Graduate Student Researcher Moonlights as Science Blogger for Nature

Anne-Marie Hodge, Biological Research Station in EcuadorAnne-Marie Hodge, a UNC Wilmington biology graduate student, is receiving national attention for her scientific research as well as her science communication skills. Hodge manages a blog entitled "Endless Forms" for the Nature network, a social networking group affiliated with the publishers of Nature magazine.

Focusing on emerging data in the fields of ecology, biology, and wildlife conservation, Hodge (pictured right, on right, with Pamela Rivera, a student at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador in Quito) gets blog ideas from scientific journals, magazines and newspaper articles. She started her first science blog as a freshman at Auburn University.

"I would read an exciting science news story or journal article and then want to talk about it, so it was a way for me to do that and get to know other people interested in similar topics," Hodge says.

Her blog attracted the attention of Bora Zivkovic, senior blogging editor at Scientific American.

Hodge's blog stood out to Zivkovic because "she does serious research for every one of her posts," he says. "A lot of people throw things online very fast and it's often very open ended with a lot of personal musings. She doesn't really do that. She takes science blogging very seriously."

Also the organizer of ScienceOnline, a national annual conference for science bloggers in Raleigh, North Carolina, Zivkovic asked Hodge to appear on panels about student blogging and blogging in the field. At the conference, Hodge met members of the Nature networking group who were in the beginning stages of building a blog community. In 2009, during her senior year at Auburn, she was invited to join the community.

Her blog posts, which discuss animals and their habitats in a playful tone-with pop culture references-have ranged in topic from the evolved flight of bats and one particular bat's decision to hitch a ride on a space shuttle ("A Giant Step for Bat-Kind Fails") to a jarring discovery revealing a kink in the family tree of African wolves ("Golden Jackal Subspecies is Actually First True African Wolf").

"It's amazing how long it can take to research and write even one of the shorter pieces, because I know that my audience on Nature is more professional, and I try to double and triple check all of my facts," Hodge says.

In 2009, she won a Science Blog Post of the Year Award for a piece she did on the Yasuni region of Ecuador-the same country where Hodge is studying small, spotted jungle cats for her graduate thesis project. Several of her blog posts have also been chosen for the Open Laboratory: Best Writing on Science Blogs, an anthology published annually, founded and edited by Zivkovic.

In 2010, she was invited to participate as a guest blogger on the Scientific American Web site.

"I think that the great value in science blogging is that it makes science accessible to everyone," Hodge says. "Too often, science can seem closed off and somewhat irrelevant to people's daily lives, when in reality the beauty of science is the degree to which it does touch everyone's lives."

After completion of her master's degree in 2012, Hodge plans to pursue a Phd, and ultimately, a research professor position that allows her to continue to study carnivore ecology.

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-- Lindsay Key '11 MFA, media research assistant, 910-962-7252