23 April 2012

the literature

Got my the first publication from my phd out a few weeks back.  Makes me feel like things are happening, even with all this time OUT of the field, clicking away at a keyboard.


At any rate - its not super gonzo, I'll admit...journal articles are more like the slick, trimmed down, fat-free, finished product after all the fun stuff.  Very important in terms of contributing to the scientific literature, and eventually to management, however, these publications rarely make to the general public.  There's a reason - they're dry, hardly any story at all.  As in this instance - there's no part about Talia and I getting dropped off on Balang's and Bilinydjan's country in Arnhem Land with a trailer full of food and a satellite phone for 2 months.  Nothing about cooking over an open fire every day, carving hunks of meat of wild buffalo legs, and playing the dreamtime songs Balang put his father's and grandfather's stories to.  You definitely can't write about steaming fish in paperbark, or the dingos howling across the river, or the water python that came up to us, as Bilinydjan said, take Talia's sickness away.  Even the fires we lit with them - wrapping our whitefella (or yellowfella as they called Talia), foreign heads around the fact that here in Arnhem Land, people burn country - even those were relegated to a few technical lines in the methods section..."fires were lit in as an arc of patch fires c. 25 m upwind from the start of each transect..."

Not to say, by any means, that scientific publications are UN-important.  After all, the questions we go after in these papers are an exciting part of ecology...in the case of this paper the factors driving heterogeneity and diversity in these savannas, and ultimately, a better clue to understanding people's role in the system.  But the streamlining and competition for publication among the scientific literature leaves little room for the "chaff" above.  Thankfully I've got this web-page to share the fun stuff.


The journal NATURE apparently liked my research too...maybe we should've submitted it to them (its one of the highest ranking scientific publications out there in terms of readership and citations)


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