How useful is twitter for academics, really?

Good post on how Twitter isn’t that effective in increasing readership of a journal article, though I think if a tweet does go viral, the conversion rate is bound to be lower than if 50 people actively engage with it. I would read at least the abstract of about %75 of the posts I retweet – otherwise, why bother retweeting it? To show an interest in the issue, that I can’t be bothered to read more about?
I think the author of the original tweet and journal paper is also important – if it’s an author you have previously read and liked (or an organisation that you actively support), surely it’s more likely to encourage the click-through than just, well, a ‘clickbait’ title?
Yep, maybe I’m deluded on that, which is why Buzzfeed and the like are so popular these days (21 Reasons Why Prawns Are Delicious) and true academic publication (The stochastic and comprehensively bland approach to garbage disposal literature) is not.

Neuroconscience

Recently I was intrigued by a post on twitter conversion rates (e.g. the likelihood that a view on your tweet results in a click on the link) by journalist Derek Thompson at the Atlantic. Derek writes that although using twitter gives him great joy, he’s not sure it results in the kinds of readership his employers would feel merits the time spent on the service. Derek found that even his most viral tweets only resulted in a conversion rate of about 3% – on par with the click-through rate of east asian display ads (i.e. quite poorly in the media world). Using the recently released twitter metrics, Derek found an average conversion of around 1.5% with the best posts hitting the 3% ceiling. Ultimately he concludes that twitter seems to be great at generating buzz within the twitter-sphere but performs poorly at translating that buzz into external influence.

This struck my curiosity…

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Sunshine Coast Summers

Girl and the Deep Blue Sea

Hello summer! Even though we have had some fab hot days for a few weeks now, it is officially the first day of summer, my favourite time of the year! Long days means lots of beach time and hopefully capturing some ocean magic. These photos were taken over last summer on the amazing Sunshine Coast.

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COP21 – the world weighs in

UN Climate Talks Live

The Paris terrorist attacks weighed pretty heavily on the attendees of COP21 and tightened security around the venues, resulting in protest marches being banned and the unusual sight of shoes in place of marchers.Climate Change Protesters Take to the Streets  Despite Canceled Paris March   New Republic

Conservationists, as expected, took to social media to get in on the conversations denied after being shut out of the French capital and the UN Climate Talks Live Feed gives a great rundown of the discussions from various levels from negotiators to participants and media around the event.

Check out the Civil Society Representatives feed for one – doesn’t include some of the expected organisations and it’s a concern to see climate change skeptic Bjorn Lomberg and downright tool in the top three posters today (Monday 30 November).

aaaUN Climate Talks Live

Playing around with communication

Different forms of science communication interest me – some companies I have worked for think it starts and ends with written work. But Sarah is right here – especially when catering to the younger generation (i.e. younger than my age of 39), conveying messages with long-form video, GIFs, Vines and tweets can be much more effective than 300 words in a barely-read article.

Science for Life. 365

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Sarah: Most of the time, I write about science.

But I also like to dabble in other bits and pieces as well.

For example, recently I’ve written about fashion, long distance running and twitcher tourism.

From a broader perspective, I’ve also been playing around with making micro-movies using Vine and Vinyet.

In the kitchen I’ve shown the process of putting together an omelette, making moustache biscuits and constructing an easy ice-cream cake.

At the South Australian Museum I’ve recorded a giant squid and compiled skeletons. At the Adelaide Zoo, I captured a panda…ACTUALLY MOVING.

With just a few minutes planning, you can easily use these tools to share your experiences and even tell stories. Each time I capture footage, I perform a very quick analysis of the following points:

  • Visual appeal: what’s going to make this look good?
  • Structure: what’s the beginning, middle and end…

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Seaford, Port Phillip Bay: best bay beach in Melbourne?

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It took a while to adapt to suburban life, shifting up to the metropolis of 4 million people that is Melbourne one year ago from a southwestern country town of 35,000. The beaches lacked waves, dolphins were scarce and supermarket trips took an hour less than normal, considering it was now rare to constantly run into people you knew at the shops.

But the place has grown on me (again) and we’re pretty happy to have bought a house only eight minutes from one of Melbourne’ best bay beaches (as opposed to the Mornington Peninsula surf beaches). Seaford is claimed by locals at least as its best beach, generally clean and relatively uncrowded, without flocks of jet skiers ruining the ambience of a summer afternoon. An unseasonal dry and warm spell in October meant several flat and clear days when people are usually still stoking the fire and waiting for the late spring warmth to hit.

Lizard Island provokes paradise envy with its #FeatureScientists posts

Living in the cooler climes of south-eastern Australia, I’m often envious of the crew working at the Lizard Island Reef Research Station and other Great Barrier Reef islands.

While there are some pretty amazing (but less colourful) reef and seafloor communities not far from my home on Port Phillip Bay, I still have to make do with reports on tropical research for  my daily warm-water, coral reef region fix. This one below focused on the humble cleaner wrasse and its affect on algae growth – loss of these fish can also lead to increased coral bleaching.

Our first feature scientist was Eva McClure, part of Dr. Lexa Grutter‘s lab team. Dr. Grutter, of the University of Queensland, investigates how the cleaner wrasse, Labroides dimidiatus, influence the ecology of coral reef communities. For the past 15 years, she has run a study on Lizard Island, which sees these fish removed from isolated ‘patch reefs’, and then observes the affect their removal has on the reefs.

Eva has been working for Lexa for the past 3 years. She is currently on Lizard Island wrapping up a 2-year component of Dr. Grutter’s larger, long-term study. In this project, terracotta pavers were placed on the reefs in July 2013, to investigate how the absence of cleaner wrasse may indirectly influence the benthic community (organisms living in the benthic zone are those living at the lowest level of a body of water).

Lexa’s team have found that reefs without cleaner wrasse attract less herbivorous fish than reefs that offer cleaning services (those that have cleaner wrasse present). Reefs without cleaners may therefore have more algae compared to reefs with cleaners, as there are less large herbivorous fish grazing on the benthic community. By placing out algae-coral settlement pavers and periodically measuring the abundance and height of the algae, Eva (as part of Dr. Grutter’s team), hope to make a definitive determination as to whether cleaner wrasse population affects algae levels.

To wrap this project up, a final underwater measurement and photograph is taken (photos 1 and 2), before collecting all 200 pavers, checking them for coral recruits (3) and scraping them of turf algae, calcerous algae, coral recruits and other encrusting organisms. The product is then dried, weighed and taken back to the University of Queensland for analysis.

In Eva’s own words: “It’s exciting and quite satisfying finishing up a 2 year long project like this one, especially when it involves working in a beautiful place like Lizard Island!”

Seabirds are eating plastic litter in our oceans – but not only where you’d expect

Microplastic consumption by creatures above and below the water is my real concern. My uni colleagues and I produced a video on microplastics for a third year class and it brought home the ongoing problems when zooplankton are consuming microbeads and passing them up the food chain. If a blue whale eats up to 40 million krill per day, what percentage will contain plastics and what is the bioaccumulation in that top predator? Scary stuff
https://www.youtube.com/embed/DiViXAbSdm0?version=3&rel=1&fs=1&autohide=2&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&wmode=transparent

News @ CSIRO

albatross marine debris

Chris Wilcox, CSIRO; Britta Denise Hardesty, CSIRO, and Erik van Sebille, Imperial College London

Many of you may have already seen the photograph above, of an albatross carcass full of undigested plastic junk. But how representative is that of the wider issue facing seabirds?

To help answer that question, we carried out the first worldwide analysis of the threat posed by plastic pollution to seabird species.

Our study, published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that nearly 60% of all seabird species studied so far have had plastic in their gut. This figure is based on reviewing previous reports in the scientific literature, but if we use a statistical model to infer what would be found at the current time and include unstudied species, we expect that more than 90% of seabirds have eaten plastic rubbish.

Rising tide of plastic

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Filling the Gaps of Australia’s Commonwealth Marine Reserve System

There’s more confrontations expected between recreational/commercial fishers, government MPA planners and conservationists over the issue of marine parks. A lot of the spearfishing sites and Facebook groups I follow have regular posts on the ‘unnecessary’ expansion of marine parks, citing either anecdotal evidence (i.e. author’s opinion) or at best, out-of-context quotes from academic papers. I’m proudly a keen spearfisher too but have no time for people in the sport who decry marine parks while displaying constant photos of their undersized or over the limit kills.
There needs to be more clear, science-based communication from the government on why marine parks are needed, how fishers, conservation groups and regular folk all benefit and also, where any marine parks have been placed in the wrong areas and need to be reassessed. Because the latter has and will continue to happen, and pretending it doesn’t only serves to strengthen the case of anti-marine park activists

Jennifer McGowan's Research

Australia’s Commonwealth Marine Reserve System is currently under review. I wrote a submission with Prof. Possingham on behalf of the Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions tackling the issue of representation in the current reserve network.

Key findings of our analysis:

  • Less than 3% of shelf habitats are protected in the strictest IUCN MPA Categories ( Ia and II)
  • Twenty-two percent of bioregions have less than 10% protection in any form of MPA category- (the most liberal conservation scheme we could analyse)
  • While there is no scope to augment the existing reserve boundaries, there is potential to better protect the diverse range of habitats found within the broader network and ensure that every bioregion benefits from at least one strict MPA class

You can view the full submission here.

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Weekend Wanderings: Photos Along the Bay

Chitons

Some days, when I’m sitting at my work desk trying to understand another journal paper on water sensitivity (no it’s not a medical condition), I think back to the simple times way back in 2013 in my marine science classes when we discussed chitons, radulas and which phylum these amazing creatures fit into – have a guess without looking it up!

Dalton Koss HQ

Visitors to coastal shores often come across unusual looking animals hidden in rock crevices. Here at Dalton Koss HQ we strive to help make sense of these unusual sea creatures by sharing our marine knowledge.

Chitons are one of these more unusual finds that many coastal visitors find on the rocky shoreline. With the Ch pronounced as a k sound, chitons have a fossilised appearance due to their numerous armoured plates. In fact, some people call Chitons the armadillos of the ocean as they are able to curl up into a ball using their armoured plates as protection.

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The armoured plates grow from the head to the foot of their body providing protection and camouflage from predators, hence why this animal is also commonly known as the coat-of-mail. The actual animal grows and lives under these armoured plates and its body is not segmented like its armour.

Here are…

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