Fish launched through cannons, birds with pink socks, and amphibians that freeze solid. Long migrations over oceans and down rivers. Thanksgiving and the population biology of turkeys. Experiments in teaching. If you have followed Natures Confluence for the past five months, these are a just a few raindrops in the deluge of topics.
As for media, we have ventured into film (read here), but not music. Connected readers to television clips (read more) and scientific journals (read here), but not radio or books. This series of written posts has captured a broad time scale and perspectives on a range of issues. We have taken some reflective looks at conservation science in practice (see here). We can now take an opportunity to enjoy a graphical look back at that collection of writing.
A confluence is a specific region or juncture where flowing material comes together. If you spend some time studying medicine or human anatomy, you might learn that the brachiocephalic vein is formed by the confluence of the subclavian and internal jugular veins. Find your way to a lecture on rivers or take a fly-fishing trip and you might learn how to trace the route of rivers to their confluence with others. This is the model for our blog, a confluence of ideas, and it is time to examine the characteristics of that confluence. At first glance, the confluence of our writing may appear something like this:
This depiction is in some ways informative, but it is too fine scale, like a filing system by author, rather than genre. Overarching highlights and unexpected connections are what I want to talk about. So here we go.
First, our blog topics range in time from historical to current events. Articles laud the significance of past surveys of insects and mammals by C. H. Kennedy (read more) and Joseph Grinnell (read more) in the early 1900s, while others describe the deep history of salmon adaptations (read more) and landscapes (read more). Among current events, we discussed meetings on climate policy (pre-Paris meetings and post-Paris meetings), new national monuments (read more), and birds that were undergoing their migration as you read (read more). Secondly, the written posts converge on a series of themes, similar to spider-web plots that can be used to describe the diversity of expertise (for example, read here). By assigning each blog a theme, and then summing up the number of blog posts within each theme, we can visually analyze the overlap and variability among topics (see below).
Finally, we could look at this through a different lens, and focus on the variety of subject matter by just focusing on the writings that highlight certain topics. The spider plot below is meant to assess the blogs that focus on biology vs. the blogs that highlight climate science or applications of science. In addition, this plot examines the distribution of animal and plant groups covered among all our blogs. This requires some broad assignments, such as lumping all the plant species from a blog post about fire in California forests into the term "trees." I know this seems unappreciative of those plant species, but let's go with that for the moment. If you look at the spider-web below, we see a slight preference for animals over forests (read more here and here) and marshes (read more here and here), and emphasis on animals with a backbone over others, as well. But, we also can see that the number of writings about climate science itself or the application of scientific research outnumbers the writings on strictly biology or natural history.
All together, this collection of writing represents a range of subjects that converge on the topic of conservation science. To further the river metaphor (or the anatomical metaphor, if you prefer), a confluence can be the joining of clearly defined, meandering tributaries or can be the joining of streams whose upstream sections are characterized by complex interwoven channels, what stream ecologists call anastomosis. With that imagery of anastomosis in mind, Nature's Confluence remains an apt name. And with that, I leave you with a philosophical quote, which is also the best title of the first five months: I am certain uncertainty matters.
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