Saturday, June 30, 2012

New conference event: natural history walk July 6

We are sponsoring the upcoming Evolution Ottawa conference of ecologists and evolutionary biologists.  There are a few events happening for attendees and their families & friends just before and just after the conference (see list at  We just added another: a family-friendly natural history walk Fri July 6 9-11:00 AM at the Brittania Conservation Area.  Details are pasted below, including the Google Maps link that provides a map and detailed information (I'm proud of having figured out how to create a custom map so please click on it as a courtesy to me).  Dan Brunton is leading the walk, and if you know Dan then you know he'll do a great job - he knows natural history very well, he is involved in local conservation issues, and he's an effective, enthusiastic communicator.  No need to sign up - just show up!

Natural history walk: Brittania Conservation Area, Ottawa
Date: Friday July 6
Time: 9:00-11:00 AM
Explore the natural history of an impressive urban natural area, right by the shore of a globally significant waterway (Ottawa River), just 15 km west of the conference centre. See wildlife (lots of herps and birds), species at risk, relict vegetation communities, wildlife corridors, rare habitats, native vs invasive vegetation conflicts, and recreation and ecological protection issues. The trail from the northwest corner of Mud Lake to southwest is about one km - from there you can continue around the lake or return the way you came. The trail is flat, easy to walk, with lots of photo-friendly areas. For visitors who are wondering, you don’t need any bear spray. Walk led by Daniel Brunton, a local naturalist, ecological consultant (Brunton Consulting), and Chair of the Publications Committee of the Ottawa Field-Naturalists' Club ( publishing The Canadian Field-Naturalist (, sponsor of the 1st Joint Congress on Evolutionary Biology. To join the walk, show up at 9:00 AM (sharp!) at the northwest corner of the Mud Lake trail. Map and description of this walk is at:

Thursday, June 28, 2012

We have a conference booth! With free stuff!


WE'VE GOT FREE promotional literature STUFF!
WE'VE GOT T-SHIRTS on our bodies AND FOOD for Carolyn and me AND LOTS OF BEER in our fridges at home.

Sigh (I didn't actually sigh, but I typed it).  I see the big-shot journals published by the mega-publishers are going to be giving away enticing stuff at their conference booths.  I'm pretty proud of the promotional literature I designed, but it can't compete with free t-shirts.  I suppose someone could tape a bunch of our CFN postcards together and wear them like a t-shirt, but I doubt that would be comfortable.

What is this conference, and what are we doing there?
It's a joint conference between several ecological and evolutionary societies, meeting here in Ottawa July 6-10.  The societies are:
Our journal has not done much promotional work in the past.  That is going to change.  We need to recruit more authors, readers, and subscribers for CFN.  In particular, we need to make biologists aware of the big changes that are going on with CFN.  Having a journal website, faster manuscript turnaround times, and increased media exposure of CFN articles should all appeal to academic biologists.  Also, our constructive editorial process is unlike those employed by many other journals who simply send accept/reject letters with reviewers' comments attached; our editors work with authors to get their manuscripts in publishable shape if the research is solid.  This constructive approach is especially helpful for students and other novice authors as they learn and gain confidence in the publication process.  Most biologists have heard of CFN, but we want them to make the connections between their work and publication opportunities in our journal.  I just hope biologists care about publication opportunities more than free t-shirts.

How can we compete with the mega-publishers?  They burn money like firewood (even pennies - don't they know pennies are valuable now?).  We, on the other hand, are non-profit, and keep our subscription fees low so even small conservation and wildlife groups can afford to subscribe.  But we do have passion and powerful* friends.
* may or may not be powerful

My good friend Dan Conroy is a graphic designer and designed an awesome banner for us.  He also edited our owl logo so it is more crisp, with a transparent background.  You will not notice a difference, but you would have noticed it in a bad way if he had not done his graphic Jedi work (these are not the pixels you're looking for...).

I designed some promotional postcard-sized materials telling biologists why they should consider publishing with CFN.  Crude jpg images of the postcards are below (they look better on paper).  All of our materials are published on FSC-certified (i.e., enviro-friendly) paper, with eco-solvent ink for our banner.  And I made a banner for the conference's mobile phone app.  And I figured out how to add those weird barcode thingies (QR codes) so people with magic phones can scan them on our literature and go to our website.  This owl is tech-savvy.

Our new Editor-in-Chief Dr. Carolyn Callaghan and I will be at the booth for the conference.  I'll also be giving a talk at Monday July 9 at 9:00am on the consistency (and lack thereof sometimes) of butterfly trait information across field guides and atlases.  Carolyn is fantastic (come meet her!) and we're both looking forward to meeting fellow biologists and learning about some exciting new research.  Just bring your own t-shirt.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What have I learned after one month of Twitter?

#notmuch (#justkidding) (#incaseyourewonderingthesearetwitterinsidejokesandmyspacebarisnotbroken)

I started up a Twitter account (@CanFieldNat) about a month ago with the goal of increasing readership and awareness of our journal.  I'm doing this by:
1. Announcing newly published articles
2. Creating and retweeting other information related to natural history with the goal of gaining followers and providing them with information they appreciate

I was skeptical of Twitter's usefulness.  So what do I think after one month?
I think that Twitter is useful ... to a point.  Twitter is actually useful for alerting new readers to CFN articles.  There are a number of hits to CFN's website through Twitter domains, indicating our tweets are indeed driving visitors to our articles.  That's good.  But Twitter can suck your time if you're not careful.  I'm skimming other people's tweets, but not diligently reading them all.

My friend Alex MacDonald (@NatureCanadaPAs) alerted me to a report, summarized here, describing effective methods of tweeting for organizations.  Interesting stuff.  For example, there is an optimal number of hashtags to include; too few and people don't find your tweets, too many and your tweets look messy and people dismiss them.  So I'll try a few of the report's suggestions in the future.  Except its suggestion of tweeting more on the weekends.  That's my time to go kayaking with my son.  I'd be a pretty bad naturalist (and father) if I gave that up for tweeting!  #FatherhoodFail