Goodbye and hello

Last time I blogged, which was back in July if you’re keeping track, it was about how busy Talk Science to Me had been over the first half of the year. Well, since then we’ve kept right on with being busy, and luckily our team has grown bigger to handle it.

Jessie ColganBut before I introduce our three new associates, I need to bid farewell to Jessie Colgan, who has been with Talk Science since fall of 2011. She’s taking an accounting program at the University of Toronto and beginning a co-op work term with Ernst & Young, and she’s been gradually phasing out her work with us. Her reliability and professionalism will be sadly missed by our clients and by us; we wish her all the best for the future.

Roma Ilnyckyj

Our newest team members, Roma Ilnyckyj, Krista Smith and Amanda Maxwell, all joined during the summer to provide editing, research and copywriting support to the Talk Science team and our clients.

Roma joined us as an editorial assistant, bringing her keen sense of language (she has

What really killed the passenger pigeon?

Passenger pigeonJessica Stanton is a detective investigating a trail that’s been cold for over 100 years. She wants to know what really killed the passenger pigeon—and she’s not taking anyone else’s word for it.

Stanton, a Ph.D. student at Stony Brook University, presented last week at the Ecological Society of America’s annual meeting in Portland, Oregon, USA. Her research focuses on questions like how long it takes a species to go extinct, and how, and how much, we can help it once it’s on that path. Stanton wanted to look at a case study where we knew the outcome, so she could model the phases of decline and extinction. The passenger pigeon was especially fascinating because it was abundant and wide-ranging, which usually means a species isn’t at much risk for extinction. Yet its numbers went from billions to zero in less than 100 years.

She used a standard, matrix-based mathematical population model. She had to put in some baseline variables: fecundity (number of chicks per pigeon per year), survival (number of chicks that survive to breed), and

In science, small choices => big shifts

Mark Neff is a scientist who studies scientists, and he says #ESA2012 is his field season. He presented this morning in a session called “Translational Ecology: Forging Effective Links Between Knowledge and Action.” Neff, an assistant professor at Allegheny College, wants to understand how scientists make the choices to study what they study.

This may seem like an odd question to some: scientists study what they’re into, what they think is important, and what funders will pay for—right? Well, Neff says there’s a lot more to it than that. He says scientists make subtle choices all the time. Individuals make choices like the systems they study and the methods they use, the advisors they choose as students, the skills they focus on devleoping. Institutional choices also define science: publication policies and the length of funding cycles influence the kinds of research people can do, for example. And then there’s the scientific community itself, wherein personal values assert themselves through things like peer review, the way students are trained, and even subtle pressures exerted during conferences like this one.

These little choices all add up to big direction changes, ultimately defining what a science is, and they all tie back