January 21st 2008 was Tet Zoo’s second birthday, but due to its clashing with the launch of the EDGE amphibian site I didn’t have the chance to write about it. So, better late than never, I’m doing that now. It’s time to reminiscence on a year gone by, on a year when so much happened in the world of Tetrapod Zoology…
The move to Science Blogs
The real personal big deal for 2007 was, of course, the migration of this blog to the wonderful world of Science Blogs. I initially decided that this wouldn’t change my blogging habits, but eventually it did, as the constant quest for more hits has led me to post more frequently that I can really afford to, and – I’m not ashamed to say – to sometimes deliberately post things that I know will keep the hits coming in (the recent bird-strike article is an example, as is the whole Picture of the Day thing… which hasn’t really lasted as you might have noticed). Science Blogs currently hosts 65 blogs (it was more like 60 at the start of 2007), and Tet Zoo seemed to move fairly rapidly up into the top 25, where it has since stayed. For the past several months it’s been rated somewhere round 18th-16th in terms of traffic, which is good but not good enough. Hey, if I could post multiple articles on the same day you know I would
On one exceptional occasion, Tet Zoo really hit the big time and got into the top 5, but that was because of that Godzilla article from February. It earned a mega-peak of over 21000 hits over the space of a couple of days. Speaking of hits, it didn’t take long for Tet Zoo to start getting over 1000 hpd [= hits per day] early in the year (on Tet Zoo ver 1, 300-600 hpd was average), and by September or so this had doubled to 2000 hpd. Right now, 2400-2700 hpd is normal. It seems to me that the potential audience is saturated and there probably aren’t more people out there who regularly want to check a site on technical zoology – I suppose I could start posting about mud-wrestling or the idiocy of ‘creation science’, but, no. But is the audience saturated? Well, my friends, I leave you to prove me wrong.
Besides the Godzilla mega-peak, other highlights of the year included the legendary article from April on turtle penises, the two April 1st articles on rhinogradentians, the several on Marc van Roosmalen’s new mammals from June, and May’s article on Australian feral mega-cats (which resulted in another mega-peak of over 15000 hits in one day). I remain involved with many of the subjects I write about. Ok, I’m not actively investigating Godzilla or turtle penises right now, but I am (as of today in fact) still assisting Marc van Roosmalen where I can, I remain involved in the ‘cryptic big cat’ scene, and some of the stuff I’ve written about giraffes, lissamphibians and pterosaurs has resulted in actual, publishable research, or has gotten me involved in work on conservation and education.
A personal look at 2007
2007 was a reasonably good year compared to 2006, but that’s not saying much as in 2006 we couldn’t pay the mortgage and nearly lost the house. Never one to let crippling financial concerns stand in the way of my quest for knowledge, I not only did a lot of blog posting, I also attended too many conferences, did at least some publishable research, and got out into the field when possible. I joined the committee of the Southampton Natural History Society, which doesn’t sound like much but is a big deal for me. I also taught my second WEA course on tetrapod diversity and evolution to a group of adult learners, which was fun. Our field trip was to the Oxford University Museum, which is wonderful for teaching purposes [Oxford ungulate skeletons shown in adjacent image].
In March I attended the second Big Cats in Britain conference where I got to see a stuffed Kellas cat and the skin of one of those (in)famous rabbit-headed cats. By laughing and nudging each other during a late night/early morning discussion in the bar, Jonathan McGowan and I managed to partially subvert the course of British big cat research, but that’s a long story that I can’t divulge here, yet. March also saw my involvement in a science ethics issue: as part of my editorial job for Cretaceous Research I had handled a paper by a team of researchers who, it seems, had sneakily published on a fossil site that was being actively investigated by another team (Mezga et al. 2006, Dalton 2007). Entirely by coincidence, at about the same time I posted here at Tet Zoo the story of another case – that concerning aetosaurs and the individuals who’ve published on them – where publishing ethics have apparently been violated. More on that in the future.
In May I attended a conference on rhino conservation, in late August I spoke at Weird Weekend about the nature and content of cryptozoology, and then at SVPCA about obscure Lower Cretaceous theropods. A week later I was in Germany at the Peter Wellnhofer pterosaur conference, where I also spoke. Never, never, never again will I think that I can somehow get away with doing three conference presentations within the space of a month. I visited Monkey World, took Will to see the crappy old dinosaur models at Blackgang Chine on the Isle of Wight, and made multiple visits to Southampton Aviation Museum, Marwell Zoological Park, various others zoos, wildlife parks and aquaria, and to the few ‘wild’ areas that surround us (the New Forest, Southampton Common etc.). I went birdwatching. I looked at newts, unusual finches, dead baby squirrels, alien lizards, deer, wood mice, waders, raptors and ravens in the field. Late in October Toni and I went on our first holiday in more than six years (with Will too of course) when we stayed at Mike and Fiona Taylor’s wonderful house in the Gloucestershire countryside. Due to a deal with my employers, we were able to take another break together during December, when we flew up to Glasgow (Will’s first trip on a plane) and this time stayed with Jeff Liston and his partner Alison Brown [adjacent photo shows, left to right, Vincent Fernandez, Eric Buffetaut, Richard Butler, Darren Naish. I'm a lot shorter than people think. Photo courtesy of Marc Jones].
My personal employment situation veered about like a street drunk during the year. Having spent the latter part of 2006 as a gardener, a deliverer of leaflets (easily the worst job I’ve done – and I used to work in retail), or as someone attempting (unsuccessfully) to get unemployment benefit, I started 2007 working on e-learning courses for Bacardi. By this time I’d essentially given up on the idea of being an academic palaeozoologist, and when applying for jobs I had to not mention my academic qualifications. I then got a lucky break and stayed for a while at the media company Impossible Pictures; here I could finally get into the habit of swanning around London’s West End, rubbing shoulders with Kate Moss and going to all the showbiz parties, snorting cocaine and so on. I blew what money I made on lap-dancing and expensive dinners. I was kidding about the cocaine. But it wasn’t to last…
Thanks to a remarkable series of circumstances, by August I managed to get a new job as a full-time technical editor on a big book manuscript: I don’t want to say much about it right now but it explains my continuing references to the Ichthyosauria. 2007 was a disastrous year for a journal I do editing work for, Cretaceous Research. The actions (or lack of actions) of a newly appointed member of staff brought the journal to its knees. The person involved has since been dismissed and we (the remaining editorial staff) are doing our best to get back up to speed. We’re succeeding, but many authors have had their submitted work horribly delayed [adjacent image is Secretary bird Sagittarius serpentarius I photographed at the International Bird of Prey Centre in Gloucestershire. Check out those eyelashes].
More next: technical research in 2007 and beyond, and the tetrapods of 2007…
Refs – -
Dalton, R. 2007. Dinosaur prints lead to crediting row. Nature 446, 708.
Mezga, A., Meyer, C. A., Tesovic, B. C., Bajraktarevic, Z. & Gusic, I. 2006. The first record of dinosaurs in the Dalmatian part (Croatia) of the Adriatic-Dinaric carbonate platform (ADCP). Cretaceous Research 27, 735-742.