Getting Involved

How to get involved as a writer

We solicit essay commitments at the end of each publication month (September, December, March, and June). At this point, interested grad students are invited to sign up to write an essay for the following issue under one of the four continuously-running essay categories (see below). Alternatively, students can (and are encouraged to!) pitch their own ideas for an essay or written piece. Feature slots are filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Submissions come in various sizes – 500 word blurbs and 5000 word essays are both welcome. So start thinking about what you’d like to write!

ESSAY AND FEATURE CATEGORIES:

Methodology/Statistics Tutorial: submit a non-technical break down of the logic and practice behind a method or analysis you’ve employed in your thesis. If you’ve just spent six months learning the ins-and-outs of Bayesian phylogenetic analysis, genome assembly, mark-recapture methods, or even something that’s taken for granted like PCR, you’ve probably got a much better understanding of it than most people in the department. Help us understand your method better by explaining it in jargon-light prose. Importantly, help us become better readers of “methods” sections by highlighting the good or bad practices to look for. You should write for an audience of interested graduate students with varying degrees of familiarity with your sub-field. Length: 1200-2000 words (for reference, this email is 1200 words). Feel free to illustrate your ideas with figures where appropriate. For an example, see Jalina Bielaska-Da Silva’s piece on CRISPR in Issue 1 (pp. 50-56).

Organism profile: submit a profile of the organism you study (extant or extinct). If you’re a field biologist passionate about turtles or owls or clovers or dinosaurs, tell us what’s interesting about them in terms of their natural history and/or what we can learn from their study. Alternatively, if you’re a model-systems person, why is your organism important? What makes it a good model? If you study Drosophila, which species? Why that one? What are the big developments that have come from that work? What are the challenge of growing them or keeping them alive? Why should we care about maize? As E.O. Wilson wrote, “The study of every kind of organism matters, everywhere in the world”. Tell us why your organism is cool. Length: 1000-2000 words. For examples, see the profiles on cichlids, redside dace, Daphnia, and duckweed in Issue 1 (pp. 36-49)

Book Review: this is your opportunity to express your ideas on on a written work to a group of interested potential readers. You can choose to review a technical book/edited volume or a popular book on ecology and evolution, of which many are published each year. Feel free to choose a new title or a classic in the field. A book review is also an excellent starting point if you’re just getting into non-technical writing, as the piece has a built-in focus - the book itself - and you often get more out of a book by forcing yourself to write about it. If you’re in a book club, consider joining forces with another member and writing up a joint perspective, perhaps based on discussion points that have come up over beverages. If there is strong disagreement on a book’s merit, consider writing rival reviews. For review examples, Kate Brown and Kennedy Bucci’s book reviews in Issue 1 (pp. 64-69). You can choose to write a blurb (250-500 words) or a longer feature (1500-2000 words).

Conservation/global change: if you study global change or conservation, submit an essay on a recent development that graduate students should be aware of (many of us probably aren’t). If you’re a field biologist, submit a piece that outlines the unique pressures faced by your study group. Are most scientists aware of the issue? Is anything being done about it? For instance, one of the biggest threats facing South American fishes comes from illegal small-scale gold mining. Most of us don’t know it exists, but it has the potential to wipe out a tonne of species, many of which don’t even have names yet. Your taxon could face something similar that we should know about. Length: 2000 words.

Field Work Stories: tell us the story of an experience from the field. This could be a harrowing encounter with wildlife, a tale of field-work-gone-wrong, a description of a beautiful place or exciting discovery, a depiction of the frustrations and joys of fieldwork, a story of natural observations leading to new ideas or hypotheses - anything that made you think, laugh, cry, or swear, and that you’re likely to remember for a while. You can choose to write a blurb (250-500 words) or a longer feature (1500-2500 words). Accompanying photographs are welcome but not required.

Film Review: write an essay on a science or nature related film or films. These can be fictional or documentary, and you don’t have to stick to new releases. Tell us what you think the filmmaker got right (e.g. in The Martian, Mars is very far away). What did they get wrong? (In The Martian, a botanist is interesting and resourceful). Was it an inspiring story, fascinating, boring? Is the film making an argument, and if so, did you buy it? Were the technical aspects sound? Most importantly, should we use our precious free hours to see it? Like book reviews, your piece can be written in blurb or essay form. If there are several films about the same topic, consider comparing them in a joint review.

Scientist Profile: write a profile of a scientist that has been important to you - active or retired, alive or dead. Love Jane Goodall? Why, what’s so cool about her (beside the obvious)? Big fan of a little known palaeontologist from the 50s? Tell us about why they matter. What do you appreciate most about them? What are their important scientific and/or social impacts? How has their work affected your life or career? How has it affected the rest of us? Have they been adequately recognized, or are they overlooked? If they’re famous enough that biographies exist, please recommend a title. Here, too, there is possibility for debate: if you and a friend have differing views on a scientist of the past, consider writing rival profiles. Length: 1500-2000 words.

How to get involved as an artist or photographer

Our department is rich with talented artists, illustrators, and photographers - something we’re keen to celebrate. Each quarter, we solicit art and photography to be featured on the cover and throughout the magazine.

For photographers:

As graduate students in ecology and evolution, many of us have the unique opportunity to conduct work in remote and/or interesting places. If you’ve been in the field and have images to share of natural settings or wildlife, please submit some for the rest of us to see.  Photos don’t have to come from the field alone. If you’ve been in your garden (or someone else’s), or have hiked, or have noticed something interesting while walking around campus and happen to have taken a photo, please submit. Finally, there is a bit more to science than standing in beautiful places. If you have high quality photos depicting other aspects of your work, such as photos from the lab, library, conferences, your CT scanner, etc., please submit! 

For Artists:

Our department is fortunate to have an unusual number of gifted artists. We will accept submissions of images on virtually any subject matter - it does not have to relate to nature or science. We simply want to showcase the talent and vision of department members. Please submit in RAW or jpeg format with highest resolution possible to seanas.anderson@mail.utoronto.ca

How to get involved as an editor

Interested students can sign on to volunteer as editors during the Spring EGSA meeting.