Monthly Archives: December 2018

What are my most read blog posts of 2018? A short review of the year

2018-12-06 16.17.24

On this last day of 2018 I thought I’d review twelve months of blogging by highlighting the 10 posts that I published this year which have received the most reads, and the perennial favourites from previous years.

The most viewed post of 2018 was Should we stop using the term “PhD students”? with 1,743 views.  That’s perhaps not surprising as there is a huge appetite for information related to early career researchers.

More surprising, but very satisfying, with 1,081 views The evolution of pollination systems in one of the largest plant families: a new study just published – download it for free was the second most viewed post published this year.  The fact that the paper it relates to has gestated, in concept and in execution, for over 20 years, has 75 authors from almost 20 countries, with a roughly 50:50 gender split, made this my personal favourite of the year.

The guest post by Karin Blak, my wife, on How can academics help students with anxiety issues?  generated a lot of comments on Twitter and Facebook, and comes in third with 729 views.  If you’ve not read any of Karin’s posts on her own blog, which relate to all types of relationships, intimacy, and so forth, they are highly recommended.

Fourth most viewed was Is there really a “battle for the soul of biodiversity” going on at IPBES? (456 views) which I updated just this week to reflect the latest correspondence in Nature.

Number five is XI International Symposium on Pollination, Berlin, April 16th -20th, 2018 (424 views).  I’m pleased that this helped to generate a lot of interest in the conference as I was asked by the organisers to present the keynote lecture, initially agreed, but then had to pull out as the timing in relation to our undergraduate Tenerife Field Course was problematical.  I heard from those who attended that the symposium was great and I’m sure that David Inouye did a much better job than I could have done at delivering the keynote!

The impact of building a new university campus on urban bird diversity and abundance: a seven-year study is sixth with 407 views.  Expect an update on this in 2019 as we complete the final round of winter and spring surveys.

Being ill is good for blogging as demonstrated by the 406 views of the seventh-ranked The good and the bad in biodiversity.  It was also a useful example to use in my first year biodiversity class.

The weird weather of March last year clearly interested people:  Can pollinators survive sudden changes in the weather? (362 views) was the eighth most viewed.

And of course pollinators are always popular: There ain’t no b(ee) in Starbucks (356 views) came ninth, whilst Hunting the Chequered Skipper: an encounter with England’s latest species reintroduction project (296 views) was tenth.

Those are the statistics for posts that I published in 2018.  But all of these are exceeded by a post first published in 2016: How to deal with bumblebees in your roof received 6,395 views this year, six times as many as it has had in the previous two years.  Not sure what has gone on here: are bumblebees nesting in roofs becoming more frequent?  Perhaps so – the main roof nester is the Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum) which has become ever-more common since its arrival in the British Isles in 2001.

The second most viewed post overall was also published a while ago, in 2015: How does a scientist’s h-index change over time? was viewed 4,081 times.  This no doubt reflects an increasing focus on such easily measurable (but rather flawed) metrics for evaluation (self- and external-) of an individual’s progress as a scientist.

Interestingly these are also the two most viewed posts of all time on my blog, though the order is different: How does a scientist’s h-index change over time? has had 12,355 views and How to deal with bumblebees in your roof has had 7,549.  I suspect that posing a question in the title of a blog post has some influence on viewing figures – most of my all-time viewed posts are phrased as questions and people searching for information often google a question.  I just pitched that idea to Karin and she half agreed but suggested that it’s also because people want answers.  So they come looking for an answer to the question that is posed in the title, whereas having a bald statement in the title does not inspire them to look any further.  Would be interesting to devise a test to differentiate between these two effects.

So that’s my blogging year in summary.  What were your favourite posts of 2018, either from my blog or from other’s?

Happy New Year everyone, I hope that 2019 brings you things that make you happy!

 

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Filed under Biodiversity

On the temporal dislocation that occurs in the period between Christmas and New Year

2018-12-12 16.57.27

Today is Thursday.

Keep that in mind

and try

to find

your place

in time.

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Filed under Poetry

Climate change at Christmas: did the hot, dry summer of 2018 cause the record-breaking prices of holly and mistletoe?

Over the past two festive seasons I have posted about the research we published assessing the auction prices of holly and mistletoe, two culturally important seasonal crops that are 100% pollinator dependent for berry production.  The first post was called Insect pollinators boost the market price of holly and mistletoe: a new study just published; the second was The holly, the mistletoe, and the pollinators: an update on an old story.

Follow those two links to get the full background to this research and a link to the original paper published in the Journal of Pollination Ecology.

I’ve collated the auction prices for the 2018 season and added them to the time series data set, and it’s clear that something very interesting has occurred.  Both berried holly and mistletoe have achieved record-breaking average prices, whilst auction prices for material without berries have hardly changed at all.  Here are the updated graphs; each data point is the average price per kilo paid at an auction:

Holly and mistletoe prices 2018

So what’s gone on this year?  What could have affected the auction prices?  One interesting possibility is that the long, dry summer of 2018, a likely consequence of climate change, has negatively affected berry production in these two species.  This could come about if the holly or the mistletoe host trees are water stressed and shed part of their berry crops.  It’s unlikely to be a consequence of too few pollinators as these species flower too early in the year to have been affected by the dry weather.   We have more work planned in the future using these data and this will be an interesting question to address.

Yesterday I popped out to do some Christmas shopping and tried to buy mistletoe at a local garden centre.  That’s the second time I’ve tried this year (the first was at a nearby green grocer’s) and the second time that I’ve been told that they have none because it’s very expensive this year and not worth stocking.  That seems predictable from the wholesale auction results I’ve just described.  Has anyone else in the UK had similar experiences this year?

The British holly and mistletoe market is relatively small and clearly seasonal, and probably not worth more than a few millions of pounds each year.  However it seems to be very sensitive to external factors and may be a microcosm for how some crops, at least, might respond to future extreme weather brought about by climate change.  Brexit might also have an effect in the coming years as we import a large amount of mistletoe from northern France.  But then Brexit is going to have an effect on large areas of British society…..

On that sour note, Happy Christmas to all of my readers, however you voted in the referendum.  I hope you have a restful holiday, spending it as you wish, with the people you want to!  And if you, or someone you know, are spending the festive season on your own this year, take a look at Karin’s latest blog post:  Preparing a Christmas Just For You.

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Filed under Biodiversity, Biodiversity and culture, Climate change, Ecosystem services, Journal of Pollination Ecology, Pollination