updated 22 April 2022
Frequently Asked Questions
I would like to ask you for specific information or advice about ants, my career, challenges in the academic workplace, diversity, equity, and inclusion issues, teaching practices, or something else.
It’s difficult for me to individually handle all of these requests. If you have a question that you’d like me to answer, I suggest that you ask it anonymously on the Small Pond Science Infrequently Asked Questions (IAQ) page, where I will be able to offer some kind of reply that will be available for everybody. So please direct this kind of question on the IAQ page. When new comments are placed on the site, I look them over, and so I will be able to provide a customized response.
Could you give an inspiring talk about science, teaching, and mentorship for my organization?
I have limited availability for speaking engagements. I’m not represented by an agency, please send an email to email@example.com. It is helpful if you specify in advance dates and times, location, audience, duration of the talk, and the speaking fee.
Are you available to be interviewed for my news story, podcast, blog, or to give a research talk at my university?
Please direct inquires to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Would you like to contribute a piece of writing to our blog or publication?
Please contact me at email@example.com and include: what you’re looking for, the deadline is, the target length of the piece, and the rate at either a flat fee or price per word.
I would like you to post a link or promote something for me. Will you do this?
The short answer is No. I try hard to be independent about choosing what to share. I suspect I’m more likely to: a) see something and get excited about it and come up with the idea to share it, than b) share something after considering a request to share it. I prefer to not be put in a situation where I have to decide whether something is so cool that I should reward someone I don’t know for their choice to ask me to leverage my platform to their benefit. That’s my emotional response and thought process when I get an unsolicited request like this. If you’re interested in successfully manipulating me, this would involve sharing a the information that you want disseminated through public means (by a public mention in a reply, rather than a DM or an email). Then leave it to me to decide what to do with it, rather than have a specific ask.
Can I republish your writing on my website, magazine, or newsletter?
My copyrighted work can be licensed, please contact me for rates.
Can you share my link via social media or on your blog? Can I pay for you to post material on Small Pond Science?
If you think your link would be of interest to readers of Small Pond, post it to twitter and tag @SmallPondSci, and I will probably see it. The site does not run paid posts, but sponsorship is a possibility (like how NPR is sponsored). Contact me if you’d like to sponsor Small Pond Science.
Can you identify this ant or other insect for me?
I don’t provide identification services, and am actually rather poor at identifying critters from photos, compared to other experts. I recommend checking to see if your ant is in Dr. Eleanor’s Book of Common Ants and checking out Seek, iNaturalist, or BugGuide.
How can I learn more about the science of ants?
There are several good books! A great recent one is Foitzik and Fritsche’s Planet of The Ants. A classic is Hölldobler and Wilson’s 1990 book The Ants ( it won the Pulitzer Prize!), though in many ways it’s outdated. Their more recent books (Journey to the Ants, and The Superorganism) are good. I think Mark Moffett’s Adventures Among Ants is very informative and entertaining and has very solid science. The site antwiki.org has lots of information. I highly recommend posts and photos from the Myrmecos blog, though it’s been quiescent for a while.
I’m working on an assignment for school or a club, and would like you to answer some questions for me. Could you help me out?
If you are associated with a Title I public school in the Los Angeles region, please drop me a line. If I’m not able to help, I’ll do my best to hook you up with someone who can. I cannot support other requests, as I receive far more inquiries than I can support and I have prioritized high-need institutions in my local area. However, if you ask a short question on twitter, I may be able to respond. If your teacher has required you to contact an expert as a part of a class assignment, I am sorry that you have been put in this situation, and I have written more about this here.
I’d feel like I need substantial guidance to navigate the challenges and choices in my career, or about creating institutional change. Can I ask you about my particular situation?
If your university wishes to contract with me for professional services for diversity and inclusion, please contact me. I am not available for individual career counseling, but if you are looking for advice and mentorship in your academic career, you might try the NCFDD.
Could you ask your underrepresented minority undergraduates to apply to our graduate program?
If your program has well-funded agenda supporting the professional development of underrepresented minority scientists, and you have a strong track record of admitting and funding students from regional public universities such as CSU Dominguez Hills, then please send me some information in a format that I can readily distribute.
How did you end up studying ants?
Here is one story about how I ended up doing research on ants.
I’m thinking about starting a blog or need advice about being a scientist on social media, what advice do you have?
Here is some advice for starting a blog (or not), and information in this academic paper about blogging might be helpful too. If you’re thinking about writing a blog to outreach to the general public about science, there’s a book to help with that.
I’m an administrator and would like to improve the situation on my campus for minoritized faculty and create a more diverse and inclusive campus. Where should I start?
I asked for input from some people and their responses are quite useful. Here’s a recent academic paper that has a set of specific recommendations for you to follow. Here’s an excellent review of the academic literature (though it’s not brand new) to get you caught up to speed. Becoming an institutional member of NCFDD would be quite useful, and they can refer to you more resources as well. Also, the work of Dafina-Lazarus Stewart is recommended. I should add that while training and support for faculty of color is important, for your initiatives to succeed, you need broad support from the community as a whole, and this starts with assessment and investment. You’ll need this to become an institutional priority, with genuine buy-in from everybody. Top-down initiatives with small pool of money won’t yield real change, and you can’t expect change to come just from hiring and supporting individual faculty of color.
I disagree with your opinions, and I’d like your response to my detailed critique.
If you write to me privately just to disagree with me, I probably won’t end up reading it. Anybody is welcome to publish public rebuttals in their venue of choice.
I just found out I am being denied tenure and I am hoping you can give me some advice for my particular situation.
I am so sorry for what you’re going through, and I recognize that this situation is far more difficult and painful than most people around you recognize. I wrote an essay with many specific suggestions about what to do, and what not to do, right now. I hope this is of some help. Beyond that, if you’re looking for a new position, I think it could be really helpful to hire an independent consultant academic career consultant who helps people prepare competitive job applications. There are some people around who do this. I didn’t do this when I was applying for new jobs, and even though I got extremely lucky about where I was able to land, I think I could have handled this a lot better and differently if I had the support of people who had a dispassionate perspective on my own record and experienced but also really understood academic search process. I unfortunately don’t have the time to take on that kind of consulting gig.
How do you find the time for research, teaching, writing, and everything else?
I’m not sure. My family always comes first. I say no to many things. I try to work no more than 50 or so hours per week. I try to focus on doing things efficiently when I am working, and sometimes this works.