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Thoughts on ScienceOnline’09

January 18, 2009

I just returned from the ScienceOnline’09 conference in Raleigh, NC. It was one of the more unique conferences I’ve been too. There was just enough structure to it to prompt vigorous debate in a variety of topics covering science blogging, communication, and education. For someone new to science blogging, it was energizing to meet so many enthusiastic people dedicating to science communication and I left with a much broader outlook on what this whole thing is and what it can become.

The stand-out session for me was on using blogs as an educational tool in the classroom. This is a big deal for me one of the end goals of my career is to be an educator. We’ve done a great deal of incorporating blogs into the classroom and things like TiMIZ really engage the students. One of the ideas discussed that I really liked was maintaining a lecture notes blog where the students can post their notes and ask questions. I can see how this would be really useful for some of our larger lectures, where it may be difficult to engage every student in the classroom, and it provides great feedback to the lecturer on what points the students interpret as important. Other ideas involved online discussion forums, both public and private, or liveblogging field trips.

Kevin, from Deep Sea News and The Other 95%, along with Karen James from The Beagle Project Blog, Rick MacPherson from Malaria, Bedbugs, Sealice, and Sunsets, Talia Page from Space Cadet Girl, Vanessa Woods of Bonobo Handshake, the wonderful Anne-Marie from Pondering Pikaia, and Meredith Barrett from Lemur Health Conservation, led an excellent session about adventure blogging from remote places. While the discussion was good, the real gem was hearing everybody’s disaster – and not so disaster – stories.

The sessions on Sunday were also excellent. Kevin and GrrlScientist led a good discussion on nature blogging and how it differs from science blogging. Greg Laden from Greg Laden’s Blog, Rick, Karen, and Mark Powell from blogfish talked about censorship and blogging, especially as it pertains to the employer/employee relationship. I ended the conference by attending a discussion of science blogging networks, which I’m not sure are really necessary, but there were plenty of strong opinions from many angles.

You’ll notice tons of new links in the blogroll, all great people I met this weekend. Some highlights are:

  • Blogfish – Mark Powell is a really thoughtful and insightful blogger on marine conservation and ocean issues, and he gave me tons of things to ponder over the next few days.
  • Cephalopodcast – Invertebrate love from Jason Robertshaw.
  • The Flying Trilobite – Glenden is an excellent artist with a pension for avian trilobites.
  • Malaria, Bedbugs, Sea Lice, and Sunsets – sure, it was quietly added to the sidebar several weeks ago, but a great blog deserves to be highlighted again.
  • The Beagle Project Blog – lots of good stuff from Karen James, who’s working with the Beagle Project to build a replica of the HMS Beagle and sail it around the world.
  • Deep Sea News has a new home and a new look.

Two sessions that got me thinking about the direction of my own blog were centered around transitions in your blog as your career progresses and whether or not to maintain anonymity (and how one goes about doing that). For me, I’m using this blog as a tool to create a track record of public outreach and education, and to voice my opinions on various marine, mycological, and mundane issues. Since I’m using it as a mechanism for career building, I see no reason to be anonymous (in this case that would actually be counter-productive).

I do, however, like the handle “Southern Fried Scientist” and I’ll continue using the moniker as my blog identity for two reasons. First, the Southern Fried Scientist is a character. He thinks like me, talks like me, and cares about the things I care about, but he’s only a part of everything I am, and there are things in my life that are not in his. The Southern Fried Scientist doesn’t talk about my personal life, my graduate program. He doesn’t complain about wrongs done to me. And – as much as possible when one’s passion and profession are so tightly intertwined – he doesn’t talk about his research and, although he will showcase student work that is online and intended to be publicly available, he does not talk about his students.

He does study deep sea and shallow water marine fungi, as do I.

The other reason I’m continuing to use my handle as my primary blog identity is much more mundane and pragmatic. Many of the discussion sessions came back to the same point – we need to manage the information about us that exists on the internet. Part of that management plan is controlling how people find this blog. I have no problem with everyone knowing who I am, but I don’t need every Google hit on my name to point back here.

I’m not going to go and dump all my personal information on the main page for anyone and everyone to see. I don’t feel that’s necessary. There are plenty of breadcrumbs scattered throughout this blog that it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out. Of course, you could always just ask.

Thanks to Bora for organizing an excellent conference.

~Andrew Thaler

10 Comments leave one →
  1. January 19, 2009 12:00 am

    I’m glad you are percieving science blogs as tool in education and classroom practices. As veteran blogger personally and the first founder of science blog in Central and Eastern Europe back in 2006 (, I realized as a lecturer and information management professional that through interaction and collaboration on blogs students, allies, other people who are reading you – make great interactive social playground for developing new ideas and creating new content on Web.

    As for privacy issues, I can say only one thing: personally I am very private person, but due to my profession I am controlling what kind of information is for publishing. No need too be too paranoid, not on blogs – if one has strong belives and stands behind that, community of (other) bloggers/allies will always stand to support if neccessary (if you’re interested on this issue, can send you a link or two for reading).

    Agree with you, conference was excellent experience to revisit and make new contacts, and listen to others what have to say.
    Hope your squid hat friend had great time too:)

  2. January 19, 2009 1:00 am

    Thanks Danica, it was wonderful meeting you this weekend. I agree that this is a very supportive community and I’m looking forward to getting more involved.

    How could anyone not have a good time with a squid hat? Squid hat makes everything glorious. Though we did need more chanties.

  3. January 19, 2009 10:22 am

    Hey chief, it was a delight to meet you too – while I didn’t get to spend much time with you guys, you’re pretty local and I hope to get out there soon to check out your lab digs.

    As with my pseudonym, I love Southern Fried Scientist – thanks so much for coming to our session and contributing.

  4. January 19, 2009 4:36 pm

    Yo SFS,

    Just shouting out my own “it was great to meet you” spiel. I envy you and the other ocean folks – great senses of humor combined with all the sciencey stuff. I had a great time hanging out in the hotel bar! It seems like you’re a dude I’d have fun hanging out with all the time. As a native Arkansan, I can totally relate to the whole Southern/country boy thing.


  5. January 20, 2009 12:27 am

    ocean shanting: as a sea and ocean lover I’ll learn for the next time all songs, i promise!:), don’t forget I am Southern girl too!

    will upload soon more photos on my flickr page & scienceonline09 flickr pool.

  6. Peter permalink
    January 20, 2009 12:44 pm

    Hi Andrew. Thanks for this nice post. Sounds like ScienceOnline 09 was a big success.

    I have a question. I’m curious why Southern Fired Scientist doesn’t talk about his research. This seems contradictory to the fact you’re “using [the blog] as a mechanism for career building”. Can you elaborate a little on what seems to be a paradox.

  7. January 20, 2009 6:22 pm

    Hi Peter,

    I guess what I meant to say was I’m not going to blog about the process of doing my research. The pitfalls and frustrations and failures (and successes) of day to day lab work. I don’t see it as a paradox as it goes along with not talking about my graduate program or complaining about things in my personal life. The product of my research, will, I’m sure, be a large component of this blog.

    And thank you again Abel, clearly your session on pseudo- and anonymity gave me a whole lot to chew on.

  8. January 25, 2009 1:54 pm

    Hey there! I had fun with you marine bloggers last weekend at the conference. I’m glad we met. I especially like how you describe the similarities and differences between you and your alter-ego SFS. I SO completely agree. DNLee of Urban Science Adventures is only just a slice of who I am. I freely share my passions for science, education, outdoor recreation, and all of that cool stuff, but I never talk about my downtimes, which happen to anyone regardless of career track.

    Also, I’m writing a post in support of Shark Fin Protest Day in San Francisco. I’ve listed several marine blogs (including yours).Please stop by and add any other ocean, conservation, marine blogs that I may have overlooked.

    Have a productive week.


  1. A Fish Eye View » Blog Archive » Blogging in the college classroom.
  2. Biochemicalsoul » Pseudonymous No More - The Big “Reveal”

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  • Authors

    The Southern Fried Scientist

    Andrew is a graduate student in North Carolina studying deep sea biology. When not in the lab, he spends his time out on the water, usually swearing at his boat while simultaneously sacrificing some important tool to Poseidon in a desperate attempt to make the motor start. That is, assuming he can get his truck running long enough to actually put the boat in the water. He enjoys long walks on the beach, by necessity. Follow him on Twitter @SFriedScientist.


    David is a graduate student in South Carolina studying shark conservation. He is the author of the upcoming book “Why Sharks Matter: Using New Environmentalism to Show The Economic And Ecological Importance of Sharks, The Threats They Face, and How You Can Help”. His time is divided between educating the public about sharks, spending days at a time at sea playing with sharks, and eating horribly unhealthy foods. Follow him on Twitter @WhySharksMatter.

    bluegrass blue crab

    Amy is a graduate student in North Carolina studying local ecological knowledge within the blue crab fishery. She spends half her life studying the most charismatic of organisms - humans - and the estuaries on which they depend. While not contemplating grand social theories, she enjoys a good jam session and watching sunsets over the estuary. Follow her on Twitter @bgrassbluecrab.

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