Thursday, August 23, 2012

Twitter: useful and getting usefuler

A few weeks ago I posted that our new Twitter account was proving mildly useful.  More time has passed, allowing a more thorough investigation.  I'm a scientist - I trust data.

The following data were obtained from Google Analytics Aug 23, measuring traffic to the CFN website over the past month.  We usually get around 50-60 visits per weekday (it drops by half on weekends).  If you have a website and haven't used Google Analytics, I suggest you do so; it's free, easy to use, and gives lots of info.

Of the 472 visits in the past month that came from referrals (i.e., a link from a non-CFN webpage to the CFN site), 55% were from the Ottawa Field-Naturalists' Club website (the publisher of CFN).  10% were from this blog.  And 11%, representing 53 visits, were from Twitter's domain (the remaining 24% were from a scattering of smaller sources).  These Twitter visitors stayed on the CFN site longer (over 6 min on average) and visited more CFN pages (11 on average) than non-Twitter visitors.

I am especially impressed with these numbers because our Twitter account is still new, with the number of followers growing daily (we just grew to 142 a couple of hours ago - thanks @wrnaturalist!).  Getting so many visitors is great, but seeing how deep they explore our site, reading articles and searching for species with our search tool, is what makes me really happy.  Twitter visitors are our journal's best visitors.

Why are Twitter visitors so great?  Because they are our target market.  These people have chosen to follow us, or else they've found out about us via retweets from accounts they do follow.  Our tweets go to people who want to read them.  This precision contrasts with advertising, which spews a message out to a large number of people who mostly don't care about it.  Twitter is free, efficient, and beneficial.  For a journal like ours that has more passion than money (we're non-profit, and keep subscription fees low so people and small conservation groups can subscribe), Twitter is a very useful engine*.

How did we build a large effective following so quickly?  I'll blog about that soon.  But our overall approach is to be consistent with the CFN brand: nature-loving, and less boring than the mega-publishers.  We're not just spitting out press release style announcements of new CFN papers; we provide added value to our followers by being a fun and useful go-to resource for Canadian natural history information.  And we help our followers when we can.  Mega-publishers can buy attention; we're earning ours, with the help of Twitter.  That helps our authors, our readers, ourselves, and hopefully nature in general.

* Yes this is a reference to Thomas the Tank Engine.  My son is brainwashing me.  Serves me right for brainwashing him to be a Leafs fan.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

New issue published: vol 125 issue 4

We just published the latest issue of The Canadian Field-Naturalist.  Vol 125 issue 4 is the final issue of our 2011 volume, and we're getting set to publish our first issue of our 2012 volume shortly.  It feels great to be catching up our publication lag; big thanks to former and current Editors-in-Chief Francis Cook and Carolyn Callaghan, respectively, for their work catching us up.  The issue just published has lots of great research, book reviews, and a couple of tributes.  Owls, bees, invasive plants, wolves, and a note and cover photo featuring the eeriest salamanders you've ever seen.

The Canadian Field-Naturalist
Vol 125, No 4 (2011)
Table of Contents

Bees and Butterflies in Burned and Unburned Alvar Woodland: Evidence for theImportance of Postfire Succession to Insect Pollinator Diversity in anImperiled Ecosystem (297-306)        Alana N. Taylor,        Paul M. Catling

Some Observations of Short-eared Owl,  Asio flammeus , Ecology on ArcticTundra, Yukon, Canada (307-315)        Donald G. Reid, Frank I. Doyle, Alice J. Kenney,        Charles J. Krebs

Effects of Post-Fire Salvage Logging on Cavity-Nesting Birds and SmallMammals in Southeastern Montana (316-326)        William J. Kronland,    Marco Restani

Saxicolous Bryophytes of an Ordovician Dolomite Escarpment in InterlakeManitoba, with New Species Records for the Province (327-337)        Richard T. Caners

Rarity Status Assessments of Bugseeds (Amaranthaceae:  Corispermum ) inManitoba (338-352)        Diana Bizecki Robson

Gray Wolf ( Canis lupus ) Movements and Behavior Around a Kill Site andImplications for GPS Collar Studies (353-356)        L. David Mech

Butterflies Recorded on Flattop Mountain, Anchorage, Alaska (357-358)        Lance A. Durden

A Second Amelanistic Eastern Red-backed Salamander,  Plethodon cinereus ,from Nova Scotia, Canada (359-362)        Ronald W. Russell,      Wilfried Beslin,        Maia Hudak,     Ayokunle Ogunbiyi,      AveryWithrow,        John Gilhen

Communal Oviposition in the Northern Two-lined Salamander ( Euryceabislineata ) in Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario (363-365)        David L. LeGros

Fetid Dogweed ( Dyssodia papposa ; Asteraceae) and Slender Russian Thistle (Salsola collina ; Amaranthaceae), New to Alberta, Canada (366-369)        Michael J. Oldham,      Joyce Gould,    Jane M. Bowles

Tributes and Obituaries
Robert (Bob) Ronald Campbell (1943–2011): Biologist, Conservationist,
Pastor (370-372)
        Claude B. Renaud

A Tribute to Joseph Schieser Nelson, 1937–2011 (373-380)
        Alison M. Murray,       Michael G. Sullivan,    John Acorn

Book Reviews
"Handbook of Birds of the World. Volume 16: Tanagers to New World
Blackbirds" edited by Josep del Hoyo et al. [book review] (381-382)
        Roy John

"National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America – Sixth
Edition" by Jon L. Dunn and Jonathan Alderfer. 2011. [book review] (382)
        Roy John

"Carnivores of the World" by Luke Hunter. 2011. [book review] (382-383)
        Roy John

"Insect Ecology: Behavior, Populations and Communities" by Peter W. Price et
al. 2011. [book review] (383)
        Joel F. Gibson

"Petrels, Albatrosses and Storm Petrels of North America" by Steve N. G.
Howell. 2012. [book review] (384)
        Roy John

"Venomous Reptiles of the United States, Canada, and Northern Mexico. Volume
2:  Crotalus " by Carl H. Ernst and Evelyn M. Ernst. 2012. [book review]
        David Seburn

"Cactus Plant Resources and Utilization" edited by Tian Guohang and Zhao
Tianbang. 2011. [book review] (385-386)
        Li Dezhi,       Qin Aili

"Walnut Germplasm Resources in China" edited by Pei Dong and Lu Xinzheng.
2011. [book review] (386-387)
        Li Dezhi,       Qin Aili

"Interactions and Coevolution of Life and Earth Environment" edited by Xie
Shucheng et al. 2011. [book review] (388-389)
        Li Dezhi,       Qin Aili

"Techniques for Restoration and Reconstruction of Mangrove Forests in China"
by Liao et al. 2011. [book review] (389-390)
        Li Dezhi,       Qin Aili

"!Priority! The Dating of Scientific Names in Ornithology: A Directory to
the Literature and its Reviewers" compiled and edited by Edward C. Dickinson
et al. 2011. [book review] (390-391)
        C. Stuart Houston

"A Zoologist on Baffin Island – 1953" by Adam Watson. 2011. [book review]
        Ian McLaren

New titles (392-394)
        Roy John

News and Comment
Alliance of Natural History Museums of Canada Awards 2011; The Canadian
Herpetologist Fall 2011; Naming Rights to Two Newly Discovered Lichens
Auctioned Off as Fundraisers for Two B.C. Environmental Groups; Phillip
Merrill Youngman: 1927-2011 (395-396)

Index to Volume 125 (397-413)

 Club Reports
Instructions for authors (414-416)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Upcoming biological conferences (locations, websites, & twitter streams)

Conferences are awesome.  Whether you're looking for conferences to attend, follow on Twitter, or just curious of what's out there, here are some relevant to North American natural history happening in the remainder of 2012 (and Jan 2013), sorted chronologically.  If you have additional suggestions note them in the comments - I'll be updating the list as I learn of more conferences.

For tips on how to tweet from conferences, and ways to organize a conference to maximize tweeting, see these tips from @WhySharksMatter.
  1. World Congress of Herpetology
    Aug 8-14 2012
    Vancouver, BC
    Twitter: #wch2012
  2. North American Ornithological Conference
    Aug 14-18 2012
    Vancouver, BC
    Twitter: #NAOC2012
  3. Acadian Entomological Society
    Aug 15-17 2012
    Fredericton, NB
  4. American Fisheries Society
    Aug 19-23 2012
    Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN
    Twitter: #AFS2012
  5. Terrestrial Invasive Plant Species Conference
    Aug 20-22 2012
    Sault Ste Marie, ON
  6. International Paleolimnology Symposium
    Aug 21-24 2012
    Glasgow, Scotland
    Twitter: #IPS12
  7. Canadian Paleontology Conference
    Sept 21-23 2012
    Toronto, ON
  8. Entomological Society of Ontario
    Sept 28-30 2012
    Ottawa, ON
    Twitter: #ESO2012
  9. EcoSummit
    Sept 30 - Oct 5 2012
    Columbus, OH
    Twitter: #EcoSummit2012
  10. North American Field Herping Association
    Oct 5-7 2012
    Grand Tower, IL
  11. Entomological Society of British Columbia
    Oct 11-12 2012
    Summerland, BC
  12. Entomological Society of Manitoba
    Oct 12-13 2012
    Winnipeg, MB
  13. Wildlife Society Annual Conference
    Oct 13-18 2012
    Portland, OR
    Twitter: #tws2012
  14. Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
    Oct 17-20 2012
    Raleigh, NC
    Twitter: #2012SVP
  15. Entomological Societies of Canada and Alberta
    Nov 4-7 2012
    Edmonton, AB
    Twitter: #ESC2012
  16. American Cetacean Society
    Nov 9-11 2012
    San Diego, CA
    Twitter: #ACS2012
  17. Entomological Society of America
    Nov 11-14 2012
    Knoxville, TN
    Twitter: #entomology2012
  18. Pressing Questions in Paleoecology
    Dec 13-14 2012
    Oxford, UK
    Twitter: #paleo50
  19. Canadian Conference for Fisheries Research
    Jan 3-5 2013
    Windsor, ON

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Conference tweeting is like speed dating (but less awkward and more texty)

Why would anyone want to read tweets from an academic conference they're not attending?  This was my first impression of the lunacy of people tweeting from conferences.  Why would anyone compose those tweets*?  Who would read them?  And how can you get a 14 min talk into 140 characters (10 chars per minute of science)?

Then I tried it.  And I kinda liked it.  Reading the tweets from a conference you cannot attend is like reading its Coles Notes summary.  You find out some interesting research, and "meet" some tweeters you might want to follow.  And if you're a journal (hypothetically of course) you might even hear about some good research that could fit with your journal and warrant an e-mail to the author to find out more.

Conferences are where researchers present early research findings, seldom fully analyzed never mind published.  This is the raw stuff of science.  Conference talks are kind of like NHL prospects; they're exciting because they're raw and full of potential (with published papers being veteran NHLers in this perhaps-far-reaching simile that makes perfect sense to me as I write it at 11:30pm).  In person is by far the best way to attend a conference (you can't share a beer with a colleague via Twitter), but via Twitter is at least kinda sorta being at the conference.

Want to try it?  Good timing.  Right now there are two biological conferences relevant to North American natural history, both with Twitter streams you can check on to follow conference updates.

1. Ecological Society of America.  Aug 5-10 in Portland, Oregon, USA.

Twitter stream: #ESA2012

2. World Congress of Herpetology.  Aug 8-14 in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Twitter stream: #wch2012

Unlike speed dating, if you don't like a tweeter you can just skip to the next one without hurting their feelings or wasting a precious six minutes of your time.  And you can do it wearing your comfy grubby clothes, pit-stains and all.

*I'm referring to tweets composed after a talk as opposed to during the talk itself, which must take the tweeter's attention away from the very talk they like so much that they're tweeting it (as Jeremy Fox has noted in his blog).