What I learned about Instagram from #ResearcherTakeoverTuesday at the COU

2016-11-08-17-56-58The clip of sea butterflies, below is from Anne Todgham's Go Pro. It didn't make it onto my Research Matters Instagram #ResearcherTakeoverTuesday in September.

Anne is a Biology prof. in animal physiology at UC Davis, and she was an expedition cruise passenger on my Arctic Safari trip.

Here's the text that I wrote for this clip:

The arctic oceans are full of tiny animals, like these small swimming sea snails, known as sea butterflies, that provide food for fish, and breeding sea birds. @UCDavis Biology professor, Anne Todgham, captured this sea butterfly in the #iceberg laden waters near Store Glacier, Greenland with her waterproof Go Pro camera.

#arctic #SeaButterfly #iceberg #StoreGlacier #Greenland #GoPro. #Glacier #SeaButterfly #pterapod #pterapoda #FoodWeb @Adventure.Canada

Using Social Media for Science Communication means Making Choices

I'm a fan of Twitter for scientists. But, my daughters, who are both STEM undergraduates don't use either it, or email, very much. They prefer Facebook (😟 ), Snapchat (😱 ) and Instagram (🙄 ).

So, to be more relatable to youth 😬, I joined Instagram in 2015. Every now and then, I post pictures of plants (dead and alive), sciencey stuff, the York University campus and students.

It quickly became clear to me, that Instagram communication skills are quite different from Twitter communication skills. I also learned this because I follow Lisa, at Steacie Science and Engineering Library, who does an amazing job with the library's Instagram feed.

Now, I am not an enthusiastic photographer. We have professional photographers who undertake the important work of taking amazing photographs. I take photos with my phone and iPad. But, I recently got excited about using social media photographs for science communication, when I spotted this July tweet from the Council of Ontario Universities' Research Matters staff, @OntarioResearch.


"Hey!" I thought. "I do interesting (to me) research, and I can contribute some weird photos with some engaging text". Followed by: "Maybe I could learn how to do Instagram for science better. It might help me in teaching and communicating ecology."

After I signed up for the #ResearcherTakeoverTuesday, I had a lightbulb moment. My photos of fungal endophytes aren't great, BUT I would be getting some spectacular arctic ecology photos from my upcoming August trip, as a resident botanist on two Adventure Canada expedition cruises to the high arctic. The Research Matters staff kindly agreed to this, and after some investigation, I invested in a better, but small, camera: the Canon G9X.

While in the arctic, I had another 💡 moment: I was seeing amazing photos by the professionals on the Adventure Canada staff, and also by many of the passengers. So, I asked, and some of them gave me permission to post their photos on the Research Matters Instagram account.

Instagram caption writing is similar to creating figure legends for Biology textbooks

Creating tightly-written, fact-checked text to accompany their great photographs was a challenge for me, and took a fair amount of time. I found that it was a lot like creating figure legends for text books. The last time I did this was when when I joined the author team of the 2nd edition of an Ecology text.

Please check out my #ResearcherTakeoverTuesday posts on Instagram below, and tweet me  what you think of Instagram as a science communications platform.

It’s time for another Researcher #TakeoverTuesday! I’m @yorkuofficial ecology professor, Dawn Bazely (@drbazely) and I’ll be taking over the feed today. I began my fieldwork career in 1980, as an undergraduate field assistant at the University of Toronto, studying the effects of snow geese grazing on Hudson Bay saltmarshes. During my five summers on the tundra, east of Churchill, I learned to identify arctic plants. Since then, I’ve done research all over the arctic. In 2016, I was invited to be the resident botanist on three @adventure.canada cruises, the most recent being in August from Greenland to Nunavut. I discovered adventure tourism is a lot like an undergraduate field course, but without the assignments for the passengers! Our expedition teams included diverse scientists, professional photographers, and Inuit culturalists. Here I am directing passengers to the graves of three sailors lost during the 1845 Franklin Expedition to the now National Historic Site, Beechey Island, a peninsula off Devon Island in Nunavut. Amazingly, there are many plants growing among the rocks of this harsh Polar Desert biome, that require botanists to get down on our hands and knees to see them up close. (Photo credit: André Gallant, the expedition’s professional photographer)

A photo posted by Your Ontario Research (@ontarioresearch) on

What on earth is a cruise ship doing with a resident botanist?

The story of how and why I came to be resident botanist for Adventure Canada's expedition cruise  family business is the topic for a future post. I was able to get to remote locations and check out the plant communities for future vegetation sampling, and to develop some citizen science project ideas.

You can read a bit about why some ecotourism cruises have scientists on board, in my post about Adventure Canada CEO, Cedar Swan, at Nature Canada's Women for Nature website.