Saturday, September 28, 2019

September 28, 2019

Location: Everywhere!

Welcome to my 1000th consecutive Dee at 8 a.m. blog post. It has been a great journey so far, and I thank you sincerely for coming along on it with me.

History: This blog started on January 1, 2017.  I started it on the spur of the moment on New Years Day. I was feeling very depressed and not exactly full of hope for the new year. I wanted to come up with a way to try to do something, anything to make the world a slightly better place. My brainstorm was to spread a little science fact every day in the form of a blog. Day 1 was a prose blog about the compost from my breakfast, with a link to another blog about composting.

After two weeks of pretty boring prose, on what would have been my dad's 86th birthday, there was an incident while I was taking my daily photo. The blog that day was quite silly, and I think it was the first time my true writing "voice" came out in a post.

I did a few more blogs that were just silly, like this one. The first poem appeared on January 26. This too, was just kind of silly. I had a few more story blogs after that, but from mid February 2017 till today, they have all been poems.

Fact Checking: Because of the proliferation of "fake news" it became much more important to me personally to document my sources. I updated my template in May to ensure that I always include a source when I state a fact. All of my facts are checked against multiple sources, and I strive link to the most trusted source (such as a university site such as Cornell or UF).

An example of fact checking: Recently,  I wrote a blog about a Eurasian Collared Dove. The explanation for the latin name, in almost every reference that I looked at, had the remarkably similar phrase, "In Greek mythology, Decaocto was a servant girl transformed into a dove by the gods to escape her unhappy treatment; the dove's mournful cry recalls her former life. " But here's the thing - there were literally no Greek Mythology (or other non-birding) sites that referenced this myth. I actually have a lot of real (remember paper?) books that I looked through as well, and could not find any reference whatsoever to this Greek myth. Hence, I left this "fact" off of the blog as it appeared to me that the phrase was simply copied from one bird site to another, but there did not appear to be any basis for it, at least none that I could find documented.

What have I learned? I have learned a LOT from writing this blog. Here are my top 5 favorite lessons learned:

  1. There are other invasive snails in Florida other than that Apple Snail. In researching this post, I realized that I had found an invasive snail. About 6 months after this post, I found another population of these snails near my house in Fellsmere while doing an Eagle Watch. I ended up working with a scientist from the USDA collecting and preparing samples for him so he could do some DNA analysis to verify the species of the snail population I found. I felt like a real scientist and was so happy to be able to help him. 
  2. Dragonflies have hollow heads. When I photographed this dragonfly, I found out their heads are kind of hollow. I love this picture just because it was such a weird angle, but at any other angle I never would have noticed this. 
  3. Birds have nictitating mebranes. I started noticing more and more birds showing their nictitating membranes. They just fascinate me.
  4. Ladybugs come from larvae that look kinda like weird, spiky caterpillars. I had NO idea. 
  5. Most scientists sincerely want to help educate others. This post was the result of sending email to a scientist in Australia who taught me about the root systems of Black Mangroves. 
What is my favorite post? My favorite post was this Walking Stick. I had learned about Walking Sticks while taking the Florida Master Naturalist class a long time ago, so I already knew that they can shoot goo into your eyes. Sometimes as a writer, I assume everyone knows what I know. But just in case, I included that fact in the poem. The day after it posted, I received an email from someone saying that they had picked up a walking stick the prior day, and although it didn't shoot goo in her eye, she really wished she had read this before she picked it up. This was the first time that I felt like I was making a difference with this blog.

What is my least favorite post? My least favorite post is this Cooper's Hawk post. I spend a crazy amount of time not just writing the blog, but hiking through woods and swamps carrying a 10-ton long lens camera getting pictures for it. Occasionally, people submit photos for me use. In this case my sister was working when she walked into a room with a window and a Coopers Hawk flew down and landed in front of her.  She whipped out her cell phone and took this incredible photo. I received more likes and comments on this post than probably any other post I've done. So I dislike the post out of sheer, blind jealousy:-)

What are my favorite photos that I've taken? From the first 1000 days, here are my personal favorite top 5:
  1. Tropical Orb Weaver. I walked into this web face first on coming home late at night. It made me realize how very far I have come - my first thought was not fear, it was, "I gotta get the camera before it goes away!" I am still astonished at how well the photos came out. 
  2. Poufy haired Great Crested Flycatcher - This picture makes me laugh. It really doesn't look all that much like a Great Crested Flycatcher, he has this weird bouffant hair-do. I also really like this photo because I heard the bird calling, and despite significant hearing loss and tinnitus, I immediately knew that it wasn't a bird I normally see in this spot.
  3. Spoonbill-Cattle Egret crossbreed - Although I strive to be scientifically accurate, I still have to give in to my baser instincts at times and go for the stupid, slightly off-color joke. This is one of those times and I am not ashamed to admit this still makes me laugh. Ok, I'm a little ashamed. 
  4. Soft-shelled Turtle - I like this picture cause you can see through his foot. I think Soft-shell Turtles are just one of the coolest looking critters around. 
  5. Thrasher bad wedding portrait - This is another picture that makes me laugh. It was not intentional, but the way the bird in the back is out of focus reminded me of those super cheesy wedding pictures where the bride is in focus and the groom is in the background out of focus. 
What's next? In general, I plan to continue the blog for the foreseeable future. And:
  • I would like add more videos. One video that I posted here (The Football Game) was accepted into the Vero Beach Wine and Film Festival, so while I am still over confident from that, I plan to make more videos.
  • I plan to make the web site more searchable, including adding keywords. I was somewhat lackadaisical in the beginning about including scientific names and other keywords. I would like to go back and add scientific names to previous posts to make the blog (especially older entries) more searchable.
  • Ideally I would like to find a way to make money off of this blog someday so I can quit my day job. My original thought was to do a book, but I don't know if that is feasible, it doesn't not seem that people buy paper books anymore.
  • I am open to suggestions on all of the above. Is there something you would like to see on the blog? Would you like more video entries? Any particular species that you think are missing or lacking? Please let me know, your feedback is deeply appreciated.
In closing, thank you so much for reading my blog, I cannot express how much all of your comments and kind words have meant to me over the last 1000 days. I especially like hearing that I made you laugh - although spreading science was my first intent, it always warms my heart to know I made someone laugh. 

Photos and text © 2018 Dee Fairbanks Simpson


Cindy V said...

Your suggestions for enhancing your blog sound great. Just don't stop writing it!! Although I live in Ohio, I read your posts daily. It makes me smile most days. Other days it makes me consider the environmental effects we have on this world, sometimes unintentionally. But it's always a Dee-light! Thank you!

deederange said...

Thanks so much for the kind words! I certainly intend to keep writing it, and it means so much to me that you plan to keep reading it! :-)