Meet the Editors: Fletcher Halliday

We are featuring short interviews with each of our editors, so that you can get to know those folks who are responsible for highlighting your posts each week as editors’ selections. For the sixth in our series, meet Fletcher Halliday, who picks the best posts in the fields of biology, conservation, ecology, environment, evolution, and microbiology.

Hello! Let’s start with first things first. Where are you from, what do you do how did you get into science?

I’m originally from the San Francisco Bay Area in California, and I’ve been living in North Carolina for the past 3 years working towards a PhD in biology from UNC Chapel Hill. I grew up in the country, and like many ecologists, I got into science by walking around in nature with my dad. I haven’t been a professional scientist for very long, but I’ve done a variety of jobs, from assisting mangrove research in Panama, to endangered species monitoring in Oakland, California. Right now, my research focuses on trying to understand why pathogen diversity varies from one host to another, and why some places have more diseases than others. Recently, I’ve become interested in understanding the diversity of all microbes (not just pathogens) that live inside of other organisms, comprising the microbiome.

What is the name of your blog and why did you choose that name – what does it mean?

I’m the chief editor and a contributor at BioDiverse Perspectives. Our mission is to provide opinions on biodiversity research from graduate students from around the globe.

How did you get into science blogging and science writing? What were the early influences on you regarding your blogging style and topics?

In the spring of 2012, I participated in a distributed graduate seminar on the subject of biodiversity. In January 2013, we decided to launch BioDiverse Perspectives to share the information and opinions that we had gained during the seminar. This blog marked my entry into the world of blogging and science writing. My blogging style has been influenced by three very different sources: A baseball blog called McCovey Chronicles, the ecology blog EEB & Flow, and the magnificent Carl Zimmer.

What is your blog about? Who is your target audience, and why do you think people should read your blog?

We founded BioDiverse Perspectives with the broad goal of providing graduate student perspective on biodiversity research. We initially launched the blog as a way to foster communication between graduate students, but we have recently become interested in using the blog as a means for graduate students to learn new ways to communicate science both within the scientific community as well as to industry professionals and the public. One way that we’ve sought to do this was through our “Biodiversity Challenge,” an initiative that challenged grad students to write about their research in the context of biodiversity and conservation for a general audience. That post was motivated by Sharon Baruch-Mordo’s reflection on learning to communicate effectively when she was a graduate student, and I think it benefitted the students who wrote it as well as those who had a chance to read it.

In general, I think that people should read this blog because we provide thoughtful commentary on both the cutting-edge developments in biodiversity research as well as the ideas that formed the foundation of our field. In particular, students should both read and contribute to the blog because it provides an opportunity for exposure and engagement that’s rare during the isolation of grad school. 

How do you spend your time when you're not doing science or science blogging? Any interesting hobbies?

There are many costs to being a grad student, including lifestyle changes. Before I was in grad school, I had lots of hobbies. I love backpacking, cooking, gardening, and biking. I used to cultivate edible mushrooms for fun, too. Lately, I tend to spend most of my free time reading, hiking, or hanging out with my dog.

Why did you decide to become an editor at ScienceSeeker? How do you use ScienceSeeker aside from when you're making your editors' selections?

One of the few hobbies that I’ve stuck with during grad school is reading science blogs. It’s a great hobby, because it allows me to unwind, and unlike reading novels, I feel like I’m getting work done, even if I’m reading about sloth-moth symbioses.  ScienceSeeker has really changed how I read blogs. I used to subscribe to just a few ecology blogs and a couple of other popular blogs in my RSS feed reader, but when I discovered ScienceSeeker, my reading list exploded. Now I read blogs about ocean science, mushrooms, and I've been caught reading about immunology research.  So when Jessica Hekman suggested that I share what I like with other people, I jumped on it. I figured - I’m already doing the work of reading all this content, so why not save some other people the time.

As you make your editors' selections, what sorts of things do you look for? What's the best way a blogger can get your attention as an editor?

I’d have to say that so far, my editor’s selections have been pretty idiosyncratic. I read a lot, and I select what I like to read, which tends to be pretty varied. In general, I tend to choose posts that are informative and maintain my attention. I guess that the most important thing for me is the value added by the blogger. With so many blogs reporting science from other blogs, setting your self apart from everyone else can be tough. Adding unique value is something that I strive for in my writing, and that really sets good posts apart from the rest. Anyone can summarize a research finding; what sets apart good posts from press releases is when an article really adds something to the research. Maybe it’s a bit of humor, maybe it’s something visual, or maybe it’s a unique perspective. It’s that value-added that I look for in a good post.

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