April 2009


This is silly, and possibly very old, but I still found it amusing. Should I be embarrassed to admit this is the first time I’ve heard the word “retronym“? In my defense, Wikipedia claims that “retronym” is a neologism, and it’s no secret that I’m a bit of an English-language traditionalist.

10. Shelf pointer librarian
9. Analog librarian
8. Legacy librarian
7. Librarian unplugged
6. 3×5 librarian
5. Internot librarian
4. Retrobrarian
3. (Insert the name of your supervisor here) librarian
2. Wallenda librarian (flying high without the net)
1. Librarian 1.0

I’m particularly fond of the term “analog librarian”. It makes me nostalgic for the career I never had… musty books, catalog cards written by hand, a time when library school was more about practicing “library hand” and buying reference books, and not about how to use Second Life. Don’t worry, though. I’m not laboring under any misconceptions here; I’m well aware that most of my value as a librarian is tied up in tech skills. Now, please excuse me while I try to figure out what’s wrong with our IP authentication for BioOne databases…

*Insert wistful sigh here*

For all you herpetologists out there, here’s some breaking news. We just received the new issue of Iguana, published by the International Reptile Conservation Foundation, and it’s no longer Iguana. It’s now called Reptiles & Amphibians. I can’t find any mention of this change on their website (it still shows the last issue of Iguana from 2008), and it took a bit of sleuthing for me to figure out it was a title change, but this is what the editor has to say, on the very last page of the new issue:

We’ve had a very busy and exciting fewn months watching this new incarnation of the journal take shape — and we hope you like what you see. Our new title, after much consideration, has become Reptiles & Amphibians: Conservation and Natural History, a name we hope balances description with aesthetic presentation. The biggest and most obvious change on the inside is the use of color throughout, and, given the magnificent variety of our subject matter, the results are sure to please. Imagine our delight at being able to present the newly discovered pink Galapagos Land Iguana in its proper hues! Particular acknowledgements need to go to team members John Binns, Michael Ripca, and Robert Powel for their countless hours and many sleepless nights in bringing our new look to fruition.
-AJ Gutman, Editor

Okay, fair enough. The full color photographs really are lovely. And, to their credit, they’ve kept the same format, size, glossy cover, and enumeration by volume and issue. However, I can’t help but be irritated that I now have to shift all of our current print journal subscriptions to accommodate the name change, since Iguana and Reptiles do not begin with the same letter of the alphabet. For comparison’s sake, here is the new issue, and the last issue of 2008.

James Pardey’s The Art of Penguin Science Fiction website is one of the coolest things I’ve seen all year. He’s collected a wealth of information about the cover design of Penguin’s science fiction books from 1935 to 1977. The evolution of designs is striking. Take a look at these four covers of Day of the Triffids , by John Wyndham. It was first published in 1951, and published by Penguin Books in January 1954. The first Penguin edition features a cover illustration by John Griffiths based on sketches Wyndham himself provided, at a time when cover illustrations were very rare. On the left are the 1962 reprint and 1963 reprint, both with illustrations by John Griffiths. Finally, it was reissued as a Penguin Film Classics this year.

I love the simplicity of them, and that little line drawing of a triffid is just too cute. The designs varied a lot more widely than that though, so I strongly recommend you visit the site. Here’s a teaser, in case you’re still not convinced.

Good news from the Capitol today. The Department of Commerce and Department of the Interior are revoking the Bush administration’s rule that eliminated the mandate for scientific consultation before taking actions that affect endangered species. The Endangered Species Act now, once again, requires federal agencies to, “consult with wildlife experts at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration before taking any action that may affect threatened or endangered species,” according to the press release [PDF] put out today. Because a PDF can be kind of a hassle to download, I’ll quote the whole thing here. Hopefully that’s not a major faux pas.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced that the two departments are revoking an eleventh-hour Bush administration rule that undermined Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections. Their decision requires federal agencies to once again consult with federal wildlife experts at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – the two agencies that administer the ESA – before taking any action that may affect threatened or endangered species.

“By rolling back this 11th hour regulation, we are ensuring that threatened and endangered species continue to receive the full protection of the law,” Salazar said. “Because science must serve as the foundation for decisions we make, federal agencies proposing to take actions that might affect threatened and endangered species will once again have to consult with biologists at the two departments.”

“For decades, the Endangered Species Act has protected threatened species and their habitats,” said Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. “Our decision affirms the Administration’s commitment to using sound science to promote conservation and protect the environment.”

In March, President Obama directed the Secretaries to review the previous Administration’s Section 7 regulation of the ESA – which governs interagency consultation – and Congress, in the 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act, specifically authorized the Secretaries to revoke the regulation.

Locke and Salazar said the two departments will conduct a joint review of the 1986 consultation regulations to determine if any improvements should be proposed.

The Endangered Species Act was signed into law in 1973 to protect imperiled species from extinction, as well as conserve the ecosystems and habitats necessary for their survival.

The Endangered Species Coalition has a bit more background on the situation, and also points out that Secretary Salazar now has until May 10 to repeal another of Bush’s unconscionable actions, the ruling restricting protection for polar bears.

Well, they’re not really like zombies. National Geographic writers are just masters at sensationalizing research taken from dry scientific journals. Nevertheless, this neat blurb about wolf spiders re-awakening after being submerged in water for up to 36 hours was fascinating. The researchers were initially trying to determine whether forest-dwelling spiders drowned sooner than spiders native to salt marshes. They did this, confirmed their hypothesis, then left all three “dead” spiders out to dry.

That’s when things began to get weird. Hours later, the spiders began twitching and were soon back on their eight feet.

..And, that’s it! No, really. There’s this:

The spiders’ survival trick depends on a switch to metabolic processes—the processes that provide energy for vital functions in the body—that do not require air, the researchers speculate.

Emphasis is mine. This is an article about some spiders drying out and waking up after being submerged under water, and no one even knows how or why they can do that. Pretty unsatisfying, if you ask me (no one did, of course). Good for the spiders, though. They sure showed those researchers what a bad-ass looks like.

From the Nature Conservancy’s Cool Green Science blog, here are their 10 Fashion Tips for Hip Conservationists:

1. Dress for the part; smartly but not over the top. If you’re a field biologist, do you really need a jacket and tie when you can get away with so much less? If you’re a top manager, don’t dress like Indiana Jones. We expect our chief lawyer to look lawyerly and our chief scientist to be, well.., a bit rumpled. (And he is.)

2. But occasionally dress against type. People will either say “Wow, you look smart” or “Wow, you look relaxed,” depending on if you are a scientist or a lawyer.

3. Dress jeans are OK, but…this means dark blue, no holes, and minimum of patterns. With lace shoes, dress shirt and a sports coat it looks just right for most conservationists. For me, it’s a staple.

4. Wear pants that come down to at least the top of your heel. Please. When you stand up, no part of the sock should be visible. In general, this seems to be a tough rule for conservationists — they seem to grow a few inches in the job, somehow.

5. Wear clean shoes. Like Mother, other people do notice them. Shine them up if they are the type. Above all, no sneakers (unless you are going running); no suede clogs (unless you are at home); and absolutely no crocs — ever!

6. Don’t eschew color all together. Too much stress on the earth tones doesn’t make you look more “environmental” — Al Gore could tell you about this. Orange is my favorite color. I wear it occasionally because, when I walk on stage or in a crowded room, people spot and remember me — and that’s half the battle.

7. Be comfortable with your choices. If you aren’t happy with it, it’s going to show and you won’t be as confident as you need to be. You must like what you wear.

8. Don’t dress so well that you raise doubts in your audience or your prospective donor about whether or not you really do need the money you are asking for.

9. Some branding is good, through logos and repetition. As much as we might loathe thinking about our outfits, if you stick to a theme, it’s much more likely to be noticed. It’s why Jack Hannah looks like he just stepped out of the hippo pen and why Steve Irwin (whether diving after crocodiles or appearing on the TODAY Show) stuck to his khaki shorts and shirt. It might look stupid…but people remember.

10. Finally, give the fleece a break — especially fleece vests. They scream your green credentials a little too loudly. (Besides, do you really want to wear something so temptingly flammable?)

So are you going to be successful as a conservationist just because you dress the part? Maybe…or maybe not. But in a field where we need all the help we can get, it would be foolish to ignore how we look or dismiss it as not important to conservation.

When I’m at work, I’m usually guilty of #10… but it’s cold in my office, and my CRES fleece keeps me warm! And though I’m not a conservationist by trade, I attend a lot of conservation-related events in the San Diego area that are loosely related to my job. For any sort of conference, I always try to look the part of a neat, tidy librarian, while still feeling like myself: skirts, stockings, heels, red lipstick, and a cardigan.

I like to think this it sets me a bit apart from all of the scientist types without wearing a big sticker that says “I’M A LIBRARIAN: ASK ME FOR HELP WITH RESEARCH”. For better or worse, how we present ourselves impacts how others view us. More importantly, if I’m dressed well or feel like I’m dressed for a part, I tend to feel more productive and professional at these types of events. Any other fashion-related hints? Share them in the comments!

Sir John Maddox, best known as the editor of Nature who transformed the publication into the behemoth of peer-reviewed scientific publishing it is today, died last week. Since then, I’ve been coming across many, many tributes to him online and reading them with delight. Perhaps delight is the wrong word to use, though Maddox was in his 80s when he died. What I’m trying to say is that I didn’t know much about him until he died and was eulogized by the internet, but the amazing things his friends and colleagues are saying about him really make it clear that this man was someone special.

On how ‘major’ and ‘breakthrough’ were banned words at Nature:

“Most scientific results are single bricks on a wall that’s already huge, big discoveries are just two bricks at once.”

Henry Gee on a trick that Sir John called the ‘Afghanistan Effect’:

“You write a little news story that says that nothing much has happened in Afghanistan, and people think ‘Goodness! Nature has coverage of Afghanistan’.”

The Economist:

“He led an assault on AIDS denialists and their supporters at the Sunday Times, and ended up in disputes over homeopathy, cold fusion and with Rupert Sheldrake, a parapsychologist. […] When your correspondent was a junior reporter at Nature several years after he had departed, she was advised that her first editorial was best written late in the evening with a glass of whisky to hand.”

If you read nothing else this week, please read these two delightful articles about Sir John Maddox. If you have a favorite of your own, or another tickling tale about him, please share it in the comments.

Sir John Maddox (1925-2009) – An Appreciation – Nature Network.

Sir John Maddox and science journalism | The nature of Nature | The Economist.

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