Thanks to covid and cancer, I spent most of last year (2020) away from the campus. Luckily, I live in a very rural area so I was able to do a lot of walking and interacting with Nature. This year’s collection of haikus are thus geographically constrained. I hope that some of them will strike a chord with some of you.
Oak, standing alone
Hoarding Nature’s memories,
Safe, beneath her bark.
February 6th 2020 Sutton
Stalwart oak still stands.
Despite lightning’s flashing bolt
Nature will prevail
15 April 2020 Forton
marking the perimeter
of the farmer’s field
Sutton 18th May 2020
Pointing at the sky
Twin stags, hoarding resources
Not ready to die
1st June 2020 Sutton
Busy buzzing bees Old hedgerow oaks in a row Loud Lapwings mewing
25th March 2020 Sutton
Socially distancing pines,
A sign of our times
24th March 2020 Sutton
Yellow furze crowned slope
basking in April’s warm sun.
Heaven for insects
22nd April 2020 Oulton by Sutton
timely seed distributing,
4th May 2020 Sutton
A part but apart,
encroaching the wheat desert;
16th August 2020 Sutton
Spring, pinkly blushing,
but soon to be clipped and hacked
By the groundsman’s shears.
Harper Adams 16th March 2020
Green ivy, brown thorn frame the farmer’s verdant fields; awaiting spring’s warmth
Welcome to my, now very, very definitely, traditional review of the past year.
Impact and reach
I have continued to post at about ten-day intervals; this is my 321st post. As I wrote last year, there never seems to any difficulty in coming up with ideas to write about; the problem is more in deciding which one to use and when. As happened last year, some of my blogs have, albeit in slightly modified forms, made it into print (Montgomery et al., 2020).
Despite my proselytising, many of you remain lukewarm about the idea that social media has a place in science. I would, however, ask you to think once again and if you need any more convincing, read this paper that very clearly demonstrates the benefits arising from such interactions (Côté & Darling, 2018); evidence that science communication via social media is a very worthwhile use of our time. Highlights of the year included a joint blog with Stephen Heard, about paper titles. Covid and my fight against cancer meant that my outreach activities were somewhat curtailed although I did give a couple of talks via Zoom and took part in a podcast about the importance of insects. I also had three Skype a Scientist dates this year, two with schools in the USA and one with a school in Switzerland. I really enjoyed the experience and hope that the pupils were as pleased as I was. If you have not come across this scheme, check them out here.
My blog had visitors from 179 countries, the same as last year (181 2018, 165 in 2017, 174 in 2016 and 150 in 2015), so my plans to achieve total global domination seem to be on hold 😊 My blog received 63 710 views (63 710 last year, 54 300 in 2018, 40 682 in 2017, 34 036 in 2016; 29 385 in 2015). As with last year, most views came from the USA, with views from India holding on to 4th place and Italy replacing Nigeria in tenth place.
My Pick & Mix link fests stalwartly dominate the bottom of the table, although the account of our summer holiday in Catyluna Nord in 2015 takes pride of place at the foot 🙂
I mentioned last year that the viewing figures for December were the lowest of the year, and speculated that perhaps my blog had reached an asymptote. The first ten months of the year did indeed score lower than the corresponding months in 2019, but November and December bucked the trend with record numbers of views.
Tweeting for entomology
I still find my interactions on Twitter very rewarding, although this past year as with last year, I have become somewhat more political; Brexit and Trump, need I say more? Most of my tweets are, however, still entomological and ecological and the increase in political comment has not stopped my followers from growing. I finished 2019 with 8088 followers and begin 2021 with just over under 9000, 8983 to be precise. Many thanks to all my readers and especially to those who take the time to comment as well as pressing the like button. My top commenters, as indeed they were last year, were fellow bloggers, Emma Maund, Emily Scott,Jeff Ollerton, Amelia from A French Garden and Philip Strange. I look forward to interacting with you all in 2021.
In theory I am semi-retired from my daytime job, academia but I hasten to add, not from entomology. I do, however, seem to be spending considerably more than 60% of my time doing stuff that I thought I would no longer have to do 😦
This time last year, I reported happy to report that my proposal to OUP to write Insects – A Very Short Introduction had been accepted, but that I was behind schedule. You may be pleased to hear that I submitted the completed manuscript ahead of schedule, albeit only two weeks, and am now waiting to hear what the reviewers thought. My next project is The Secret Life of Aphids, watch this space.
Overall I can’t say that 2020 has been a vintage year, two spells in hospital, lockdown and the continuing saga of the lunacy that is Brexit. On the other hand, a lot of good things have happened; new friends, old friends and family all make life worth living, so in the words of the song “pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again”.
A Happy and Prosperous New Year to you all.
Montgomery, G., Dunn, R.R., Fox, R., Jongjejans, E., Leather, S.R., Saunders, M.E., Shortall, C.R., Tingley, M.W. & Wagner, D.L. (2020) Is the insect apocalypse upon us? How to find out. Biological Conservation, 241, 108327.
Côté, I.M. & Darling, E.S. (2018) Scientists on Twitter: preaching to the choir or singing from the rooftops? Facets, 3, 682-694.
*The number of views for my annual reviews are as follows: 2014 (86), 2015 (110), 2016 (179), 2017 (115, of which 112 were in January).