The Yoder Lab opens in fall 2017

I’m very excited to announce that I’ve accepted a faculty position with the Department of Biology at California State University Northridge, starting this coming fall.

CSUN is about as close as possible to the ideal place to do the kind of science and scholarship I want to do — a large, diverse public university with strong support for teaching and research, and great colleagues studying ecology, evolution, and every aspect of the living world. Campus is located within half an hour’s drive (well, maybe an hour with traffic) from sites where I studied Joshua trees as a graduate student, and it has good facilities and an excellent climate for growing my favorite legume, too. (I’d be remiss if I failed to mention, as well, that CSUN should be familiar to fellow fans of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” as the alma mater of one Joshua Felix Chan.)

To extend a metaphor I used in an essay about being a postdoc last year, I feel like I’ve finally been called up to the big leagues. I’ve already submitted my first pre-proposal for NSF research funding with CSUN affiliation, with collaborators from the Joshua Tree Genome Project, and I’m making plans to hit the ground running with that project and others when I officially arrive on campus later this summer.

I also have a lab website and Twitter feed set up, and I’m looking for graduate students to start in the fall. The deadline to apply to the CSUN Biology Master’s program is coming up fast — interested students can find out the details here and drop me a line.

We’re in challenging times for teaching science and doing basic research, but I firmly beleive that the challenges scientists and educators now face make our work all the more important. There’s a lot of exciting science to be done, and I can’t wait to start.

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In 2016, keeping an eye on the numbers

(Flickr: An&)

(Flickr: An&)

Whether or not it makes any sense, the start of a new year is traditionally when we come up with lists of things we wish we did more, or less, or at all. At least it’s a chance to place a psychological flag in the sands of time and say, now is when I start keeping track of whether or not I do this thing. Reading other folks’ academic resolutions for 2016, I’ve seen some things I’d like to work on for my own sanity and scholarly productivity, and there’s a meta-resolution that ties them all together: counting.

I’ve long had a skeptical relationship to resolutions about achieving specific numbers of things — losing pounds, reading papers, writing pages. It seems like a lot of cognitive load for payback that is nebulous, at best. But as I look back on years past, I have to admit that what I count is what I get done.

I’ve run eight marathons in the last seven years, and most of my actual training has been simply aiming to run at least 30 miles a week. Over last year that added up to 1,882 miles — I’ve run upwards of 1,500 miles every year since 2010. I don’t fret about pacing or getting in just the right mood or the specific route I take — I just make sure I get to 30 every week. When I got my first activity-tracking wristband (I currently have a Fitbit) and started logging calories, I actually did find myself making small, sensible changes — walking more, eating more vegetables — to keep my daily numbers above 10,000 steps and below an activity-adjusted calorie count. Tracking my reading on GoodReads hasn’t gotten me to a goal of 20 books in a year yet, but it’s definitely gotten me doing more pleasure reading than I was before I kept count. And on the career front, I started out the 2015-2016 hiring season by building a spreadsheet to track my applications for faculty jobs—and I will, in fact, manage to get to 60 submissions. (Which have led to a non-zero number of interviews, about which I will say nothing further in any public venue lest I jinx something.)

In conclusion, counting a thing is a good way to help (me, at least) get more of that thing done. So, in 2016, I might as well count some other things that I would like to do more. Two things that have fallen by the wayside while I’ve moved across the continent and done all that job-applying are keeping up with the scientific literature (apart from what I read in the course of grant- and paper-writing) and writing rapidly and often. So I’m signing on for 365papers and 50posts. And here’s hoping for a non-stop new year.

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Post number one thousand

Milestones Big, round numbers. Photo by Anita363.

The Blogger odometer informs me that this very post is the one thousandth bit of vexed ranting, baseless speculation, slobbering syncophancy, and/or scurrilous gossip to appear at this fine “web-log.” In fact it’s been more than six and a half years since I first posted at what was then denimandtweed.blogspot.com. Which, wow. Here’s a hastily assembled list of significant milestones over the years:

  • My first formal post about a science paper (which was also a Science paper): January 2008.
  • My note on the inauguration of President Barack Obama: January 2009.
  • The post that ultimately won me a trip to my very first Science Online conference: July 2009.
  • The post in which I came out online: October 2009.
  • My very first weekly roundup of online science news: December 2009.
  • The post about geneticist J.B.S. Haldane’s involvement in a science-fictional Soviet propaganda film, which was chosen for Open Lab 2011: October 2010.
  • The post noting that I passed my dissertation defense: April 2011.
  • The post assembling my live-tweeting of my fourth marathon: June 2012.

It’s been a good ride. Thanks for reading, everyone!◼

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State of the blog, 2011

The quantified blog. Photo by hyperboreal.

Happy New Year! Time for some quantitative navel-gazing, which now counts as a Denim and Tweed New Year’s tradition, since I’ve done it twice before. Tomorrow, I’ll take a look at the responses to my first-ever reader survey, but right now, I’m just going to go through the metrics I’ve used before.

In 2011, I wrote 198 posts for this site. According to Google Analytics, these attracted 73,899 page-views by 24,025 unique visitors. That’s an average of 373 page-views per post, and an increase in traffic of 161% over 2010, when I had 28,308 page-views. For some perspective, it’s about two orders of magnitude less than John Scalzi’s visitation rate. But not too bad, if I do say so myself.

More detail after the jump.

Weekly visitors to Denim and Tweed, for 2011 (blue line) and 2010 (green). Image by Google Analytics.

Most of that increase in traffic is attributable to a link from PZ Myers to my post taking down Jesse Bering’s ridiculous declaration that gay-bashing is adaptive. That’s the spike in the graph above. “An adaptive fairytale with no happy ending” was, accordingly, the most-visited post of the year, clocking in 4,222 page-views since publication. The next-most popular post of 2011 was a follow-up in the ensuing back-and-forth over certain evolutionary psychologists’ failure to understand basic evolutionary biology, with 3,441 page-views.

The other top posts of 2011 are less controversy-driven: my review and discussion of Joan Roughgarden’s Evolution’s Rainbow (1,188 page-views); a post on partially carnivorous plants (966 page-views, in part thanks to a nice nod from Ed Yong); and then last year’s post about whether or not female orgasm is an adaptation (836 page-views).

In fact, once you get below the top 5 posts, pieces from previous years show up pretty frequently. I guess this means D&T is increasing its visibility in Google searches? The top search phrases leading folks to the site (apart from some form of my name or the site’s name) were “herbivore,” “ant dispersal,” “mutualism,” “female orgasm,” and “what makes a species.” I’m kinda proud of that last one.

Post topics are a bit more difficult to total up. However, by my count in the Blogger post management dashboard, I published 150 posts tagged “science” in 2011. That’s compared to 21 posts tagged “politics” and 24 tagged “queer.” (Note these are not mutually exclusive categories!) Of the science posts, 47 are tagged “evolution,” 5 are tagged “ecology,” and 37 were submitted to Research Blogging, meaning they were “formal” discussions of peer-reviewed papers. An even 50 of the science posts are the weekly linkfests.

I made some pretty major career transitions this year, too: I finished my Ph.D. and started a postdoc. I’m enjoying life as a “professional” biologist, but it’s decidedly less compatible with regular blogging than grad school was. Nevertheless, I expect to keep posting at Denim and Tweed, and hopefully to continue development of the new collaborative site Nothing in Biology Makes Sense!—writing and discussion in both venues continue to be useful to my thinking about my scientific work, and (hopefully) valuable as public education, too. ◼

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State of the blog, 2010

Happy New Year, everyone! The year 2010 was another good one for this little corner of cyberspace. As I did last year, I’m going to spend a post quantifying how good the year was.

Weekly visitors to D&T in 2010 (blue line) compared to the same date span in 2009 (green line), as tabulated by Google Analytics.

In 2010, I wrote 184 posts, just over 15 per month. These drew 28,308 pageviews by 18,994 visitors—that’s almost 154 pageviews and just over 103 visitors per post, on average. That’s also more than 1,580 visitors a month, and over 35 percent more than in 2009. This is all given that I actually did a little less posting than in 2009, when I wrote 229 posts.

More navel-gazing after the jump!

The top three Google search phrases (excluding my name and “Denim and Tweed”) bringing visitors to the site in 2010 were “eastern and western yucca trees,” “cuckholding,” and “what makes a species.” Further down the list are “eating tits” and “clitoris,” which I can only imagine result in disappointed searchers.

You were popular, J.B.S., but not as popular as orgasms.

The three most popular posts of 2010 were mostly in the last couple of months of the year. In no particular order, they were about being a gay biologist (which received 368 pageviews in its first two weeks online), J.B.S. Haldane’s ties to the Communist Party (283 pageviews), and the adaptive function (or lack thereof) of female orgasm (599 pageviews). If there’s a common thread uniting those three, I don’t know what it is. The first is among the most personal things I’ve posted here, the second is easily the most ambitious piece I’ve written for D&T, and the third I frankly tossed together as a quick and fun Carnal Carnival contribution. They all benefited from strong interest on Twitter, though, and I’m mighty grateful for the folks who passed on links, especially power-Tweeters Bora Zivkovic and Steve Silberman.

Although D&T is still a side project, I’d like to think I’ve made it a bit more professional and integrated it into my scientific career more solidly this year. I sprang for a unique domain in February, instituted weekly linkfest posts, and—apart from a hiatus for fieldwork and another for being a grad student—kept pretty close to a once-a-week rhythm for science posts. I’ve now cited this blog as a “broader impact” in a couple of grant applications, and link to it directly from the publications list on my professional site. So I guess it’s officially something I do as a scientist.

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