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How I use "new media"

Ironically, I write a blog post about it. I’ve been asked to talk to first year faculty about “Communications Strategies: Using the Internet, Email and New Media in Teaching and Scholarship.” My mandate is vague, so I thought I’d focus on how I use “social media” in my professional life. I’m not going to talk about email. Because, honestly, if they aren’t using email effectively by now, I’m not sure how they got a faculty position. And managing the email-beast is way beyond my expertise.

Instead, let’s talk about blogging and Twitter and the like.

Watershed Hydrogeology Blog (here)

I’ve maintained a “lab blog” here since May 2008. It’s purpose has evolved somewhat, but presently I view it fulfilling the following needs:

  • a place to brag about the cool things my students and I are doing;
  • a place for prospective students to get an idea of what I’m interested in and working on;
  • a place for me to post all of my abstracts, papers, etc. so that I can easily find them again when I need to reference them;
  • a place to post links to interesting miscellany (REU announcements, videos, etc.) that I think might be of interest to me, my students, or other hapless folks who read this site.

At one point, I thought I would use this site as a way to aggregate all of my on-line writing. But I haven’t always kept up with that. However, I still do sometimes cross-post between here and my other blog, Highly Allochthonous. I should be better about it actually.

I haven’t asked my students to write on the blog, though I could probably let them know it is available to them if they want to do so. I figure graduate students have enough on their plates without being obligated to write a blog. I would be open to any student who did want to write posts here, though I’d probably want to work out a system for vetting posts so that they wouldn’t contain regrettable or unpublished material.

Highly Allochthonous

I write this blog along with another geologist. Here I am writing for an audience that ranges from professional geoscientists, to K-12 teachers, to the interested public, to whoever Google search delivers. We tend to write things that we are interested in and we think others might be too. Our writing there is less technical than the scientific literature (or the lab blog), but posts there are more in-depth and analytical than here. I also pay more attention to my writing style. 

I’ve written a lot about current events, scientific papers, and particular places on the landscape, and a little bit about issues of diversity in science, the lives of academic scientists, and the way I teach. We also periodically do compilations of things we’ve linked to on Twitter.

My pace of writing at Highly Allochthonous ebbs and flows depending on my workload and inspiration. The last few months have been pretty sparse, but I suspect it will pick up again in the summer and fall. I’ve been blogging there since spring 2008 as well.


I tweet as @highlyanne – mostly about water science and resource issues, geology, geomorphology, climate, and science careers. Basically things that I find interesting when I am reading on-line or off-line. I also usually Twitter a lot more socially than blogs. A lot of my tweets will be replies to friends or colleagues on Twitter. Both my PhD advisor and undergraduate advisor are on Twitter actually, though one is more active than the other.

What I get out of all of it

  • A collegial atmosphere with more diverse scientists and interested citizens than I see in real life
  • Knowledge of a wider breadth of current events in science than I would get from reading journals
  • Practice writing for a variety of audiences (blogging has undoubtedly made me a better writer)
  • Spill-over knowledge into my teaching
  • More visibility than your average assistant professor (media interviews, book reviews, attention from my scientific societies)
  • Quick answers to questions either scientific or pedagogical (“crowd-sourcing”)


About the best compliment I could get (or, why blogging is worthwhile)

Amateur geologist, author, and fantastic human being, Dana Hunter, has written a post in which she talks about how my blogging has inspired an appreciation for hydrology that she never otherwise would have developed. I won’t quote from her post here, but I wanted to bookmark it someplace special so that I could come back to it when the demands of teaching, research, and parenting get me down. If nothing else, I now know my blogging has made a difference for somebody that I’ve never even met.

I think that’s part of the power of blogging – it not only can bring the world into the classroom, but it broadens the classroom into the world. As the theme for this month’s geoscience blog carnival, the Accretionary Wedge, I asked contributors to muse on education. Amongst many great submissions so far, Dana’s post on how professional geoscientists can reach out to amateurs is truly inspiring. Honestly, if geoscientists are truly going to make a difference in the world, it won’t be through journal papers, conference presentations, or even graduate seminars, it’ll be through reaching out beyond our professional and student ranks to people who are curious and care about the Earth. I sincerely hope that includes most of its residents.

The blog's 2010 in review

WordPress just emailed me this handy review of blog stats for last year. According to them, these are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010. Given that the point of this blog is to (1) keep prospective students and other people interested in my research and teaching up-to-date on opportunities and activities and (2) collect my on-line writings in one place, I’m pretty pleased with the mix of posts that show up in this list. I think in 2011 I’ll be experimenting with ways to do more of the first item here and more research oriented blogging both here and at Highly Allochthonous.


Graduate Assistantships: Biogeochemistry, Stream Ecology, and Hydrology at UNC Charlotte, NC September 2010


Megafloods from Glacial Lake Missoula June 2009


Coal, the High Arctic, and the fossil record of climate change January 2010


Post-doctoral Scholar – Oregon State University Hydrogeomorphic response to changing climates in the Pacific Northwest January 2010


Inspiration in ancient rocks and simple physics July 2009