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Palaeo-Art and palaeo-biodiversity

 

I recently learned of palaeo-art from John Lavas our biology librarian. It’s nothing to do with our needing a palaeo-diet but rich in images of what formed the diet of animals before man arrived. What I like about it is that it breathes life to fossils, as artists re-create how they think animals may have looked and behaved in their habitat. In addition to the intellectual challenge of piecing together the picture from the clues available, the art can be both beautiful, sometimes amusing, and a great way to communicate palaeo-ecology to the public. John’s article was based on the work of Zedenék Burian (1905-81).

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I thank Jiri Hochman for permission to include these images of Burian’s work, and the Editor of the journal Prehistoric Times for permission to allow downloads of John’s articles Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

Restoring coral reef ecosystems at Aitutaki, Cook Islands

Dr Charley Waters, an inspiring scientist in Aitutaki, Cook Islands, has started a local initiative to foster community engagement in restoring and protecting their marine environment called Aitutaki Reef Keepers. The island community, including local schools, are closely involved.

School children and visitors actively help by fixing small branches of living coral to cement blocks and wedging the blocks into the reef in the lagoon: as seen on this video. The initiative thus actively fosters community engagement in protecting the island’s coral ecosystem.

Related work involves restoring giant clam populations on which Charley conducted his PhD (see video). He also has a wonderful collection of photographs showcasing the beauty of the clams.

The University of Auckland has undergraduate scholarships for Maori and Pacific Island students, and at postgraduate level for Maori and Pacific Islanders.

Katherine Kelly and Mark Costello joined Charley for a week, helped with placing coral in the lagoon, set out sites for future coral replanting, discussed methods and opportunities for reef health monitoring, and explored the lagoon environment.

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A new species of polychaete; Use of light-traps for sampling biodiversity

Two new papers published this week:

Pamungkas, J. (2017). Capitella ambonensis: a new polychaete species (Annelida: Capitellidae) collected from a mangrove habitat on Ambon Island, Indonesia. Zootaxa 4227 (4):  573-582.

McLeod LE, Costello MJ. 2017. Light traps for marine biodiversity sampling. Helgoland Marine Research 71: 2. DOI 10.1186/s10152-017-0483-1

Tips for presenting a scientific talk

 

Delivery

  • Who are your audience – aim the talk at them, what will interest them?
  • Show some enthusiasm; it can energise the atmosphere
  • Face the audience and look at them all (not one person)
  • Speak to back of room and control pace of delivery (we may speak faster when nervous), louder and slower than in normal speech
  • Alter the pace of presentation to emphasise key points and cover straightforward background material quickly
  • Avoid bad habits (e.g. umm’s, repeated hand behaviour)
  • Move around if it helps you relax, and some movement helps engage the audience
  • Practice what you will say so your words are clear and concise, and the timing is right
  • Some humour is good, but not too much and keep it appropriate for audience (no jokes that only close colleagues will understand), and never appear flippant
  • Minimise use of the laser pointer. Do not let it dance around the slides.
  • Question time – keep answers brief and to the point
  • Reply to the audience – avoid conversation with one person

Storyline

  • The audience is interested in what new findings or comments you have, so keep introduction and methods brief
  • Get audience interested early on by posing questions you will answer
  • Questions are more engaging than null hypotheses (to most people)
  • Do not apologise or make excuses for challenges and study limitations; rather state them up front as the reason for the approach used, or state what you learned from the experience and would be a better approach in the future; we can learn from failures.

Structure

  • If speaking for more than 5-10 min, introduce layout of presentation and summarise it at end
  • Have a storyboard (plan) memorised, and written down in case you forget or loose track, e.g. why – how – what found – what it means.
  • Do not be afraid to pause and check your storyboard or notes before continuing
  • Tell the audience when you are reaching, or on, the last slide or statement, so they know when you are finished. Alternatively, do not ask audience to read the last slide as the conclusion, but move in front of the slide and state it. Thanking the audience for listening makes it clear you are finished.

Slides

  • The first slide should have your name, co-authors and affiliation, the last either the conclusion or acknowledgements; some presenters like to cover acknowledgements after the first slide so the talk ends with the conclusion that then leads better into questions
  • Graphic and images should add to the presentation, not distract from it
  • Graphs, diagrams and images are good, sentences bad (paragraphs worse)
  • Explain axes on slides
  • Minimise clutter (e.g. repeated text and logos), decoration or complex background images on slides
  • Use few (preferably only one kind), if any, and simple transitions between slides.
  • Each slide should have one to three points, more than five is too much
  • Do not read the slides, the audience can do that by themselves

Text

  • Do not irritate your audience with tables with lots of text or text on graphs that is too small to easily read (this is depressingly common)
  • Never put more text on a slide than would be printed on an easily read T-shirt!
  • Full sentences are not necessary, just keywords and phrases
  • Keep text font style simple, bold, large, and minimise variation in styles
  • Consider using the “six by six” rule – never use an slide that has more than six bullet points, and each line should have no more than six words
  • Never put more on a slide than is necessary – the best slides are those that are not quite complete and rely on the presenter to complete the picture
  • Do not use UPPER CASE letters as they are difficult to read; use Upper/lower case
  • Try to use a dark background with light-coloured text, yellow, orange and white on dark blue is very effective
  • Never combine red, blue or green text and backgrounds
  • Fonts used should not be smaller than 24 point
  • Text on graphs should be horizontal to be easy to read, not vertical.
  • Read words backwards to check for spelling errors
  • Fonts “with feet” are easier to read (in a paragraph)
  • Fonts “without feet” make nice titles
  • Limit indents to two, and not more than three

A good online resource for making oral and poster presentations is at http://www.tos.org/resources/publications/sci_speaking.html

http://www.tos.org/resources/publications/sci_speaking/command.html

Please make your own suggestions and add links to resources below