Monday at SfN

Monday started for me with the lecture on the navigation systems underlying the migration of monarch butterflies by Steven Reppert. The topic was way cool and very much along the lines of neuroethological studies that I love: for instance, they painted one antenna of the butterflies black to prevent entrainment of its clock to daylight, but left the other antenna intact – this messes up the their sun compass orientation (more in the paper by Guerra and colleagues). However, I was still too tired to take it all in, so I moved on to the professional development workshop on science blogging.

Unfortunately, I had missed the talks of the first two panelists, Anne Churchland and Bradley Voytek. I was in time to hear R. Douglas Fields talk about some perils associated with blogging: Licensing and copyright issues that bloggers should be aware of. Bethany Brookshire talked about how she turned into a professional blogger/science journalist. Then whole panel then took some questions. Some of them I found hard to relate to, for instance Brookshire’s assertion that if you want to get yourself known and advance in the world of science writing, you need to post a blog at least three times a week. To me that seems like a very arbitrary number – of course you need to get in the habit of writing, and writing often, but I don’t see the point of posting just to ‘get content out there’. If I don’t have anything to say I wouldn’t want other people wasting their time reading it. On the other hand, some very important issues were touched upon as well: Know your audience! And the balance between making science sound interesting and overselling it. A fine line, which applies to bloggers as well as to scientists writing their papers.

The rest of the day I wandered around the poster boards, particularly enjoying the ones from David Schoppik’s lab, and some on frog vocalisations from Erik Zornik’s lab. I also learnt about the anatomy of the neural circuits underlying midshipman vocalisations, stick insect leg reaching or the reliability of your balance signals. Cool stuff!

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