Monthly Archives: November 2012

Hooray for reviewers

I recently sent a manuscript to Louis Hessler for peer review. The reason I chose Louis is he is awesome! I knew he would think deeply about the subject and would save me from crashing into the mire of my own bad ideas. Well, Louis found some embarrassing stuff, imagine someone misspelling Linnaeus (of course I usually just spell it L.). Of course there were other faux pas…

Louis did this service for free! Of course my coauthors and I will look brilliant because of Louis’ review and there will be an acknowledgement at the end of the piece that Louis kindly reviewed this work… blah, blah, blah. From my own experience it is as hard or harder to review a manuscript than it is to write it. A thorough review is great gift to any researcher.

Even more amazingly, anonymous reviewers are the norm in science. One of the  publications I am proudest of received a review of “accept with minor revisions” from one anonymous reviewer and “reject’ from a different anonymous reviewer. The editor of the journal sent it out for even more reviews, (no more ‘rejects’) so this manuscript got a lot of reviews and was eventually published in the journal of choice. The reject reviewer gave copious feedback on the numerous problems with the manuscript and many were challenging to fix. Even though I had been publishing scientific manuscripts for a few years, this reviewer taught me so much more about writing science – for free! I asked the editor of the journal to convey my appreciation to this anonymous reviewer. This person had undertaken a serious, thorough review of a manuscript that they deemed not worthy of publication. The gift of their insight polished the manuscript and made it so when my colleagues read it they didn’t think I was an idiot. Ultimately, the scientific idea was expressed more eloquently, efficiently, and effectively.

Hooray for all of you who have ever provided a thorough review, especially anonymously.


Recently, I was asked by a coworker to look at a spruce tree in his front yard. It was a beautiful, stately specimen that was as old as his house. There were a couple of dead limbs with dead needles here and there, but nothing real obvious. My co worker told my his neighbors tree looked like this a year ago, and they died just all of a sudden.

When we went to look at the neighbor’s tree they had several spruce trees, in all stages of infestation. Peeling off some bark revealed what you see above – spruce beetle excavations and frass. Holding the bark to the light you can see holes where beetles have either entered to lay eggs or exited when mature.  My coworker can try treating his tree in an attempt to save with insecticides, I looked for recommendations online and this is a professional job. Every spring a fresh crop of beetles emerges to have a fresh go at his tree from the neighbors. There are a lot of old spruce trees in this town and an urban forestry program that treated these beetles on a landscape scale would have as much luck as the National Forest Service is having with Mountain Pine Beetle. People aren’t used to being told nature wins, but in this instance regardless of what my coworker does the spruce will probably die.

Looking at the bark closely I was able to this beetle, an Ips species, in one of the tunnels – it is about a third the size of a grain of rice.