Women in Science – Incentives don’t match the goals

For International Women and Girls in Science day we have a guest post from some of the leaders of the 500 Women Scientists movement, Terry Bilinski, Emily Lescak and Kelly Ramirez. Their mission is to serve society by making science open, inclusive, and accessible.

For more than a decade, we have been engaged in a vigorous dialogue about the barriers to creating a more equitable scientific community in terms of gender balance and cultural background. There has been a concerted effort from many different perspectives to better understand and communicate about the issue through original research 1 2 3 4, review articles and reports by think tanks and government agencies 5 6, conference sessions and workshops (for example), not to mention innumerable opinion pieces in publications ranging from Science to US News and World Report to the Huffington Post. Millions of dollars in funding through foundations and government agencies have been dedicated to efforts directed at increasing diversity and equity in STEM. A large majority of the scientific community has raised their hand and said, “Yes, creating equity in the sciences is important.” And yet, the problem still looms large.

Here for International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we explore why advancement incentives have fallen short of making the sciences equitable and inclusive. Continue reading “Women in Science – Incentives don’t match the goals”

InSite/Out: In the field for the TeaComposition H2O Initiative: Number Four

Happy New Year to the InSite/Out readership!

As some of you may also be doing at the turn of a new year, I have been assessing the good, bad and ugly of 2017, while also looking ahead and planning (an incredibly successful) 2018. Launching the TeaComposition H2O initiative was probably largest and most rewarding project I had taken on last year. It has been one year since the launch, and since then more than 300 sites have been signed-up in ~35 countries. I have also been able to meet, either in-person or online, more than 100 research and citizen scientists who have been interested enough in the initiative to deploy more than 19,000 tea bags in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres (check it out!).

Citizen scientist involvement is a key part to TeaComposition H2O.
Citizen scientist involvement is a key part to TeaComposition H2O.

While musing, my thoughts took a bit of a detour and started wondering how I got into the decomposition business. Unless you work at The Body Farm, researching rotting things is typically not a ‘sexy’ science. My first decomposition project was not on seagrasses during my PhD in Sydney… actually – it took me a minute to realise this – my first decomposition project was for a science fair in elementary school.

A lot of science has filled my brain since I was 10, but a few details remain. Certainly, using a pre-made science project from a book in the library felt cheap. Instead, testing which conditions led to greater decomposition of wide-ruled loose-leaf paper somehow felt right. I think I was on the right track by adding water to a treatment, but perhaps not the case for the vinegar treatment. I only had one replicate for each treatment, but I did manage to get a couple tufts of fungus to grow, and that is about it. The judges must have thought the author of that tri-fold poster was an odd kid. Maybe. But considering I am still here in decomposition research and am undoubtedly working in good company, I think the decay project was an overall success.

The memory also reminds me (and I need to be reminded every so often while under the constant need to do and write) how science experiences in school can be impactful. We have made some progress in translating TeaComposition H2O to the classroom and for the general public, and there are several programs out there that have already done this successfully. Have you all had similar experiences in translating your science for schools? I’d love to hear about it.

As I sign off, best wishes for a balanced and productive 2018, and remember to share your science with a kid or two.


Until next time,

Until next time!

Stacey Trevathan-Tackett@stacey_teetee
Stacey Trevathan-Tackett Blue Carbon Lab, Melbourne, Australia

Read more InSite/Outs or more posts by Stacey.



Tasters: 30/01/2018

Hi all,

I have been in Davos a few times; two of my collaborators work and live there. Quite place. Stunning as well. And it is home to a world-leading institute for snow research. At the end of January, Davos hosts the World Economic Forum. At this year’s forum, the effects of extreme climate event and the loss of biodiversity have been identified as areas of great concern (see global risks landscape for 2018 below). An excerpt of the report can be found here. Are politics finally moving? I am slightly optimistic!


Last week, we introduced 15 new Associate Editors for Functional Ecology. What has not yet been mentioned is that the list of Associate Editors for the journal now consists of 54% men and 46% woman. I quickly analysed these numbers, and the gender balance in the FE editorial board is rather good (Chi^2 = 0.71, P = 0.40).

Staying with the equality, Nature reports on a study that analysed what happens when reviewers focus just on the science when they review grants. In such case, gender bias fades. When asked to also judge the scientist, woman still loose out. See the report here, and the original paper here.

On Dynamic Ecology, Meghan Duffy shared a thought-provoking blog describing the wider impact of sexual harassment and calls out for a change in the lab cultures. Slightly related, the Guardian had an interesting item on bullying in academia.

If you happen to work in peatlands, and your work is of importance to the conservation of Irish peatlands, the Dutch Foundation for Irish Peatbogs, has a grant call open. They fund up to €2k; preference is given to early career researchers.

Enjoy your week,


Bjorn Robroek is the blog editor for Functional Ecologists.bjorn

A personal view on EAB from Bjorn Robroek

From 11 to 14 December 2017, the British Ecological Society, the Ecological Society of Germany, Austria and Switzerland (GFÖ), NecoV (the ecological society of the Netherlands and Flanders) and the European Ecological Federation organized a ‘border-crossing event’ in the historic city of Ghent, Belgium. A full-house, with over 1500 delegates from across the globe delivering about 600 presentations spread over 72 parallel sessions. Ecology Across Borders was a 72-hour period of fantastic science, meeting old friend, making new ones; all in the setting of wonderful and picturesque Ghent.

Continue reading “A personal view on EAB from Bjorn Robroek”

Tasters: 09/01/2018

Dear all,

I’d like to first take the opportunity to wish you all a very happy, healthy and successful 2018. I hope that in the year that lies ahead, this blog will contribute to your work and may inspire you to submit your best work to Functional Ecology.

Let me also take the opportunity to thank all contributors to our columns Insights, Hindsight, and Community+Ecology. In the coming weeks, some changes to functionalecologists.com will be made, so keep an open eye. A special thanks to Gesche, Stacey, Richard and Rob for their guest posts in the InSite/Out columns. I hope to see more of your posts in the following year.

I am just back from annual leave, which started after the hugely inspirational Ecology Across Borders meeting in Ghent, Belgium (more on that meeting in one of my following blogs). This year for me begins with Functional Ecology having published its January edition, which has a special focus on functional traits along a transect (guest editors Shuli niu, Aimee classen, and Yiqi Luo).

RMtweetI am also very fascinated by the current weather conditions across the globe. Last week, it was colder in Sunshine state Florida than it was in Alaska. Guest blogger Rob Mills, sees hardly any snow in the Scottish mountains, while in the Alps the recent snow dump caused chaos, and even more is expected.

In the low countries, like my home country of the Netherlands, recent weather conditions have caused the rivers to reach very high levels. The good news here is that recent developments in creating more space for rivers has paid off, and flooding of communities has not yet occurred. To finish, on the other side of the world (from where I am!), Sydney deals with the highest temperatures measured since 1939. Who says nothing wrong with our climate? I am curious to see how our natural ecosystems deal with these phenomena.

All best, Bjorn

Bjorn Robroek is the blog editor for Functional Ecologists.bjorn

InSite/Out with Gesche Blume-Werry: End-of-season season’s greetings!

One of our field sites: a re-wetted coastal wetland at the Baltic sea.
One of our field sites: a re-wetted coastal wetland at the Baltic sea.

Finally, the end of the field-season has also reached me in the temperate peatlands. I’m not yet sure if it’s an advantage or disadvantage, that, after moving from the sub-Arctic to the temperate zone, my field-season is suddenly MUCH longer… Anyway, after a long period of preparation, we were finally ready to install tea- and litterbags in the field for our project about plant biomass production in drained and re-wetted peatlands. Things weren’t exactly made easy by the facts that a large part of those bags were root litterbags (and thus -obviously- needed to be installed at depth), that it was November and thus rainy and cold, and that parts of the bags needed to be installed in/below standing water (using waders and a clever combination of veterinarian gloves and standard rubber gloves, plus a good amount of duct tape).

Uh, root litterbags hidden here!
Uh, root litterbags hidden here!

Why am I working with roots in (very wet) peatlands, you ask? Maybe because although peatlands only cover 3% of the lands surface, they store twice as much carbon as the world’s forests, maybe because drained peatlands only make up 6% of agriculturally used land in Germany, but are responsible for 99% of the CO2 emissions from agricultural soils. Or maybe because re-wetting peatlands may help reducing carbon emissions, and because roots, which are a large part of plant biomass and production, are responsible for the peat in these temperate fens, and thus key players in the carbon cycling? Yes, all of the above, but also because it is also a lot of fun!

Heavy science on a November field day.
Heavy science on a November field day.

After two weeks of intense fieldwork, we had very sore muscles and very dirty clothes but also experienced this blissful happiness that you get from tiring days out in the field. Everything worked out, there were no major injuries (to plants or people), and it even seems like each of the roughly 3000 little bags was put into the right place – that is just an awesome feeling!

With that, I wish you all a very happy Christmas break, and a Happy New Year!



Gesche Blume-Werry, @gescheBW Umeå Univerity, Sweden & University of Greifswald, Germany.

Read more InSite/Outs or more posts by Gesche.


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