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My blog where I have tried to keep track of my development as a scientist. As a student I was only vaguely aware of how science gets done. This blog is my attempt to change that for aspiring biologists. The idea was to catalogue the process of getting a PhD, from research questions to grant writing, field work, and eventually publication. I haven't been great about keeping it updated, so it's heavily weighted toward field work.

Follow Dr. Liz Scordato and me as we travel across Siberia, sampling among three subspecies of barnswallow. This work aims to help us quantify variation in barn swallow feather traits and song, and their function in sexual selection and maintaining reproductive barriers necessary for speciation. 

If you're interested in getting research experience, here are some resources you should check out.
These are things that have helped me to do my work or to do it more effectively.

Listen while you work!
  • Pandora :: Gettin' shit done - mostly instrumental indy electronica, trip-hop & the like (constantly on)
  • :: Sleeping Dragon- you're in a dragon's lair, subtle shifting tones that make you feel like everything's gonna be OK
  • :: Dark Water- you're in a pirate's cave, with lapping waves, drips & subtle ambient noise
  • :: Fish Tank- self explanatory. is good.
  • Focus @ Will- this is a pretty cool idea; music that's been tested for its efficacy at helping you stay on track. For when I really need to focus (subscription)
  • PaperPile: (PC/Mac/Linux) Game changer! A cloud-based reference management plugin for Google Docs! This is an amazing solution for modern collaborative projects. Instead of doing static versions and getting feedback in rounds, which have to be merged with a new draft--use Google Docs' powerful version control and comments for multiple authors to edit a document AT THE SAME TIME! Plus, using PaperPile, you can add in citations by searching the DOI database (note dependent on any smaller database), and format these in any major journal format. Not perfect, but it's pretty new. I really like it!
  • Mendelay: (PC/Mac/Linux) A free PDF reader, annotater, and reference manager. Mendelay continues to get better and add new features--the de facto program for writing manuscripts in Word for many researchers and students.
  • ReadCube: (PC/Mac/Linux) A freeware reference manager (i.e. alternative to EndNote), cite-as-you-write program. Provides an instantly searchable database of all your papers and provides nice, customizable interface for making inline citations and bibliographies in Word. Also, built-in PDF reader with nice annotation tools. Although none of it's perfect, the developers actively seek user feedback and requests for new functionality, which make for constant improvements.
  • PDF-XChange Viewer: (PC) A free PDF reader and annotation software program for PC. I find it to be quicker, more customizable, and generally less annoying than Adobe Reader or Preview on a Mac. I set up keystrokes associated with underline, highlight, or typewriter tools to quickly annotate and keep electronic copies of my papers. The full version is half off for students.
  • Syrinx-PC: A small freeware program for creating annotations long recordings and making simple onscreen spectrogram measurements of frequency and time. It's no longer supported, but here's a link to an old installer.
  • R Commander: (PC/Mac/Linux) If you've ever struggled with getting R code to work, this graphical user interface wrapper can really help speed the coding process up
  • R Studio: (PC/Mac/Linux) A brilliant, Java-based cross-platform freeware R editing solution! Automatically saves your work, supports tabs for multiple scripts, has a great-looking layout including graphical outputs, objects, help, and installed packages. One of the best functions (and underutilized from my experience) is projects. Projects allow you to set your working directory to a particular folder (allowing you to separate projects into folders, each with data, figure, and table subfolders for your manuscript), and most importantly, autosaves a SEPARATE workspace. This is particularly important if you recycle code, with generic objects like "dat" or "df" that might give you the wrong result, depending on which script you ran last. The ability to open your project workspace and start where you left off without having to rerun your code makes this a super useful function! 
Time Savers