Six Years a Sunfish

Very little is known about the lifespan and reproductive biology of the ocean sunfish, Mola mola, after which this blog is named. They can live to be at least 20 years old, however, and so one can assume that to dispatch one at six years old is to cut it off in its prime. Yet haul this one on to deck and administer a hefty blow from an oversized fisherman's priest we must. After years of kind support from first Nature Network, and then from, the plug is being pulled. I am immensely grateful to both networks, for their technical support and encouragement, for their willingness to indulge me no matter how far I stray from a narrow ‘science blogging’ brief and however seldom I was able to post, and for exposing me to such a friendly and talented pool of fellow bloggers. A reflective post seems fitting, and indeed I have much to reflect upon, for since 2010 pretty much everything has changed. On a personal level, I’ve gone from 0 to 1 and then 1 to 2 kids - small beer besides the legendary fecundity of the sunfish, but enough of an upheaval for me, the second transition in particular surprising me with the force of its impact. Professionally I have been negotiating the oft-travelled yet surprisingly opaque path from keen young PI to (I hope) reassuring and supportive research group leader. Bumping along this unmetalled track from relatively carefree to brimful of responsibilities has certainly influenced the frequency (and subject matter) of my posts, but so too have wider trends in the way that we communicate with each other.

In particular, the sort of thing that used to provoke a blog post I find can often now be articulated in a tweet or two. The conversations that used to develop below blog posts also now occur far more often over on Twitter. So while I still value the longer form, there is a flight of hurdles to overcome now before committing more than 140 characters.

Looking back over my time here, one of the thing that often surprises me is quite how large a back catalogue I have accumualated: despite my less than prolific workrate, I've stockpiled over a hundred posts. Frequently I find myself linking to an old post that suddenly seems highly relevant to some conversation or other, from managing marine ecosystems to work-life balance to my sense of grief over recent political events. It is an archive that I’m proud of, and I’m happy that it will still be available (more of which below…) And while I’m under no illusions about my blog’s popularity - I’ve never bothered much with analytics, but I know the number of clicks is of the same order of magnitude as my respectable but unspectacular Twitter following - unexpected encounters with people who have read and enjoyed a post or two has been a source of real pleasure. Hell, one of my posts even got me onto Radio 4’s More Or Less, and that can’t be bad, can it?

Because of that, and because I’ve still got stuff I want to say, I’ll keep going. It takes more than a bullet to kill a sunfish, and more than a platform closing to shut me up. There’s a tremendous range of outlets for writing now, places such as The Conversation, encouraging academics to write for wide audiences. I’ve written a few posts there and will continue to pitch the occasional idea. I’ve got some exciting, more research-based stuff coming soon over at OBIS too. And I now find myself getting asked to write things like book reviews and commentaries on papers which certainly benefit from my blogging experience, and satisfy the frustrated writer in me. The end of scilogs has also neatly coincided with the launch of my shiny new lab website, where I will continue to write (and encourage my group to as well!), and where I will host the Mola mola archive. I have grand plans to experiment with other media (podcasts and so on) too but we’ll see; we’ll see.

And if you miss me in the meantime, well, you can (almost) always find me on Twitter. Or maybe you'd just like to watch a real life, unreal, un-lifelike, colossal child’s drawing of a fish for a while instead…