Our Most Kempt-looking Curator: Thanks and Farewell to Zen Faulkes

The brilliant Zen Faulkes tweeted for @RealScientists for the week of the 27th July. If you’d like to know more about Zen’s background and his answers to our insightful intro post questions, try this link here.


If you would like to recap the amazingness that was Zen’s week at the helm of RS, you can see his collection of tweets at this link.

In continuing good form, Zen answered our outro questions with style and grace.

How did you find your week as a curator?

Extremely enjoyable. It’s a very responsive group of followers. Even things I tossed off in passing, which I expected to vanish into the void, got a lot of favourites and retweets. It definitely made me want to up my game: be funnier, be more active, use more photographs.

Were there any lowlights?

On Thursday, I tried to document a collecting trip to South Padre Island for animals. That didn’t work as well as I wanted, because the sun was so bright that it was hard to see my smartphone screen. Somehow, I hit the wrong place on my phone and I tweeted a lot of stuff to the wrong account. Ooops. I posted the pictures later, but it wasn’t the same. I wanted to capture some of the flow.

It can be a shock talking to 12,000 people. Did you find the sudden rush of interactions (good and bad) daunting?

It never got unmanageable. I almost wonder if it should have gotten unmanageable if I’d done a better job as curator in sparking more conversations.

Is there anything you wanted to get out of / do on the RS account that you didn’t manage to fit in?

I had thought about discussing Hispanics in science. I am at a university, The University of Texas-Pan American, with about 85% Hispanic students. Further, that university is being abolished and replaced with University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Politicians keep talking about that institution attracting Hispanics and Latinos from South and Central America, so I thought I might discuss that. But didn’t get to it.

Do you have any tips or advice for future RS curators?

Just generic advice: pay attention.

We really want RS curators to show people a rounded view of life as a scientist. Other than yourself of course, are there any other people/accounts that people should follow if they liked you and what you covered?

There are not a lot of invertebrate neuro people on Twitter, although Erin McKiernan (@emckiernan13) and Björn Brembs (@brembs) talk a bit about that, but more about scientific publishing and open access (which I am also interested in). Some fellow invertebrate fans are Lindsay Waldrop (@InverteNerd), Miss Mola Mola (@MissMolaMola), and Rebecca Helm (@RebeccaRHelm).

What TV show do you think everyone should go watch right now?

Legend of Korra and Doctor Who came up a few times during my curation, and I love them both. But I think more people should watch Person of Interest. No other show is more in tune with the times, and making such smart comments on the “surveillance society”. And it has a wicked dry sense of humour.

Thank you, Zen! We loved having you curate RS. If you’d like to follow Zen, he tweets @DoctorZen.

PS. Best socks, ever! 


Science Journalism from Indonesia: Thanks and farewell to Dyna Rochmyaningsih

We’d like to thank Dyna Rochmyaningsih for tweeting for us for the week of the 20th July! As you can see we’re running a bit behind on the farewell posts at the moment – but we’ve been trialing a new system for information/feedback gathering, and hope it’ll streamline things in future.

Dyna is a Science Journalist from Indonesia, and if you’re interested you can pop back and read her intro post here.

Dyna quite fearlessly jumped into the deep end with regards touchy topics in science during her week tweeting for @RealScientists – the religion and science discussion, for example. If you want to recap her week of tweets, hit this link here for a time-stamped search of her stellar efforts.

As part of our new outro process, Dyna answered some more questions for us. (The constant desire for data collection – it’s the scientists’ curse!)

How did you find your week as a curator?

It was great. Curating for RS is a good way to find out how scientists think in their perspective. I love to share my love for science such as cooking science (this one was really fun) and the clash between science and religion (this one was sensitive, controversial, but many people were so engaged!). And the best thing is, everyone seems listening to you because you are RS. That’s what I felt. Hehe

Were there any lowlights?

I was a bit discouraged when someone said that my tweet sounds like a rubbish. It was controversial science though, I was trying to explain the situation but perhaps he thought I supported that controversial science (electricity cancer therapy). But I think it’s minor.

It can be a shock talking to 12,000 people. Did you find the sudden rush of interactions (good and bad) daunting?

Yes, people were still discussing on vaccine or GM, while I was trying to make a new thread. I couldn’t RT all the tweets

Is there anything you wanted to get out of / do on the RS account that you didn’t manage to fit in?

I wanna engage more with science journalism and get more connection with international science journalists.

Do you have any tips or advice for future RS curators?

Share what you really love about science. That could be fun!

What TV show do you think everyone should go watch right now?

Cosmos definitely.

Thank you so much, Dyna! We really enjoyed having you with us. If you want to follow Dyna, she continues to tweet @dynablossoms!

With Explosive Enthusiasm, Erik Klemetti joins Real Scientists

During my Primary School years, we lived in Taupo, New Zealand, and the day of the Mt Ruapehu explosion in 1996 Mum and Dad had gone for a walk and left us kids playing fairly nicely at home, alone. Our house was up the hill, overlooking the entire lake down towards the mountains. We had a terrifying stellar view of the explosion and I had nightmares of volcanoes exploding out of my bedroom wall for months afterwards. I still have a little bag of the ash somewhere in storage. By the time I visited White Island, I was well into my teens and my love of science had overtaken any lingering childhood fear.

If you live around the Pacific Ring of Fire, odds are reasonable that you had drills in primary school and learnt about the many volcanoes dotted about the place. It is easy to forget that not all countries are like this, and that some people might not have ever felt an earthquake let alone seen any volcanic activity in their lifetime. Volcanoes have to be right up there with dinosaurs, with regards people maintaining a childlike delight towards them into adulthood. As such – this week we are super excited to have Assistant Professor Erik Klemetti taking over curation of @RealScientists!

Erik is a the Assistant Professor of Geosciences at Denison University in Granville, Ohio (USA), tweets at @eruptionsblog and writes at Erik for RSEruptions, for Wired Science Blogs (sweet shoutout to RS in this post!). On form with our recent curators -Erik has answered our usual batch of questions:

Why/How did you end up in science?
I took a long and winding path, with more majors and potential majors than I care to admit. I went to a liberal arts school, so exposure to all disciplines can sometimes make it difficult to zero in on one – and I didn’t even do that. Instead I double-majored in geosciences and history (which aren’t that different in many ways). Before college, I was fascinated by rocks (and also by the stars), so interest in how the world/universe works has always been there. In the end, there were too many questions in science – and specifically in the geosciences – that I wanted to try to answer to turn away.

Why did you choose your current field/what keeps you there?
I’m a volcanologist/petrologist. This means I study volcanoes and the magma that is the source of volcanism. My mother is from Pereira, Colombia and I have distinct memories of seeing some of the results of the 1985 eruption of Nevado del Ruiz, so that likely started my curiosity about volcanoes. In the end, I did an undergraduate thesis on some ancient igneous rocks on an island off the coast of Maine and that sent me on my way. It’s been 15 years since I did that project and my graduate, postdoctoral and current work has sent me to Chile, New Zealand, the Pacific Northwest and California.

I just love trying to figure how magma evolves underneath volcanoes. What does that mean? Well, magma rises from where it is formed in the upper mantle and interacts with the crust it travels through to reach the surface. These processes, like magma mixing and crystal recycling, all occur underground so we can’t observe them. Instead, we can read the geochemical and geochronologic record in crystals found in lavas. That’s what I do – I use minerals like zircon to understand how magmas change over time at a volcano. The questions far outnumber the answers, so it’s easy to keep moving forward.

Tell us about your work?
Right now, I have projects looking at both modern and ancient volcanic rocks. On the modern end of things, I’ve been working at the Lassen Volcanic Center in California. I’ve also started projects at Mt. Hood in Oregon and on some of the large explosive eruptions that occurred in central Oregon. On the ancient end, I’ve been working on the deposits of large explosive eruptions found in the Sierra Nevada of California that are 135-195 million years old, when North America was being constructed.

Motivation: why should the lay public care about your research?
Understanding the fundamentals of magmatic systems at volcanoes can tell us about how quickly volcanoes can produce sufficient magma that is the right composition to potentially erupt explosively – so if you care about why your local volcano erupts as it does, my work can help with that. On top of that, volcanic systems are the source of important ore deposits, like copper and gold, so the more we can understand about the magmatic and hydrothermal processes, the better we might be at finding these vital deposits.

Do you have any interesting external/extracurricular obligations?
Beyond my job as a professor at Denison University, I also write a blog for Wired Science Blogs – Eruptions. I’ve been writing it for over 6 years now and it gets over 200,000 visits a month. It has become a hub for discussions of volcanic eruptions around the planet, along with a place where I can talk about exciting volcanic research and dispel myths and fear-mongering journalism.

Any interesting hobbies you’d like to share?
I’m a lifelong Red Sox fan with a small obsession with baseball. Unabashed sci-fi fan. Generally, a swell guy who’s easy to be with. I also used to write album reviews for a website in Seattle and still generally listen to too much music. My current obsession is T. Rex, and really it isn’t because of the geologic name.

How would you describe your ideal day off?
Probably involves my wife and my 2 year old son off in the woods somewhere.

Please welcome Assistant Professor Erik Klemetti to RealScientists, everybody!