writeup as a Press Release on The Nebraska Chapter of The Nature Conservancy’s website.
The Journal of Applied Ecology (JAE) is doing something really smart: using a blog to promote articles. Authors or people familiar with the work give a quick written summary of the article for broader consumption, complete with photos (so the JAE blog now features photos of Nebraska!). My adviser (Craig R Allen) and I co-wrote two entries for articles published by his colleagues last fall (2015):
- Early warning indicators in aquatic ecosystems, and
- How network analyses can help to find out what happens to ostrich farming after an avian influenza outbreak
It was a cool experience to read an article in my field and place it in context for other readers. I highly recommend the experience to graduate students (although next time, I hope I’ll do this for my OWN publication in JAE!)
One of my favorites, Learning from the Fire – Research at the Niobrara Valley Preserve (see below), was released in newsletter form for the Nebraska Chapter of The Nature Conservancy’s quarterly newsletter. I visited my friend Amanda Hefner in July 2015 at the unparalleled Niobrara Valley Preserve to interview her about her research and the Preserve. This place should be on the front page of every Nebraska tourism advertisement -it is seriously incredible, and you should visit! It’s open to the public, and comprises a ton of native Nebraska ecosystem types in its ~60,000 acre extent.
Hanging out with Amanda is always a treat because she and I can talk endlessly about ecology, grasslands, management, and science (don’t worry, I’m converting her to soil fanaticism). When I visited her, we talked about the crazy ecology that went down at the The Nature Conservancy’s Niobrara Valley Preserve in 2012 (big droughts, big fires). I learned a lot, and with help from TNC’s lovely and talented Jill Wells, somehow condensed our discussion into a one page newsletter entry.