Comments: 216 • Responses: 62  • Date: 

lolzergrush186 karma

Someone who doesn't have a PhD published in a scientific journal...that's great but it happens all the time. It wasn't even done at a high school (as the AMA title implies); according to the abstract you were either one of the researchers working and being funded at SUNY, or working and being funded by the USDA.

So...congrats on publishing but why is this noteworthy?

kjromine63 karma

I'm really glad I am not the only one that thinks this. I have worked in several labs and writing papers IS your job. Like shit, my coworker and superior got 5 papers out this year and it was just...meh. It's what you get published and where that really matters.

Irenica878 karma

Yes, but /u/swallowtails DOESN'T work in a lab. Writing the papers isn't in her typical job description. She is not pursuing a PhD, isn't a postdoc, etc. So that people outside of the norm can get published is important and worth knowing more about.

rectospinula16 karma


swallowtails1 karma

Then you should be worried about a lot of science teachers. Of the ones I work with, I think that very few would consider themselves scientists and have the same background I do. (I hope that didn't come off as rude, I just wanted to let you know that not all science teachers have science backgrounds.)

rectospinula4 karma


swallowtails7 karma

Thank you. I'm sorry if I misunderstood. I do consider myself a scientist in that regard. I realize doing actual science day-to-day is different than teaching about science, so in that regard I don't feel... as sciencey as I could.

swallowtails25 karma

You're right. I guess its just noteworthy to me. The only reason it might be anything different is that I'm not going to get a PhD in science. That and I'm no longer directly in the science field. Maybe I can relate the process to non-scientists.

I'm just excited... I know that for many people this isn't as big of a deal as it is for me. I'm sorry.

Edit: I reread your comment. I honestly didn't intend to mislead. I wanted to give background information about myself, and to show that I am not in the science field. I'm sorry, too, if that was misleading.

caedin814 karma

I am an undergraduate computer science student and just had my own worked published in a conference. The first time is very exciting and I am very proud of my work, as you should be too. Congrats!

swallowtails1 karma

Congratulations! Thank you for the kind words, and I know you share my excitement in being published. Awesome job to you, and congratulations again.

stacyah7 karma

Just fyi but you don't need a phd to publish. Or a degree at all as many publish as an undergraduate. And it would seem that you were actively sciencing and directly in the field when you published as testing hypotheses and sharing results is exactly what science is.

swallowtails2 karma

You're right. I guess, for those who aren't in science, it may be a mystery how these things happen. I just wanted to share.

rectospinula6 karma


swallowtails2 karma

I get what you're saying. Not all teachers are required to get masters degrees. Those that do often will get it in reading, special ed, literacy, management, but not science. So in the field I am in now, I do not know of many people who are published. I hope that makes sense.

lolzergrush3 karma

You should be proud. So should everyone who manages to publish in a peer-reviewed journal.

My point wasn't that you shouldn't be excited or that it shouldn't be a big deal. However, there are thousands of people every month who publish something in a peer-reviewed journal for the first time. Imagine what it would be like if every single one of them hosted an AMA every time they successfully got their first paper published?

That's just not what this place is for. "I just got a promotion at work, AMA!" "I just graduated law school, AMA!" It would get really, really old. Yes these are things to be proud of, share with others if you wish, but it's not unusual or out of the norm. This is the sort of thing /r/CasualIAmA was made for.

swallowtails3 karma

You're right. I did not know there was a sub for casual ama's. I didn't mean to make it seem like a bigger deal than it was.

lolzergrush0 karma

Not your fault! At the time I posted that comment, your submission was at the top of /r/IAmA which I was think was due to some misunderstanding of the context. It made it sound like an unfunded, independent high school teacher with no external resources got published in a scientific journal which would be almost unheard of.

I mean, it is a big deal and you're contributing to the body scientific knowledge. That's a lot more important than some imaginary internet points. I just wanted to clear up any misunderstanding.

swallowtails2 karma

Thank you. I actually had no idea it made it there and it was never my intention to mislead... I really thought I would have like 5 questions about the paper and that would be all... hahaha.

You're right! It would be insane if I was able to publish work with high school students... Maybe that is what I should strive for next year....

Thank you for clearing it up for me. Trust me, I don't need internet points, I just wanted to share about publishing with reddit.

lolzergrush2 karma

Who knows, maybe you can get high school students involved with your department at SUNY. That would be quite a big item to put on a college application if they had their name on a peer-reviewed paper. Talk to your advisor and see if he/she is interested in helping you write a grant proposal to involve high school upperclassmen in university research, you'll never know if you don't ask!

swallowtails3 karma

Good call!

noshore4me14 karma

Do you ever wake up like less than ten minutes before your alarm is supposed to go off and you choose to lay there so you can be surprised by the song the radio will play at your wakeup time?

swallowtails4 karma

I'm lame because I have just noise as an alarm instead of the radio... A lot of times, that doesn't even wake me up.

I do wake up before it goes off sometimes, but I just give up and go back to sleep.

fourDnet12 karma

  1. What is your paper's relationship to this paper which had the same advisor and essentially the same title but didn't have your name on it (did they give you somebody else's project to work on)?

  2. What are your thoughts on digital journals with impact factors lower than 1?

swallowtails15 karma

That's me before I got married. You'll notice on the paper I listed above its the same first initials. That paper is basically my thesis published through Buffalo State (the college I attended).

Well... Low impact journals don't necessarily have low impact articles. I'm sorry, I just don't really have a strong opinion on different journals.

fourDnet5 karma

Cool, I love seeing how things progress as something is being written. I wish you good luck on your future career.

swallowtails2 karma

Thank you. That means a lot :)

ChallengeResponse2 karma

First and foremost, congratulations on your first publication! It is really exhilarating to "officially" join the scientific community. Re: your statement on low impact articles:

Well... Low impact journals don't necessarily have low impact articles.

A low impact journal's published papers have a low impact, on average, in the scientific community (not cited elsewhere, for a variety of reasons). However, this does not imply low quality --high quality research is routinely submitted to journals not necessarily "in the spotlight"-- nor does it necessarily exclude impact outliers.

swallowtails0 karma

Thank you.

And thank you for clarifying. You are right about low impact journals and articles.

parasuta7 karma

Initials are the same except for the last name, guessing OP published thesis with a different surname. Content of both is almost exactly the same otherwise.

I'd still like to hear OPs response to question 2, and would also add the question what perspective or advice do you think you can offer that would differ from a career scientist given I assume as a teacher this foray into research is a one off and you will likely never attempt to publish again? Or has this changed your career trajectory?

swallowtails3 karma

You're right. I got married and changed my name to my husband's between starting and finishing.

To answer your question, I went in to the masters program excited to research. I love the field work portion. The writing, not as much. For a while I considered getting a PhD in biology after graduating, but publishing this paper made me realize that's not for me. I'm a lot happier trying to get high schoolers to have an interest in biology.

If I publish again, it might be as a coauthor editing for my advisor or one of his future students. If I get a PhD, I would do it in educaruon, so I can become a principal or teach at the college level.

Advice for people who aren't going to stay in science but find themselves in the science field now: work on a project that you love that you want to see through to the end. You won't have to worry about funding after you're gone. Keep writing, even if its hard and you're not used to it. You'll get better at scientific writing.

Edit: a word.

caedin82 karma

The writing, not as much. For a while I considered getting a PhD in biology after graduating, but publishing this paper made me realize that's not for me.

I am the same way, publishing my first paper made me realize I wanted to get a job as a software engineer, not follow through with a PhD. Writing papers of that scope and length is brutal.

swallowtails3 karma

Congratulations to you on publishing!

I know, right? I didn't realize how tough it would be until I was doing it. I give a lot of credit to people with PhD's and multiple publications... That's an accomplishment.

sryu411 karma

What is the impact factor of this journal?

swallowtails-1 karma


I realize that it's a low impact journal, but my research doesn't carry the weight of something that belongs in Nature or Science.

kjromine10 karma

Why is everyone acting like this is a big deal? Seriously not to be a dick or anything but one paper isn't AMA worth IMO....

swallowtails14 karma

You're right.. In the grand scheme, it isn't a huge deal. I guess maybe its a big deal to me. Sorry if my post bothered you.

Irenica875 karma

This is a big deal to people in the biology and STEM education field. Way to go, /u/swallowtails. This is something we will hopefully see more people doing. This AMA is a step in the right direction to making it possible for others. Thanks for being accessible.

swallowtails4 karma

Thank you. I appreciate it, I really do.

angeldaniel7 karma

Most creative response to an exam question by one of your students?

swallowtails3 karma

Current students?

I asked a question... Hmm.. About cohesion and adhesion of water I think... Well I said "in your own words" and one of my students turned in an answer written in his own gibberish language. He said, "well you said in your own words, so. ." I laughed. I have to be careful what I say.

caedin85 karma

Thank you for actually being passionate enough about your subject to get published work as a teacher. I think this should be more common. One of the worst things a high school or middle school student can be exposed to is a teacher that got a "teaching" degree and simply likes working with kids, but has no passion or even interest for the subject they teach.

If you look at teachers that have real positive impacts on students lives it is almost the ones who are really passionate about what they teach, and are good at conveying that excitement and passion to their students.

So, Thanks! You sound like one of the good ones.

swallowtails1 karma

Thank you, that means a lot to me.

I love science and I love kids (not a creeper, I swear!), so it just made sense to put them together. I have worked with people who don't know science and teach kids and I worry... How can you teach when you don't know what you're talking about? :/

havereddit5 karma

Curious to know the extent to which the second author (advisor?) contributed to writing the paper? Some advisors expect to be co-authors even if they just funded the research, while at the other end of the spectrum, some advisors will not expect to be a co-author unless they actually helped write part of the paper.

Congrats on getting published by the way! Most people have no idea of how the peer-review process works, and just how long it can take!

swallowtails0 karma

Thank you very much.

My co-author was my advisor. He was super hands-on with me and our research from day one. I did the bulk of the leg work and wrote the paper, but he coached me, helped me edit and rewrote some sections. Now that I think about it, he helped to search out what journals we should query and walkede through that as well.

I know I wouldn't have gotten my work published without him.

70695 karma

If your hypothesis turns out OPPOSITE from expected, how exactly do you structure the discussion about that in your results? (Not like a null, but actually opposite) Say the hypothesis is that kids in small classes have higher anxiety and as it turns out, they have lower anxiety.

swallowtails4 karma

I'm lucky that I went to a smaller school. We don't get a ton of funding, so I was under no pressure to get a certain result.

If we went in with a certain hypothesis and found out the opposite was happening, that would be pretty cool. We could say in the discussion that "unlike so and so, we observed blah which is statistically significant". (Not written like how I would for the paper, but you get the idea.)

The only reason it would bother me is if all other research showed the opposite. Then I would question what I did wrong.

Getting a statistically significant answer to your hypothesis is awesome. It means you've answered your question in some way. I think you have to go in to your project not expecting or preparing for any answer so your analysis can remain unbiased.

-KC5 karma

Congrats on the publication! Have you heard of the Waksman student scholars program from Rutgers University? It allows select students and teachers from high schools across the United States to conduct research in molecular genetics and work towards becoming published. I am currently a part of the program and my first clone is being sequenced so it can by analyzed. I would recommend checking out the program and seeing if you can get it in the high school that you teach at. It is an experience that is extremely valuable for students interested in the scientific fields and gives you as the teacher the opportunity to continue doing research.

swallowtails4 karma

Wow that's exciting!

I will definitely look into that. I had no idea that it existed. Thank you for that information.

redschwa4 karma

How do I become a science teacher? I have B.S. already.

swallowtails0 karma

Well of depends on what your particular state (I'm assuming you live in the US) requires for you to become a teacher. You will need to at least go through a teacher certification program so you can apply for your certification. I would suggest going and getting your masters degree. You already have to take at least a year of school, why not go for the extra year and come out with another degree and not just a certification. You'll be a higher qualified candidate and start higher on the pay scale.

You'll have to take standardized tests to show you know your content and how to teach. I had to be fingerprinted and take three, several hour long courses on fore safety, drug abuse, and child abuse. I also had to pay for all of that since the state I originally was certified in is very rigorous.

angeldaniel4 karma

Why does it take so long to write the paper? How many hours did you invest in writing it? Do you work on it a little every day?

swallowtails4 karma

Good question!

Well I did my research over the course of about one year. I started writing the paper the next year. I also had to analyze my data and run statistical analyses on all the data I collected. I also made and remade graphs that illustrate my work. Then I had to work with my advisor to interpret some of our finsingsw. Writing takes so long because you have to figure out what to say and what tone to use. Another reason is the way you need to write for a journal is not the way I (or I think, most people) write or talk. I had to learn to adjust how I think and write so I could sound like how I need to sound for that audience. Add to that the fact that you need to research related journal articles to site relevant research, and it becomes a hefty task.

I would write and research every day while I was in school for a few hours every day. Once I finished classes, and my paper wasn't done, I had less time to write since I was working. I couldn't tell you how many hours I put in total, but I can say that I started my research in 2010, and turned in my thesis (which became a draft of the paper) in 2012. It was accepted for publication in 2013. Most of the heavy writing was done in 2011. A lot of editing in 2012.

DoctorNeuro3 karma

Do you guys do all of the statistical work? Why not use a statistician?

swallowtails3 karma

We did use a lot of the stats we ran. Tried to show what was statistically significant and what was not. If the data was not relevant to what we were talking about, then we didn't include it.

The stats were simple enough to run, so we didn't need someone else to do it. Its a smaller school, so we did a lot ourselves. Plus now I know how to use JMP.

iPayTheTrollToll4 karma

Do you plan on doing educational research in your future classrooms? Great job btw :)

swallowtails1 karma

Thank you! That means a lot.

If I teach AP bio next year, I'll teach them about researching and journal articles and the like. For now, I will have my bio students do general research. I want to do more hands on labs so they get a taste of what research can be like, though.

iPayTheTrollToll2 karma

By educational research I meant furthering educational knowledge with research techniques. For example, creating methods to test how different pedagogies affect student comprehension and drawing conclusions from your data.

For learning about research journal articles, a jigsaw technique might be super effective for the students.

swallowtails1 karma

Well the school I work at is dedicated to reaching students who learn in different ways - multiple intelligences. Our mission is to teach information in a variety of ways so that way we can reach everyone. So, I have some data already about how my students learn. That helps me shape my lessons so that way I reach the most amount of students as possible.

MegGriffin_4 karma

Shoudn't this be in /r/casualiama?

swallowtails1 karma

I'm sorry. I didn't know that was a sub. Can I move the thread? Or is it too late? :(

UnfortunatelyLawless3 karma

About to start my master's degree in nursing in three weeks! Any advice to share for my journey? Any especially helpful websites or organizational tools that you came across?

Thanks in advance and congrats on getting published!

swallowtails0 karma

Thank you and good luck to you!

Let me think... Hmmm... Its been a few years since I've been in school. I would say for advice, be ready to be tired. I'm sure you're a very dedicated person, but go to class, take good notes and study. Maybe that sounds like "yeah, duh. That's why I'm going to school." You'd be so surprised at how many people don't do that!

I made a lot of flash cards. I also made graphic organizers. How do you learn? Take notes and study in that way (pictures, songs, gestures). Make up a song for the cranial nerves and it will stick with you forever. If anyone asks you to help them with their research, say yes. You'll be tired but glad you did.

As for websites, I really used my school's website to search for journal articles. That's all I did for weeks - research journal articles.

Last advice, talk to your professors. Get to know them and ask them intelligent questions. Like, don't ask them something you could research yourself, but ask them a question that's an extension of something said in class. Or about their research. Get to know them and they will want to help you.

Good luck in your classes!

angeldaniel3 karma

What's your opinion on all the buzz around GMO food? Harmful or helpful?

swallowtails-8 karma

GMOs could be great. Could be.

The problem is that when we alter the genome of an organism and let it out into the natural world, we have no idea what consequences it will have. That worries me. My fears could be unfounded, but humans have messed up a lot...

If there was a way to isolate GMOs from natural living things, I'd say let's start testing how they affect other organisms and humans.

HAL9000_Computer10 karma

I'm pretty sure that the only scientifically plausible consequences of GMOs would be on the ecosystem, but any effect on the human body is nonexistent or completely negligible.

swallowtails-8 karma

I've heard that as well, but if it hurts the ecosystem, it'll come back and bite us that way unfortunately.

cnralex2 karma

In the grand scheme of things, is this a big deal? No.

But, for the individual, is getting their first paper published a big deal? YES.

Well done on getting your first paper published, I'm currently doing the post-review edits on my first one right now.

swallowtails2 karma

Thank you.

And congratulations on your hard work. I look forward to you pming me one day and telling me that it's published.

banjofish2 karma

How did you decide what you were going to research on? I will be a teacher within the coming year (substituting for now) and gaining my masters degree will become an issue within the next decade, though in a very different topic.

swallowtails1 karma

How's subbing going? I know how hard that can be...

I met my advisor before I was accepted into the program and he told me about his research. I did a little research before I met him and found it interesting. (He looked at water and fire treatment among other thimgs with plants.) Actually, he agreed to meet with me because of how professional I sounded in my email.

He had a few projects he was working on, and I could have suggested my own ideas or work off of his existing work. So I chose to work on something he had set up, but had not started yet.

banjofish3 karma

It's actually going really well. I enjoy it a lot. I can't wait to have a full time job, though! Thanks for the response. I wonder how this holds over into different areas.

swallowtails2 karma

Good! You'll be a better teacher for it since you know how to handle discipline.

Do you mean masters programs? Or publishing in a journal?

banjofish5 karma

Masters program. I live and teach in a state where we have to obtain a masters level degree within a decade of obtaining a full time job. I plan to go on to doctoral level, for the pay raise and to get the doctorate title. I'm a music teacher, though! And yes, substituting my first year has definitely helped me learn how to discipline better, though I look at it more as classroom management. I want to avoid discipline as much as possible.

swallowtails2 karma

True about classroom management.

Good luck and I hope you like teaching.

IAmFern2 karma

How do you best choose the style of writing what you do? It seems to me you need to make it interesting without making it dramatic, as that might appear unscientific?

Or is it simply facts, plainly stated?

swallowtails-4 karma

I like to write for fun. I had to change my style to fit into the style of "academia". Unfortunately its not supposed to be written for everyone or to be interesting. Its supposed to present the facts of the researxh, site others who have done similar work and then your interpretation of the work with data and stats to back you up.

I wish they would make scientific papers more readable for laypeople, since I know there would be interest. I think the articles are just to appeal to other scientists who are interesred in the subject matter...

Phylogenizer0 karma

Cite*, and yes, papers are for other scientists to share their work with peers.

Plenty of blogs and other nonsense websites exist to dumb down things for the masses. You should just be excited you published a real paper!

swallowtails0 karma

Whoops. You'd think after writing so many citations I'd spell better, but no. Thanks.

I'm super excited.

MarcoVerza3 karma

If you are interested in making scientific papers more readable for the layperson then you could look into popular science journalism. I agree that it is very important science is better explained and more accessible to the average person, and I find it disappointing that many scientists look down on that kind of thing. If it is something that appeals to you, do it!

swallowtails2 karma


I agree with you. People need to know what's going on in the science world. It's not just for the "elite" any more.

Bcasturo2 karma

How is your night and what did you eat for dinner?

swallowtails0 karma

Thanks for asking!

Its nice. Getting ready for bed. The power went out here... Weird. I had a biscuit and tea from Bojangle's. Lazy dinner!

Jiggywithme2 karma

Could this research lead to a better understanding of why that locker room smell persists?

swallowtails-1 karma

...I wish that I could say that it could. It will not.

I'd say that stink has to do with the molecules of whatever odor (sweat etc...) have attached to the surfaces in the locker room. You'd have to spray down every locker and repaint to get it all out. My husband plays hockey and that stuff REEKS!!

kombuchagrasshopper2 karma

have you ever struggled with depression or attention problems? I just did a two semester course conducting my own research and creating a research paper (basically it was mock-grad school, but in undergrad) but I had a lot of problems with motivation and would get down, and would miss deadlines. I thought the research was fascinating, but by the end of the year it was hard to stay motivated to keep going. So yeah, how did you stay motivated through all of this?

swallowtails0 karma

Yes. My life was certainly improving at this point, but I had been struggling and was still struggling then. There were a lot of times that I would be alone in the lab or on the floor of the science building working, editing, writing. I would wonder if I would ever get it done. I would look at the screen and realize I wasn't even reading... Then I finished my classes and had to work full time to support myself. My paper would get pushed to the back burner...

My advisor and my husband were great motivators. I wanted to graduate so I would skip watching shows or get up earlier on weekends to go to school and work. (I found I would procrastinate if I was at home.)

After the thesis was done, it was a little easier to edit and prep it for submission.

I feel your pain. It seems like it will never be done. Take a break, walk away for an hour. Commit to writing so many words or at least a paragraph a day. It's hard. I know! But you can do it and you'll be so much happier for it when you do.

badguyfedora2 karma

How much homework will you give your students based on your article?

swallowtails1 karma

Ew, none! That would be so arrogant of me... They have no idea that I'm published and I'll probably keep it that way. It has no bearing on class.

badguyfedora2 karma

I'm just poking fun. My college has professors who wouldn't think twice about it. One has actually written the textbook for one of his classes.

swallowtails1 karma

Haha. I thought so. I know one of my professors made us study his work and know it in depth. I guess he's just that passionate about it.

ShortWoman1 karma

Many congrats!

Will your experience doing research and writing it up change how you teach? What you emphasize when you teach?

swallowtails1 karma

Thank you so much.

I have always tried to do more hands-on work, so that won't change. If I teach AP bio, I want to introduce them to scientific writing and that community, since they probably have interest in science at some level.

I like to bring in facts and videos and short articles about current research, so I may show them how a journal article becomes a news bite.

I try to keep it interesting and at their level.

ejtnjin1 karma

Congratulations on finishing your master's and your publication! Did you go to school full time or did continue to teach while working on your degree part time?

swallowtails2 karma

Thank you!

I ended up leaving a teaching position I loved, but I did that so I could take a position at the college. So I was a teaching assistant at the college, taking classes full time, researching and I worked at Blockbuster video part time to fund everything. I actually had a tough time finding a teaching job once I finished my degree.

EngineeringSolution1 karma

How do you deal with waiting for results and labwork in general? I did some research last summer and that was always the worst part. It's fun theorizing, but sitting by some analytical equipment for six hours reading a book waiting was killer. Things like that are what stopped me from wanting to go for grad school.

swallowtails2 karma

The reseaech and analysis was the challenge for me. My work was done in the field (which was a literal field) with equipment that took real time measurements of photosynthesis and respiration. So we (me, my advisor [he was super hands-on and liked to be in the field supervising], my husband and my friend who also worked in the lab) would go out and take measurements. They only last about 90s to 120s for each measurement, so there was a ton of setting up the tent, adding the cover and then moving to the next plot and doing it again. That part was totally enjoyable and went by quickly.

The writing is challenging for me because it just doesn't come naturally to me yet. I'm sure with a lot more practice, I could get better.

EngineeringSolution2 karma

You know, that actually does sound quite enjoyable. What analytically equipment were you using to measure the rate of water loss from the plant material? Was it UV/Vis?

swallowtails2 karma

We used a LyCor6400 photosynthesis machine. It tracked O2, CO2, and H2O changes in real time. We had everything and a computer hooked up to a boat battery so we could make sure it was all working.

senorpapagiorgio1 karma

How did you arrive at this specific subject for your research?

What length of time did you measure the affect of N and P on said ecosystem?

Could a steady addition of these elements eventually lead to decreased primary production due to the carrying capacity of the soil being increased until the other necessary elements are exhausted?

swallowtails1 karma

Ooh good questions.

Nutrients were added over the course of two years. Another author (I think its Hautier et al, but I haven't done much with my paper in the 2 years I've waited for it to be published so I could be mistaken) said they noticed that increased N would increase biomass to a point, where shading from faster growing plants would cause the slower growing plants to die from lack of sunlight. I think what happens is that when you increase one limiting factor, another factor becomes limiting in that environment, even if it was not considered limiting before (I.e. water). There will come a point at which even though you fertilize and water like crazy, plants won't be able to grow any more in a certain amount of space just because the limiting factor will become space itself. Simple, when you think about it, but I don't know that I've seen a paper that states that..

My research question came from some work my advisor had planned. I answered it better in another comment.

senorpapagiorgio4 karma

Very good observations! I may have to read your research entirely lol. In your title you use the word 'ecosystem'...while I know what this includes, Im wondering what the breadth of your research covers? Also did leaf litter affect production? Do you have any intention of furthering your studies to include ecosystems with other climates, soil types, bio diversity etc? Thanks for taking the time to do an AMA! Im an environmental science major so Im lovin' it! ;)

swallowtails2 karma

Thank you. :)

The ecosystem I worked in was a temperate grassland. The area I studied was all grasses, but occasionally insects would get into the tent we used to measure photosynthesis and respiration. Is that what you meant by what breadth did we cover? No trees or large animals, unfortunately. But then again, I don't have to tag a blade of grass. He's not going anywhere. Haha.

We took measurements of leaf litter biomass at the end of the growing season. We compared biomass (which included litter from the precios year) between plots as a measure of production. More biomass means more photosynthesis. The amount of litter in the plots didn't negatively affect production.

Unfortunately I'm not in a position where I could reproduce my experiment in a steppe or a tundra... Which would be awesome. I think if it were repeated, you would see the pressures from other limiting factors become more pronounced which would ultimately limit growrth and photosynthetic rates. Feel free to ask or pm me any questions about the paper if you're interested in grassland photosynthesis.

greengrasser111 karma


Were you scared to post it up here on the off chance someone on reddit would actually read the paper and tear it to shreds, then contact the publisher and have your paper redacted just for the internet points?

I'm going to submit to a publisher in a few months and for some reason this fear keeps popping up in my head and I almost wouldn't want to tell anyone.

swallowtails-1 karma

Thank you.

Haha. Well its already published in the journal, so it would be hard to unpublish it... I would have my coauthors to back me up who are way smarter than I am, so I'm not worried about that. My advisor tore everything to shreds and built me back up, so I'm Ok. I'll just try not to cry when someone finds an error.

Good luck on publishing! I'm not saying this to brag, but I'm proud of publishing and you will be, too. If your advisor looked it over, you'll be fine.

Edit: sorry about weird capitalizing and things. I'm on my phone and ready to fall asleep...

Beer_in_an_esky0 karma

Congrats and welcome to the club. Now be prepared to spend the rest of your life camped on scopus wathing your citations number tick upwards :P

Also, for an actual question, how many times did it get knocked back before it was accepted?

swallowtails0 karma

Hah! That's true. Once I see someone site me, I'm going to freak!

We weren't accepted in one journal, then we queried this one and had to make one edit based on our peer reviewers.

angeldaniel0 karma

Do you believe in God? Do you pray?

Do you need to cover "creationism" when teaching the origin of life?

swallowtails2 karma

That's a fun question.

I do believe in God. God's cool. That being said I KNOW evolution is the accepted scientific theory. I know its correct. I teach what science says is the currently accepted theory. I also don't think that belief in God and acceptance of scientific theories are mutually exclusive. I've never been told to cover creationism and I wouldn't even if they wanted me to. I'm a science teacher, not a religious ed teacher.

I also don't push my beliefs on anyone. I'm just here to talk about science.

(I now teach in the Southern US where this is a sensitive subject. I tell my students this: I will never tell you to change your beliefs, but this is the accepted scientific theory. Let's learn about it.)

William_wallace_0 karma

Do you think the current education system actully works, and how could we make it better?

swallowtails2 karma

Oh wow. That's an awesome question and a hard one.

I've actually been sitting here thinking about how to word my answer for a while now.

There are good schools. There are bad schools. Unfortunately, some of what is happening at the good schools will not work in the "bad" schools. Like what? They way teachers teach (lecture) does not always work for all students. "Good" schools generally correlate to a middle class or better neighborhood with high parent involvement. The other thing about good schools, though, is that you have good and bad teachers there. Kids can do well in a class with a bad teacher. If they memorize and cram, they will pass tests. Good teachers get their students to know the information.

How can we improve the education system? Every school board must have teachers and principals who have worked in that district on it. People who are not in education don't understand the day-to-day goings on of teaching. Principals must have at least 5 years of teaching experience before they can lead a school. Principals must come in to every classroom unannounced and see what and how teachers are teaching. They must know their employees.

To turn around a failing school... This is something I would think about while writing my paper. Since people want to throw money at the problem, I propose doing it this way: Make super small classes. I'm talking maximum 8 students, 1 teacher and 1 aide in EVERY classroom. Teach using multiple intelligences (don't just stand up and lecture and make them take notes, use visuals, hands-on activities, have them make songs, incorporate music) and structured peer guided activities. Give them time to talk like how they crave, but make it constructive. I can't stress small classes enough. Another thing people don't like to hear: let kids fail. If they do no work, don't study and put in no effort, they should receive a failing grade and have to repeat. NCLB has really shown students there is no consequence to not doing your work. So, why try?

The thing is, it will take YEARS to see a change if some of these things are implemented. That's a problem. People want to see results right away. Well, we need to start next year in kindergarten and we'll see an improvement in reading and math in a few years. It takes time.

There's so much more I could write, but I don't want to talk forever.

tl;dr: teach to the students, make small classes, get rid of NCLB, get some teachers on those school boards

William_wallace_2 karma

Don't worry about talking fore ever, I really love hearing someone talk about the school system from the inside. With the recent push for STEM courses in schools and the US's drop in standings for high school education I have become even more interested in the idea of trying to fix a system that was made for the people who existed in the industrial revolution that is now so outdated that we don't know how to fix it. When I look at it and read papers and watch talks about it, the impression I get is that we've had more or less the exact same system for public education for around one hundred years and it hasn't evolved much, it's just grown, so now we have this large system that works to pass kids and not teach them because we haven't changed our system for the time that is now. We have a system that is out dated and doesn't work the best that it can, but the people who know how to fix it IE experienced educators, don't have the power to change it. It's a vicuos cycle and I continue to research it in my free time. I apriciate the response on the topic and really what you have to say about this, because you are one of the ones who knows the ins and outs of the system and can recognize the shortfallings in the system where an outsider might not.

swallowtails1 karma

You're right. If more people would do their homework and learn about what the education system is like, then positive change could happen. We just have people trying to keep a failing system going, without having any idea how it impacts students and teachers.

ThatMudkipGuy0 karma

Did you ever get any sort of writer's block when you were writing your thesis and paper? And if so, how did you get past that and continue writing? I personally find that the hardest part of writing a long paper is whenever I get hung up on a certain idea or concept, or how to express a certain idea or concept to shape it in a way that directs it towards my audience.

swallowtails-1 karma

Yes!! A lot actually. I would write and rewrite paragraphs all the time. Some times I would go weeks without writing because every time I looked at the paper, the words would turn into gibberish. :(

To get over it I would talk to my advisor a LOT. He was so helpful and willing to work with me. When he wasn't around, I would skip from section to section and add or edit. I would search other papers to get some inspiration and try to find new people to site.

I agree. Its super hard. My professor always advised me to go from big ideas to small nuanced ideas in my writing. Unfortunately, I feel like the style of scientific papers is to make people unable to understand you...

I would ask people to read my work (ones that I knew would give me good feedback), and see what they would say about it.

Good luck on your future papers.

Subs-man0 karma

Too be honest, I don't care what other users are saying, you should be proud of your thesis getting published not every school teacher's does at the end of the day, So well done!

My question is What is it about that specific area of Biology that interested you enough to pursue research into it? To a layman like myself, How would you explain what that area of biology is about as if I was five?

swallowtails1 karma

Thank you for your kind words :)

I got interested by reading the information on my adviser's webpage (he wasn't my adviser at the time, and I was reading up on the different professors and their areas of interest.) I did some research in undergrad on e.coli, that never got published, and I always liked plants. The other thing that solidified it for me, was that the professor was so dynamic and likable. We really clicked, and it made working for and with him so much easier.

So the area I was involved in is considered plant physiology, or plant physiological ecology. So, I looked at what plants do, how they do it and how it relates to the whole ecosystem.

That area looks at what happens when you add nutrients or water to an ecosystem and then checks how that affects plant growth and reproduction. They can look at things like how fire affects plant growth (since in some areas, brush fires happen often). They can look at why certain seeds will only grow if they are digested first (called scarification). I think the simplest way to put it is we look at something that is interesting about a plant, figure out why it is like that, and then see how that relates to the ecosystem around it.

Subs-man2 karma

No worries! Sounds pretty interesting & I'm not even that interested in botanical ecology, haha. :) Is there any specific plant(s) you like studying to see the various effects on the ecosystem?

swallowtails1 karma

I mostly studied grasses, but if we had different equipment I would love to do readings on whole forests. I would like to do my own work and see how an individual leaf will change over a growing season with regard to photosynthesis. I don't really have one type of plant or grass that I would specifically like to study, though. I like them all.

Subs-man2 karma

Cool. :) What sort of Forests interest you in particular? What is it about Grass that fascinates you?

swallowtails1 karma

Happy cake-day!

I like a lot of forests in the area where I grew up. General deciduous forests. I mean, they're beautiful and give off this sense of peace an calm. (In the day time. Night time, uh.. a little scary.)

As for grass, its everywhere. Haha. I sort of fell in to studying grasslands, and they became interesting to me. I learned to tell the difference between a couple types of grasses. It amazes me how much they contribute to the ecosystem and is just something I had walked over for years.

Subs-man2 karma

Thank you so much, 1st year on Reddit today woo! It's weird how Reddit only displays your new "year badge" & displays your cake after it's exactly the time after you signed up (seconds & everything)

Do any of your other interests (scientific or not) interlink in any way with your love for Ecology, if so. How?

swallowtails1 karma

Well I like to read, and I like to do that outside. I like teaching about science and I'm actually teaching a middle school/high school class on ecology right now... I just hope my kids get how much I really like the subject.

A lot of my other interests are far removed from ecology, like gaming or knitting or reading or writing. It makes ecology more fun. Like a break from every day.

Subs-man2 karma

Interesting mix of hobbies, loving the knitting, haha :), I've always wondered how hard that is & what are the main differences between that & crochet? Reading's also cool does your ecological background influence what you like to read?

swallowtails1 karma

I've never crocheted and I just started knitting. It's fun! Knitting requires two needles and crocheting uses a hook. I hear crochet is easier and I think you can make a wider variety of things. I want to learn.

I read some books that are about ecology, but I like to read young adult books... They're just fun to me. If you want an easy(easier) book to read that would get you into science, look up the book "Mean Genes". It's a fast read and is interesting.

David Quamman (spelling?) wrote "Song of the Dodo" which is an awesome read about biogeography, ecology and evolution. It's a little long, but if you like to read, its good.

ahoffm10-1 karma

How much do you hate actually doing research? Seriously, how can anyone enjoy doing research and writing research studies for journals. Couldn't think of anything more boring. No offense. like did you honestly see yourself enjoying the research or do you still find research tedious and annoying?

swallowtails2 karma

I loved doing the field work. I didn't mind compiling the data and even running the stats to see trends. Researching and writing was very monotonous and tedious for me. Its one reason that I don't think I will get a PhD. I'm not the best at scientific writing and research.