Monday, December 30, 2013

New issue: vol 127 issue 3

Our latest issue was published earlier this month. I'm a little late posting the table of contents on our blog - things have been hectic publishing so many issues so quickly.  It's a great "problem" to have!  Our next issue is scheduled to be published in two weeks, which will make us FULLY CAUGHT UP IN OUR PUBLICATION SCHEDULE!  Which I may have just jinxed by publicly expressing hope.

Volume 127 issue 3 has something for everyone, and its articles have attracted significant (yup, P<0.05) media attention.  The research articles include:

  • Two articles authored by teens, on biocontrol wasps and the effects of a fungal rust on Highbush Cranberry (press release)
  • Description of a likely subspecies of alvar-inhabiting butterfly in Ontario (with beautiful cover photo)
  • How scavenging crows avoid getting hit by cars
  • Fossil aquatic reptiles in the Yukon
  • Lichen diversity in second-growth forest
  • New bat species records for Labrador

Covers - Editorial Board and Publication Information (cover)

Abundance, distribution, and species assemblages of colonial waterbirds in the boreal region of west-central Manitoba and east-central Saskatchewan (203-210)
        Scott Wilson

War of the wasps: is Diadegma insulare or Microplitis plutellae a more effective parasitoid of the Diamondback Moth, Plutella xylostella? (211-215)
        Adamo Young

Survey methodology for the detection of Wood Turtles (Glyptemys insculpta) (216-223)
        Melissa Flanagan,       Vanessa Roy-McDougall,  Graham Forbes,  Glen Forbes

An alvar race of the  couperi  subspecies of the Silvery Blue (Glaucopsyche lygdamus couperi) in Southeastern Ontario? (224-228)
        Paul M. Catling,        Ross A. Layberry

Behaviour of American Crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) when encountering an oncoming vehicle (229-233)
        Shomen Mukherjee,       Jayanti Ray-Mukherjee,  Robin Sarabia

First records of a Plesiosaurian (Reptilia: Sauropterygia) and an Ichthyosaur (Reptilia: Ichthyosauria) from Yukon, Canada (234-239)
        James A. Campbell,      Claudia J. Schröder-Adams,      James W. Haggart,       Patrick S. Drucken-Miller, Michael J. Ryan,        Grant D. Zazula

Lichen biodiversity and conservation status in the Copeland Forest Resources Management Area: a lichen-rich second-growth forest in southern Ontario (240-254)
        R. Troy McMullin,       James C. Lendemer

Home site fidelity in Black Rockfish, Sebastes melanops, reintroduced into a fjord environment (255-261)
        Jeff Marliave,  Alejandro Frid, David W. Welch, Aswea D. Porter

Historical distribution records and new records confirm and extend the distribution of the Silver Lamprey, Ichthyomyzon unicuspis, in the Hayes River, Hudson Bay watershed, Manitoba (262-265)
        J. David Tyson, Douglas A. Watkinson

First records of the Northern Myotis (Myotis septentrionalis) from Labrador and summer distribution records and biology of Little Brown Bats (Myotis lucifugus) in southern Labrador (266-269)
        Hugh G. Broders,        Lynne E. Burns, Sara C. McCarthy

Impact of the rust Puccinia linkii on Highbush Cranberry, Viburnum edule, near Smithers, British Columbia (270-273)
        Kiri Daust

Young Scientists and their Mentors (274)
        Carolyn Callaghan

Book Reviews
"The Eponym Dictionary of Amphibians" by Bo Beolens et al. 2013. [book review] (275-276)
        Francis R. Cook

"Field Guide to Jewel Beetles (Coleoptera: Buprestidae) of Northeastern North America" by S. M. Paiero et al. 2012. [book review] (276-277)
        Robert F. Foster

"The Boreal Owl: Ecology, Behaviour and Conservation of a Forest-dwelling Predator" by Erkki Korpimaki and Harri Hakkarainen. 2012. [book review] (277-278)
        C. Stuart Houston

"Primates of the World – An Illustrated Guide" by Jean-Jacques Petter and François Desbordes (Translated by Robert Martin). 2013. [book review] (278-279)
        Roy John

"Pterosaurs" by Mark P. Witton. 2013. [book review] (279)
        Randy Lauff

"The Secret World of Red Wolves: The Fight to Save North America’s Other Wolf" by T. DeLene Beeland. 2013. [book review] (280-281)
        Jonathan G. Way

"An Introduction to Population Genetics: Theory and Application" by Erasmus Nielsen and Montgomery Slatkin. 2013. [book review] (281-282)
        Roger D. Applegate

"The Reindeer Botanist: Alf Erling Porsild, 1901–1977" by Wendy Dathan. 2012. [book review] (282-283)
        Tyler William Smith

"Alexander Wilson, the Scot who Founded American Ornithology" by Edward H. Burtt, Jr. and William E. Davis, Jr. 2013. [book review] (283-284)
        C. Stuart Houston

New titles (284)
        Roy John

News and Comment
Using Coefficients of Conservatism and the Floristic Quality Index to Assess the Potential for Serious and Irreversible Damage to Plant Communities (285-288)
        Paul M. Catling

Revisions to the OFNC Constitution and By-Laws; The Society for Integrative & Comparative Biology Annual Meeting 2014 (288)

Club Reports
Minutes of the 134th Annual Business Meeting of The Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club January 15, 2013 (289-302)
        Ann MacKenzie

Monday, December 23, 2013

Lots of media attention for issue 127(3) articles (UPDATED DEC 30)

We have received great media attention over the past week or two. We’ve learned a lot about how to generate media interest along the way, thanks to helpful advice from several people, including Jenny Ryan (Communications Manager, Canadian Science Publishing; @JRyanCSP) and Tyler Irving (Media Officer, Science Media Centre Canada; @tylereirving).



Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Press release: "Pest-killing wasps and berry fungus: teens publish discoveries about Canadian wildlife in scientific journal"

Our latest issue is full of great research.  That includes two research articles authored by teens.  It is inspiring to see teens so driven by curiosity and love of science that they not only do solid research but also take the next step and publish it, so their discoveries can be shared.  We drafted the following press release in the hopes that media will cover the story of these teens and their research.


Pest-killing wasps and berry fungus: teens publish discoveries about Canadian wildlife in scientific journal

By Jay Fitzsimmons
December 10, 2013

Ottawa, Ontario – We know more about wildlife this week, thanks to research by two Canadian teens. Teens from Ottawa and rural British Columbia published their research in this week’s issue of a scientific journal, The Canadian Field-Naturalist. Their research on wasps and leaf disease reveal that a Canadian wasp is an efficient killer of an agricultural pest, and a little-known fungus is hurting Highbush Cranberries. Both research articles were subject to the same peer-review process and met the same scientific standards as articles authored by professors and other professional scientists.

Adamo Young is a grade 12 student in Ottawa who loves science. Young found a mentor in Dr. Peter Mason, a Research Scientist at the Experimental Farm in Ottawa. Young’s research focused on an agricultural pest and the wasps that kill it.

Adamo Young. Used with permission.
The Diamondback Moth invaded Canada a long time ago, and brought with it an appetite for crops such as cabbage and canola. Researchers have known for years that two Canadian wasp species can kill the pest moth. The wasps lay their eggs in moth caterpillars, then the baby wasps grow up eating the caterpillar from the inside out until the wasps emerge from the caterpillar, killing the caterpillar in the process. “It’s kind of like the movie Alien,” Young explained.
Microplitis plutellae wasp larva emerging from its host, a Diamondback Moth caterpillar. Photo by Adamo Young, reproduced from his research article with permission.
Microplitis plutellae wasp larva emerging from its host, a Diamondback Moth caterpillar. Photo by Adamo Young, reproduced from his research article with permission.
While researchers knew these wasps kill the moth pest, they didn’t know which wasp was more effective under different conditions. Young designed and performed experiments to see which wasp is better at controlling Diamondback Moth populations under various conditions. He found that one wasp species was a tireless killing machine, whereas the other wasp was only effective at killing moths under limited conditions. The results will help farmers and greenhouse operators combat the moth pest without the need for pesticides.
Diadegma insulare wasp (a.k.a., 'tireless killing machine'). Photo by Adamo Young, reproduced from his research article with permission.
Diadegma insulare wasp (a.k.a., 'tireless killing machine'). Photo by Adamo Young, reproduced from his research article with permission.
“My research won first prize at the Ottawa regional science fair, and two of the judges were editors of The Canadian Field-Naturalist. They said my research was good enough to be published.” So Young wrote his research as a scientific paper and submitted it. “It’s pretty cool to say you’ve published a scientific paper,” Young said.

Kiri Daust’s research on plant disease started the same way many biologists’ projects start: with a walk in the woods. “I go walking in the woods with my family pretty much every day,” explained Daust from his home in Telkwa, British Columbia. “We collect Highbush Cranberries to make jelly.” In 2012, Daust noticed a weird disease on the plants.

Rather than shrug off the finding, Daust followed his curiosity. He sent pictures of the disease to an expert who identified the culprit as a rare kind of rust fungus about which experts know little. The fungus was known to infect Highbush Cranberry, but nobody knew what effect it had on the plant. Daust, aged fifteen at the time, decided he would answer that question.
Leaves of Highbush Cranberry with different levels of rust fungus infection. Photo by Karen Price, reproduced with permission from Kiri Daust's research article.
Leaves of Highbush Cranberry with different levels of rust fungus infection. Photo by Karen Price, reproduced with permission from Kiri Daust's research article.
Daust photographed the leaves of plants with different levels of infection, and checked back on the plants as the season progressed. He found that plants with higher levels of infection produced berries that were infected, undeveloped, and had less sugar than uninfected plants’ berries. He dug deep into historical records and found an interesting pattern: the fungus may attack Highbush Cranberry the most after wet spring weather. Wet springs are predicted to become more common in Daust’s region of B.C., which does not bode well for local berry pickers or wildlife. “This year, there is tons of rust on the plants and there are hardly any berries,” Daust explained.

While Young had to search to find a scientific mentor, Daust’s mentor was in his house. Dr. Karen Price is an ecologist and Kiri Daust’s mom and homeschool teacher. “My role is simply to encourage Kiri’s curiosity,” Price explained.
Kiri Daust with his mom and mentor, Dr. Karen Price. Photo reproduced with permission.
Kiri Daust with his mom and mentor, Dr. Karen Price. Photo by Dave Daust, reproduced with permission.
Like Young, Daust first presented his research at science fairs, where he won many awards. Local scientists recommended Daust publish his research in The Canadian Field-Naturalist, to share his findings with the scientific community. “Sharing knowledge of the world, that’s kind of the purpose of science,” Daust explained.

Both teens had plenty of exposure to nature as kids. Young was a member of the Macoun Field Club, an Ottawa club for youth who love nature. Daust grew up in an off-grid cabin in the forests of central B.C.; without computer access his questions came from the wildlife around him. Both teen scientists recommend teens should try doing a science fair project on a problem that matters to them. And, as Young suggested, “if you’re interested in science, just do it.”

About The Canadian Field-Naturalist

The Canadian Field-Naturalist is a scientific journal published by the Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club since 1879. The Canadian Field-Naturalist publishes original research on natural history, which is the study of wildlife ecology, behaviour, taxonomy, and diversity. They publish research on species that live in Canada, though the research itself can take place anywhere. For more information, please visit

Article citations

Young, Adamo. 2013. War of the wasps: is Diadegma insulare or Microplitis plutellae a more effective parasitoid of the Diamondback Moth, Plutella xylostella? Canadian Field-Naturalist 127(3): 211–215.

Daust, K. 2013. Impact of the rust Puccinia linkii on Highbush Cranberry, Viburnum edule, near Smithers, British Columbia. Canadian Field-Naturalist 127(3): 270–273.


For more information, including advance copies of the research articles, please contact
Jay Fitzsimmons, Journal Manager
1320 Edmison Drive, Peterborough, Ontario, K9H 6V3, Canada
info "at"
Cell: 705-768-7243
Twitter: @CanFieldNat

Thursday, November 7, 2013

New issue: vol 127 issue 2

Our latest issue is out!  Check out the latest research on Canadian wildlife and natural history.  Among this issue's articles:
  • What do Black Bears eat throughout the year?
  • Trumpeter Swans vs Snapping Turtles ... FIGHT!
  • Putting the History in Natural History: exploring past B.C. seabird activities through tree ring growth and stable isotopes
  • Splitting hairs blades: the niches of grasses
  • Plants killing birds
  • Owwwls iiiiin spaaaaace (or at least the Arctic)
  • And an essay against historical over-forestation of Ontario


The response of invertebrate populations in three undisturbed soils in southwestern Ontario, Canada, to variations in local soil properties, seasonal changes, and climate (103-117)
Ian W. E. Harris

Temporal variation in food habits of the American Black Bear (Ursus americanus) in the boreal forest of northern Ontario (118-130)
Derrick A. Romain, Martyn E. Obbard, James L. Atkinson

Relative abundance of the Prairie Long-tailed Weasel (Mustela frenata longicauda) in southwestern Alberta (131-137)
Garry E. Hornbeck, Dan Soprovich

Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator) behaviour, interactions with Snapping Turtles (Chelydra serpentina), and their Pleistocene history (138-145)
Harry G. Lumsden

Tree ring growth and stable isotopes as potential indicators of historical seabird activities on forested islands in coastal British Columbia (146-154)
T. E. Reimchen, S. McGehee, B. W. Glickman

Ecological and geographical separation of three varieties of Sporobolus vaginiflorus (Poaceae) in eastern Ontario (155-163)
Paul M. Catling

Bird behaviour on and entanglement in invasive burdock (Arctium spp.) plants in Winnipeg, Manitoba (164-174)
Todd J. Underwood, Robyn M. Underwood


Flight of a flock of Common Eiders, Somateria mollisima, in Northumberland Strait interrupted by the Confederation Bridge, New Brunswick–Prince Edward Island (175-177)
Colin M. MacKinnon, Andrew C. Kennedy, Matthew L. Horsman

Documentation of infanticide in American Marten (Martes americana(178-179)
Amy Dubruiel, James E. Woodford, David M. MacFarland

Golden Eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) breeding in Wapusk National Park, Manitoba (180-184)
N. C. Asselin, M. S. Scott, J. Larkin, C. Artuso

First nesting records for the Short-eared Owl, Asio flammeus, on Banks Island, Northwest Territories: evidence of range expansion to arctic islands in Canada (185-188)
Cynthia Marjorie Smith, Norman Andrew Lawrence, Rosemary Anne Buck

Book Reviews
"The Unfeathered Bird" by Katrine van Grouw. 2013. [book review] (189-190)
Matthew Iles

"Biology and Conservation of Martens, Sables and Fishers – A new synthesis" edited by K. B. Aubry et al. 2012. [book review] (190)
Randy Lauff

"Mammals of China" edited by Andrew T. Smith and Yan Xie. 2013. [book review] (191)
Roy John

"Odd Couples" by Daphne J. Fairbairn. 2013. [book review] (191)
Roger D. Applegate

"Wildlife of Australia" by Iain Campbell and Sam Woods. 2013. [book review] (192)
Roy John

"Aldrovanda, The Waterwheel Plant" by Adam Cross. 2012. [book review] (192-193)
Jim O'Neill

"Antarctica – Global Science from a Frozen Continent" edited by David W. H. Walton. 2013. [book review] (193-194)
Geoffrey Carpentier

"For the Birds – Recollections and Rambles" by Fred Helleiner. 2013. [book review] (195)
Roy John

"Birdfinding in British Columbia" by Russell Cannings and Richard Cannings. 2013. [book review] (195-196)
Roy John

New titles (196-197)

News and Comment
The cult of the Red Pine – a useful reference for the over-afforestation period of Ontario (198-199)
Paul M. Catling

Canadian Herpetologist new issue; Irwin (Ernie) Brodo Awarded an Honorary Degree by Carleton University; Manitoba Government Introduces North America’s First Ecosystem Protection Legislation; Dr. J. Roger Bider 1932–2013; Worldwide Raptor Conference (199-200)

Spelling error in citation in CFN 127(1):79 (200)

Club Reports
Editor’s Report for Volume 126 (2012) (201-202)
Carolyn Callaghan

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Apology for the lack of blog posts & new issue coming soon

I'm sorry for how infrequently I have been writing blog posts lately.  My family and I recently moved from Ottawa to Peterborough, Ontario (about 250 km west of Ottawa), to be closer to our extended family.  Moving, looking after my kids while my wife worked as a post-doc doing bird ecology, and looking for a job all took a lot of time. I would have been a bit of a jerk as a father if I'd found the time to blog but no time to hang a swing for my daughter, for instance.  I just started a job in the Fisheries Policy section of Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources, we found daycare, and things are settling down, so my journal work won't be as neglected as it has been over the past couple of months.  My apologies to you for my hiatus, and thank you for your patience as I catch up on neglected tasks.

Good news: our next issue (volume 127 issue 2) is about to be published!  This issue has some really cool research.  I may be biased, but I volunteer for this journal because I love Canadian wildlife, and this issue has some great wildlife research across geographic and taxonomic scales.  Alberta prairie weasels, Ontario soil nematodes, ancient seabirds of B.C., Arctic owls, and killer invasive plants in Manitoba among other cool articles.

Instead of hitting refresh on our journal site every two minutes to find out if the issue has been published, just register as a Reader on our site and you will receive the table of contents once the issue is published.  Because internet = magic!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Media attention for our cougar-vs-skunk article

The Ottawa Citizen published a story today (Aug 8 2013) about an article in our latest issue.  The research article describes competition for deer meat between a cougar and a skunk.  The article's supplementary video shows the interaction very clearly, with the cougar frightened away by the skunk.

Thank you to Tom Spears for writing the article.  The more people know about the nature around us, the more they will care about it (hopefully).

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

New issue: vol 127 issue 1

Lots of great stuff all over the geographic and taxonomic maps!  Tracking Canada goose migrations.  Meadow voles OM-NOM-NOMing on bioenergy crops.  The (lack of) effect prescribed burning has in controlling trembling aspen encroachment into grassland.  A new bee for Canada (beauty cover photo).  A taxonomic distinction between "coywolves" and other wolf and coyote taxa.  And an article with video supplement showing a Cougar scared away from its deer kill by a brave hungry skunk.  All this and more - just browse below!

Taxonomic Implications of Morphological and Genetic Differences in Northeastern Coyotes (Coywolves) (Canis latrans × C. lycaon), Western Coyotes (C. latrans), and Eastern Wolves (C. lycaon or C. lupus lycaon) (1-16)
Jonathan G. Way

Spring Migratory Pathways and Migration Chronology of Canada Geese (Branta canadensis interior) Wintering at the Santee National Wildlife Refuge, South Carolina (17-25)
Molly M. Giles, Patrick G. R. Jodice, Robert F. Baldwin, John D.Stanton, Marc Epstein

Visitations by Snowshoe Hares (Lepus americanus) to and Possible Geophagy of Materials from an Iron-Rich Excavation in North-Central British Columbia (26-30)
Roy V. Rea, Christina L. Stumpf, Dexter P. Hodder

Community-Based Observations of Marine Mammal Occurrences in Groswater Bay, Labrador (31-37)
Keith G. Chaulk, Daniel Michelin, Melva Williams, Tony Wolfrey

The Ocean Pout, Zoarces americanus, and the Ocean Sunfish, Mola mola: Additions to the Marine Ichthyofauna of the Lower Saint John River System, New Brunswick, with a Summary of Marine Fish Reported from the Estuary (38-43)
Donald F. McAlpine

Suspected Selective Herbivory of Bioenergy Grasses by Meadow Voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus) (44-49)
Heather A. Hager, Frances E. C. Stewart

Prescribed Burning Has Limited Long-Term Effectiveness in Controlling Trembling Aspen (Populus tremuloides) Encroachment into Fescue Grassland in Prince Albert National Park (50-56)
Digit D. Guedo, Eric G. Lamb

Consumption of Truffles and other Fungi by the American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) and the Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus) (Sciuridae) in Northwestern Ontario (57-59)
Jocelin N. Teron, Leonard J. Hutchison

First Record of the Bee Melitta americana (Smith) (Hymenoptera: Melittidae) for Quebec and Canada (60-63)
André Payette

Encounter Competition between a Cougar, Puma concolor, and a Western Spotted Skunk, Spilogale gracilis (64-66)
Maximilian L. Allen, L. Mark Elbroch, Heiko U. Wittmer

Plant Climbing in the Northern Two-lined Salamander, Eurycea bislineata, in Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario (67-69)
David L. LeGros

Age Structure of Moose (Alces alces) Killed by Gray Wolves (Canis lupus) in Northeastern Minnesota, 1967–2011 (70-71)
L. David Mech, Michael E. Nelson

Indirect Cannibalism by Crèche-aged American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) Chicks (72-75)
Alisa J. Bartos, Marsha A. Sovada, Lawrence D. Igl, Pamela J. Pietz

Tributes and Obituaries
Tribute to George F. Ledingham (1911–2006), a Conservation Leader for Western Canada (76-81)
Daniel F. Brunton, C. Stuart Houston, Mary I. Houston

Book Reviews
"Where to Watch Birds in Canterbury (New Zealand)" by Nick Allen. 2012. [book review] (82)
Roy John

"The World’s Rarest Birds" by Erik Hirschfeld et al. 2013. [book review] (82-83)
Roy John

"Concealing Coloration in Animals" by Judy Diamond and Alan Bond. 2013. [book review] (83-84)
Roy John

"The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors" by Richard Crossley et al. 2013. [book review] (84-85)
Howard O. Clark

"Ecology and Conservation of the Sirenia. Dugongs and Manatees" by Helene Marsh et al. 2011. [book review] (85-86)
Ted Armstrong

"The Snakes of Ontario: Natural History, Distribution and Status" by Jeffrey C. Rowell. 2013. [book review] (87-89)
Ronald J. Brooks

"Common Mosses of the Northeast and Appalachians" by Karl B. McKnight et al. 2013. [book review] (89)
Roger Applegate

"More Than Birds: Adventurous Lives of North American Naturalists" by Val Shushkewich. 2013. [book review] (90)
Roy John

"Climate Change Biological and Human Aspects (Second Edition)" by Jonathan Cowie. 2013. [book review] (91)
Brent Tegler

"Dinosaur Train" produced by The Jim Henson Company et al. [TV series review] (91-93)
Jay M. Fitzsimmons

"Protection of the Three Poles" edited by Falk Huettmann. 2012. [book review] (93-94)
Marco Restani

New titles (95-96)

News and Comment
Can we Create Alvars or Fully Restore those Damaged? (97-101)
Paul M. Catling

Outstanding Service from Associate Editors; Upcoming Meetings & Workshops (101-102)

Erratum: book reviews (102)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Reference formats: little method, lots of madness

Last night some sort of planetary transit event must have occurred, because for some reason a bunch of ecologists independently started questioning/venting on Twitter about the abundance of oh-so-slightly-different reference formats between journals.  I happen to love the subject of reference formatting (neeeerd!).  It's like those few times when someone says "Please tell me more about insect classification" - so exciting but so rare.

This post is on the subject of reference formats.  Why are there so many styles?  Are some better than others?  Should there be one style to rule them all?

The Canadian Field-Naturalist will be changing its reference format in the near future.  Our current format is incompatible with reference management software (e.g., EndNote, Mendeley) that more and more authors are using (with good reason - they're great).  So we'll be changing to a straightforward reference format and providing an EndNote style file on our site to benefit authors using EndNote.  I also intend on supplying a Mendeley style file some time, but that's a trickier taskExpect our new reference format in the next few months.

Each journal chooses its own formatting style.  There are a shocking number of tiny decisions that go into a format.  Should the volume number be bolded?  Should the year be enclosed in parentheses?  Should author names in the References section be displayed as:
  1. Wallace, A. R.
  2. Wallace, A.R.
  3. Wallace, A R
  4. Wallace, AR
  5. Wallace, Alfred Russel
  6. Wallace

Given so many choices, most journals' formats differ from each other in one or two small ways.


1) Space-saving formats (are really annoying)
Omitting article titles from references, using journal abbreviations, and using numbers instead of author names in citations all have the effect of reducing text and thus saving space and money for publishers.  However, the benefits of these space-saving approaches have diminished in recent years as journals are disseminated more online, where pages are free.

What do ecologists think about these types of formats?
Reducing information about a reference (e.g., omitting article titles, using journal abbreviations) is not only annoying but reduces the likelihood of finding the correct reference.  References frequently have errors (Aronsky et al., 2005).  If there is some redundancy in reference information in a journal format then a reader can still track down the article despite an error (e.g., the journal name was listed incorrectly but the authors and article title were correct).  Journal abbreviations are the spawn of Satan (Fitzsimmons, personal communication to himself 2013).  There is no authoritative list a poorly-known list (EDIT: thanks to Alex Bond @thelabandfield for notifying me of the list) of how journals should be abbreviated, so everyone does it differently, and abbreviation errors are extremely common (Aronsky et al., 2005).

We will include article titles and full journal names in our new reference format.  Because we're not jerks.  We also won't have our article titles in all-caps, like one of our peer journals, because that's rather shouty.

2) Readability
There has been some research on the effects of abstract and reference formats on readability.  When I say some research on the topic, I mean I know of only three studies.

  1. Hartley (1981) found readers generally preferred a certain order of elements in references (e.g., putting the date after authors' names).
  2. Hartley and Betts (2007) found readers generally preferred structured abstracts (i.e., abstracts split into multiple mini-paragraphs) over traditional abstracts.
  3. Scialfa et al. (1998) found some reference formats were not only preferred by readers but also used more efficiently by readers than other reference formats.

That's. About. It.  It seems that journals' formats are based not on experimentally demonstrated superiority of one style over another, but on the way the journal has done things for years (Wager & Middleton, 2002).  There are valid considerations for style that may vary between journals (Hartley, 2002), but frankly I don't think many editors give a damn (it's journal content that usually excites them, not formatting details, and appropriately so).

For decades researchers have lamented how silly it is to have scientists waste so much time on formatting idiosyncrasies. Below are a sample of such editorials/essays/articles, followed by the only counter-argument against universal reference styles I have yet found.

  • Friedberg, E. C. 2005. Call for a cull of pointlessly different reference styles. Nature 437:1232.
  • Garfield, E. 1974-1976. Uniformity of editorial policy on titles in citations will aid referees, librarians, and authors. Essays of an Information Scientist 2:229-230. (the author was a pioneer of scientometrics, and invented the impact factor)
  • Leslie, D. M. J. and M. J. Hamilton. 2007. A plea for a common citation format in scientific serials. Serials Review 33:1-3. (this article provides estimates of hours wasted by formatting)
  • Salvagno, G. L., G. Lippi, M. Montagnana, and G. C. Guidi. 2008. Standards of practice and uniformity in references style. Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine 46:437-438. (includes tables showing the format distinctions of 100 high-impact journals)
  • Stoldal, P. M. and D. B. Gordon. 1974. Uniformity of references. Science 186:1158-1159.

The only counter-argument I've found in praise of a diversity of reference formats is:
  • Donovan, S. K. 2006. Research journals: toward uniformity or retaining diversity? Journal of Scholarly Publishing 37:230-235.
Donovan argues that the diversity of journal formats should be appreciated, in contrast to a Big Brother boring world in which everything from reference formats to page sizes is consistent across journals. He also expresses concern about journals' independence if uniform reference formats are imposed upon them.  While I respect him for voicing a minority opinion, I personally feel the efficiency of a small number of reference formats would trump embracing diversity for diversity's sake.


Rather than a top-down decision by some authority, I think converting to a small number of reference styles could be accomplished easily, starting with the mega-publishers. The mega-publishing companies run a huge number of scientific journals (see Morris, 2007 for some already-dated analyses).  If one or a few of them decided to use a standard style, that would go a lot of the way toward universality.  Independent journals, such as The Canadian Field-Naturalist, could choose at our discretion to use whatever style the bigshots adopt.  As more journals pile on, the costs of not adopting the style would emerge as authors might avoid submitting to journals that require unique formatting.

Scientific journals are full of well-researched content, but the format of the journals themselves is often the product of arbitrary choices made years ago rather than critical assessment of costs and benefits.  We'll change to a simple reference format to aid authors (easy to write), readers (we'll include full titles of articles and journals), and machines (gotta prepare for our text-mining overlords).  If a universal style comes out that meets our minimal criteria, we will gladly switch to it.  And if such a standard style is developed, hopefully it goes better than this XKCD comic (tweeted to me by librarian @dupuisj):


REFERENCES CITED (in whatever format I please):
Aronsky, D., J. Ransom, and K. Robinson. 2005. Accuracy of references in five biomedical informatics journals. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association 12:225-228.

Hartley, J. 1981. Sequencing the elements in references. Applied Ergonomics 12:7-12.

Hartley, J. 2002. On choosing typographic settings for reference lists. Social Studies of Science 32:917-932.

Hartley, J. and L. Betts. 2007. The effects of spacing and titles on judgments of the effectiveness of structured abstracts. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 58:2335-2340.

Morris, S. 2007. Mapping the journal publishing landscape: how much do we know? Learned Publishing 20:299-310.

Scialfa, C. T., J. K. Caird, K. Connolly, and C. Cosmescu. 1998. Effects of APA reference format on search performance and preference. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied 4:44-54.

Wager, E. and P. Middleton. 2002. Effects of technical editing in biomedical journals. Journal of the American Medical Association 287:2821-2824.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Beyond Baby Beluga: Natural history themed kids' music for Father's Day

Happy Father's Day!  Our present to you: two suggestions of kids' music with the theme of natural history and science.  Our journal isn't officially promoting these artists or anything, we just think dads deserve to listen to some variety (Baby Beluga is fine ... the first hundred times).

If you grew up in Canada and are now in your 30's, you probably remember The Nature Nut's kids' TV series.  John Acorn is an Alberta naturalist, a lecturer at the University of Alberta's Biology Dept., author of numerous wildlife guides, and a general nut about nature.  Insects are his main love.  I had the pleasure of seeing him perform some of his songs about butterflies at the International Butterfly Conference in Edmonton a few years ago - it was awesome.  You can buy his two CDs for $19.95 each.

Each track celebrates and explains different aspects of science (e.g., My Brother the Ape).  It's pretty awesome.  If you've never heard They Might Be Giants, they have a similar sound as Barenaked Ladies in my opinion.

Any other suggestions?  Leave them in the comments for the benefit of naturalist parents everywhere (including me - I'm craving a bit of music diversity right now).

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

New Jewel Beetle guide - FREE!

It seems too good to be true for us insect enthusiasts.  A new beetle field guide that is free.  No asterisks of any sort.  Just free heavenly insect goodness.
Double-helping of natural history!

Paiero, S.M, Jackson, M., Jewiss-Gaines, A., Kimoto, T., Gill, B.D. and S.A. Marshall. 2012. Field Guide to Jewel Beetles (Coleoptera: Buprestidae) of Northeastern North America. Canadian Food Inspection Agency. 164 maps. 411p.  Available in English or French.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, in conjunction with the University of Guelph, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and the Invasive Species Centre.

The beetle family Buprestidae are known as jewel beetles for their beautiful irridescent colours. Their larvae burrow in plants, including the dastardly invasive Emerald Ash Borer (dunh-dunh-DUUUN).

I won't provide a full book review, but the picture below indicates some of the interesting doo-dads the book has for its species pages.

Silhouettes of the actual size of the species; ID focal points; buttons to indicate larval host plants; etc.  I like the layout.  Personally, I would like to see a "Natural history notes" section for each species with a brief note about the species' habits (like in co-author Stephen Marshall's incredible book on the insects of Eastern North America). However, I can understand the lack of such information since: a) such information is likely unknown for many of the species and b) the book is intended as an identification guide only.  Its identification keys, for example, are wonderful.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency often makes it identification guide books freely available.  For a group with many pest species, such as the jewel beetles, it likely pays off to have ID guides in the hand of lots of Canadians.  This jewel beetle guide is free, as is its shipping, to people in Canada or anywhere else the USA.  Supplies are limited.  To place an order, call 1-800-442-2342.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, in conjunction with the University of Guelph, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and the Invasive Species Centre, has recently published the “Field Guide to the Jewel Beetles of Northeastern North America”.

This 411 page field guide (6×9*) covers 164 jewel beetle species for northeastern North American (Manitoba and eastward) and includes 2 identification keys for the 23 genera in the region: one a technical key adapted from previously published works, and the other a “field key”, designed for use with a hand lens or digital camera and which uses characters that are more easily observed.  Each species is fully illustrated with high magnification colour photos of the dorsal & ventral views, head and male genitalia (plus additional colour morphs or variations when available).  A review of taxonomic synonyms, ESC & ESA approved common names, and all known larval host plants is provided in addition to thorough morphological diagnoses, characters useful for differentiating similar species, and notes on species abundance, habitat preference and economic importance. 

This guide is intended to assist municipal foresters, arborists, technicians, entomologists, woodlot owners and naturalists in recognizing specimens encountered in the field. 

This book is available in both English and French.  The cost of the book and shipping is free.  To place an order, please phone 1-800-442-2342.

Paiero, S.M, Jackson, M., Jewiss-Gaines, A., Kimoto, T., Gill, B.D. and S.A. Marshall. 2012. Field Guide to Jewel Beetles (Coleoptera: Buprestidae) of Northeastern North America. Canadian Food Inspection Agency. 164 maps. 411p.

UPDATE (DEC 20 2013)

Good news & bad news for those of you wanting a copy of this guide.

Bad news: So many people wanted hardcopies of the guide that they've almost run out of them. There is not enough money to ship copies to people outside Canada and U.S.A.

Good news: pdf copies of the guide are available for free, in English or French. For pdf copies, and details about how in-demand the guide has been, see this blog post by co-author Morgan Jackson.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Natural history interpretations of NHL series: Penguins vs Bruins

From a natural history perspective, nobody should be surprised the Boston Bruins won this series.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Yes, you ought to publish your natural history research

Alex is an ecologist (he's not just a hypothetical guy - he's a post-doc at the University of Saskatchewan and has published some bird egg work in our journal). Alex likes natural history and appreciates its importance as the foundation for biology. But, he notes, natural history research is not as valued as it ought to be by many hiring committees. Alex wants a job. Given how many tasks academic biologists have on their "to-do" list (has anyone ever actually finished their to-do list?), biologists have to triage and invest their time in tasks that will have the greatest likelihood of achieving their main goals (getting a job, saving the world, etc.). Because natural history articles are often not highly valued by academic employers, writing natural history articles gets pushed down biologists' to-do lists, and valuable natural history research sits in computer file folders rather than being published.

Alex notes on his blog that while many biological journals no longer regularly publish natural history research, there are several natural history journals that publish nothing but the stuff. He singles out The Canadian Field-Naturalist with praise for our recent rejuvenation including catching up on our publication lag (it's not fully caught up yet, but that should happen this summer), our journal website, and our well-received Twitter stream. Thanks for the praise (your cheque is in the mail!*)

*by cheque I mean lint, and my mail I mean your pocket. Sorry for any misunderstanding.

Alex has decided to devote every Friday afternoon to producing natural history products, including manuscripts, to get his accumulated research out there and used by fellow biologists and naturalists.  Good idea!  One of the keys to write a lot of research articles, according to a book on the subject by psychologist Dr. Paul Silva, is to devote timeslots to writing. Make those timeslots as non-negotiable as timeslots in which you're teaching or booked for meetings. Devoting a chunk of time, even a very small chunk, can do wonders for productivity. I anticipate a productive year for Alex's natural history research!

I would add two points to Alex's about the benefits of writing natural history research, with the benefit of seeing things from the journal's perspective.

1. Not only do natural history journals exist, but we are actively looking for submissions.  In contrast to many of the bigshot journals published by mega-profit corporations, we don't inflate our Impact Factor by rejecting solid articles just because they're not on a sufficiently sexy topic. Those journals have a "problem" of too many submissions. We sometimes don't have enough submissions (especially when we're publishing issues rapid-fire as we catch up our publication schedule). If you have solid natural history research (good data, well-written, etc.), and the topic is a species whose range includes Canada, CFN will publish it regardless of whether it is sexy or not ... or even downright parthenogenic! Our editors go beyond simple accept/reject decisions to actually work with authors to get their manuscripts to publishable quality, so long as the core of the manuscript (i.e., the data / observations) are valuable. This cooperative approach to working with authors also works well for graduate students new to publishing, to help them learn the ropes and be encouraged rather than having their confidence torn to shreds like editors at some other journals can do.
Take-home message for authors: we have a high acceptance rate because we don't care about sexiness (except in its most literal sense - we publish research on sexual ornamentation!), editors who are there to help you, and work hard to maximize the dissemination and impact of your published articles.

2. Changes in publication metrics will result in higher valuation of natural history articles.  Like Wile E. Coyote finding himself standing on nothing, the mighty Impact Factor is falling.
Long known to be biased and easily gamed by journals, it was still used as a proxy for article quality because it was about the only metric available. Now there are myriad metrics available to evaluate the impact of articles. Not just citations by other academic journals, but also web links, Twitter popularity, pdf downloads, and more. Such changes will benefit natural history journals because natural history articles are relevant (and cited) far longer than those in trendy journals. The Impact Factor only considers citations to articles over the past two years of issues in a journal, thus incetivizing research on sexy topics. An analysis of articles in fellow natural history journal The American Midland Naturalist revealed that most of their articles are barely cited in their first two years after publication, but relatively highly cited 6-38 years after publication (McIntosh 2009). Similarly, Krell (2002) argued that impact factors don't work for taxonomy articles (related to natural history) for several reasons, including how little of taxonomy papers' long citation window is encapsulated by the impact factor's two year snapshot. The impact factor biases against journals that publish research with staying power, such as our own journal. As we previously wrote in Nature, we won't reject valid research just to increase a silly impact factor rating (Fitzsimmons & Skevington 2010). Better metrics will reveal the true impact of natural history articles.

So write those natural history manuscripts, know that there are good homes for them (yes please!), and know that hiring committees will value them more and more as metrics improve.

Fitzsimmons, J. M. and J. H. Skevington. 2010. Metrics: don't dismiss journals with a low impact factor. Nature 466:179.
Krell, F.-T. 2002. Why impact factors don't work for taxonomy. Nature 415:957.
McIntosh, R. P. 2009. The American Midland Naturalist: the life history of a journal. American Midland Naturalist 161:13-44.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Why do we publish manuscript submission and accepted dates?

Recently Alex Bond, an ecologist at the University of Saskatchewan (his homepage and his blog) put out a question via Twitter:
The Canadian Field-Naturalist publishes the date when we first received a manuscript and when it was accepted.  We include this info at the bottom of all of our Articles and Notes (see pic below).

We do this for three reasons.
  1. For us.  We want to monitor how long manuscripts take in the review and editing process.  Publishing those dates on articles is a sure way to keep the info handy so we don't lose it.  Once we move to our online manuscript management system we will have more detailed info available for ourselves (e.g., dates of each review, dates of editors' correspondence, etc.).  These data allow us to evaluate the performance of practices and personnel to see what is related to turnaround times.
  2. For potential authors.  According to a survey of ecologists by Aarssen et al. (2008), the likelihood of a rapid decision was an important factor in choice of journal for submission for 72% of ecologist.  This could be why some of the mega-publishers are tricky in their turnaround time statistics; they "reject" manuscripts instead of calling it "revise", and count the submission of the revised version as a new submission.  This makes it look like the turnaround times are shorter than they actually are.  It's sketchy, and authors are blowing the whistle on this deception.
  3. For researchers.  Kareiva et al. (2002) and O'Donnell et al. (2010) analyzed manuscript turnaround times for a variety of journals, and found conservation journals were kinda slow, but getting faster over the past decade.  Considering conservation journals pride ourselves in publishing research relevant to policy makers, being slow could delay conservation policy action.  Kareiva et al.'s 2002 paper may have even been a "wake up call" for conservation journals, which O'Donnell et al. (2010) found subsequently reduced their turnaround times.  Other researchers are interested in the relationship between turnaround times and things like journal Impact Factor (e.g., Pautasso & Schäfer, 2010).  We're guilty of being slow, but over the past year our turnaround times have shortened considerably (I don't have the stats right now, but we've shaved many months off).  This is the result of great effort from our Editor-in-Chief, Associate Editors, reviewers, and of course authors.  Switching to our online manuscript management system should further reduce turnaround times, according to findings from other journals switching to such manuscript systems (Ware, 2005).
It's not just us who feels journals should publish these dates.  The Committee on Publication Ethics includes the publication of articles' dates of submission and acceptance as best practices for journal editors (pdf of their guidelines for editors).  Publishing manuscript dates is the right thing to do, and we'll continue to do so.

Aarssen, L. W., T. Tregenza, A. E. Budden, C. J. Lortie, J. Koricheva, and R. Leimu. 2008. Bang for your buck: rejection rates and impact factors in ecological journals. Open Ecology Journal 1:14-19.

Kareiva, P., M. Marvier, S. West, and J. Hornisher. 2002. Slow-moving journals hinder conservation efforts. Nature 420:15.

O'Donnell, R. P., S. R. Supp, and S. M. Cobbold. 2010. Hindrance of conservation biology by delays in the submission of manuscripts. Conservation Biology 24:615-620.

Pautasso, M. and H. Schäfer. 2010. Peer review delay and selectivity in ecological journals. Scientometrics 84:307-315.

Ware, M. 2005. Online submission and peer-review systems. Learned Publishing 18:245-250.