This post is part of a series to showcase the wide variety of talented bloggers using .blog domains. In each post, we’ll interview a site owner to explore their .blog and dive into an area of expertise, ranging from editing tips and tricks to how to build your following.
Adriane and Jen are the two masterminds behind Time Scavengers, a blog dedicated to educating the broader public about science, evolution, and climate change. Their site offers an abundance of resources for both beginner and expert scientists alike, ranging from introductory material on science to their “Byte of Life” posts, where they explore what it’s like to be a researcher and take a deep dive into the work they’re doing. They both manage Time Scavangers. along with their diverse community of contributors, in between their full-time studies and work.
How did you get started with Time Scavengers? What prompted the idea?
Adriane: The idea for Time Scavengers began during the 2016 election. I was pretty disgusted at the negative comments I was reading on social media platforms and seeing the news regarding science and climate change. Phrases from the public such as “I don’t even know a scientist!”, “Climate change is fake”, and “Climate change is a liberal hoax!” were rampant. I decided to channel my anger into something positive: a website that really broke down and explained the science behind climate change, with static pages that were written for the general public and contained images that were as simple as possible.
I reached out to Jen — she and I attended Ohio University together for our Master’s degrees — with the idea and asked if she would be willing to be my partner in this endeavor. She was also the one who suggested we incorporate the science behind evolution into the site since evolution is a hotly contested subject in the public school system, with a large number of schools today refusing to teach evolution or teaching it alongside “alternative theories.” We began building the site January of 2017, and we were able to make the site live in July of that same year. With her help and ideas, the site has grown into something more than I ever could have imagined!
How would you describe the mission of Time Scavengers?
Jen: The mission is two-fold. First, we want to convey our science in an understandable and accessible way. This means we want members of the public, educators, and academics all to be able to engage with the site. We curate and develop the content in a way that allows people without a scientific background to start from the ground up, whereas, if you have some scientific training, you can jump into the more complex content.
Second, we want to highlight the diversity of science both in content and people. Our blogs are meant to pull the curtain back on what we do as scientists and educators. This includes how we collect data, what we look for when we go into the field, how we communicate our science to our communities, and we feature two new scientists a month to move beyond ourselves and collaborators.
Which posts have been most popular?
Adriane: In general, our “Meet the Scientist” blog is most popular in terms of people reacting to these posts on social media and site visits. As for the most feedback, we generally get comments back on blogs that people really relate to. For example, our “Byte of Life” blog is where we talk about our experiences as scientists and offer advice from our successes and failures throughout our academic journeys. One of our collaborators wrote a post about being LGBTQ+ and a scientist. Another collaborator wrote about his experience as a first-year faculty member and teaching undergraduates. Both of these posts gained increased numbers of visibility from the scientific community, as a large number of people could really relate to the feelings the authors talked about.
How have you approached building your audience and community? What tools or resources have been most helpful?
Jen: When we first launched in the summer of 2017, we made sure that we were able to collect user data on the site through Google Analytics and we made a Twitter handle (@TimeScavengers) with the aim of creating a community through sharing the content on social media. Social media has worked rather well in building a base of followers and reaching new people, but we were limited by who uses Twitter. So we also created a Facebook page (@TimeScavengers) where we share our posts. Until recently we had only been promoting and sharing the new blog posts we were releasing, which includes two new posts a week and we would have an additional #TBT or #FossilFriday post as sort of a fun draw in. We have now started to share our informational content every other week in hopes to create more traffic to the educational component of the site. Social media is an incredible and, essentially free, promotional tool. We have the option to increase our reach with paid promotional ads, which we have done on several occasions but through our network we have created a pretty substantial following in the year we have been live.
Adriane: We also use Google Analytics on our site, which tracks user data, e.g., visitor’s main language, what country they’re from, gender, age, what page they’re finding us through, and how visitors are getting to our site. This has been immensely helpful, as we’ve learned how to best advertise our site and how we can reach more people when we release posts. For example, Jen and I realized that we were reaching a global audience last fall, and although the majority of visitors spoke English, about ¼ of our site visitors did not speak English as their primary language. So we installed an automatic translation app on our site. Within two months, the number of non-English speaking site visitors increased by 10%! From this data, we also learned that blog posts weren’t gaining much visibility on the weekends, so we began releasing posts around 10am on weekdays. We started doing that, in addition with creating a rigorous post release schedule, in January of this year. Since then, the number of visitors to our site increased greatly, and is continuing to increase.
Time Scavengers has such a great community of contributors. How do you approach finding and bringing on new authors to the site?
Adriane: Admittedly, most of our collaborators are also our friends! Even though we don’t post it on the front of the site, one of our major goals is to be a diverse team of scientists who are visible to anyone who is interested in going into/working in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) field. It’s no secret that the stereotype of a scientist is a white male in a lab coat wearing goggles and messing with weird chemicals. With our diverse team members, we’re here to break that stereotype and show the public — especially those who are thinking about going to college to be a scientist — that anyone, regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, race, age, and/or religion can successfully do science. Our team members include people of color, people who belong to the LGBTQ+ community, first generation students, people who are religious and from religious backgrounds, who are married, who are married with children, bilingual people, people of different nationalities, etc. We also invite collaborators to join our team who are just as passionate about communicating science and doing education outreach as we are.
How do you manage your posting schedule, especially between the different types of posts and different contributors? What tools, if any, do you use?
Jen: We have a Google Drive structure that everyone has some access to. Adriane and I have total access to everything, including a Google spreadsheet where we map out each upcoming month’s posts. This is shared with our main editor, Susanna, who is not a scientist by training, and thus keeps a check on how much science jargon we use, so that she can edit posts that will be released soon.
Each collaborator has a folder where they can write posts and include photos. We ask that each of them contribute one post a month and to message one of us when it’s complete so we can upload it as a draft to the website. This major spreadsheet has each of the post types, if it is being posted to our Patreon site and the associated date, the post title, the social media release date, who is posting to Patreon, and a column for Susanna to check off once she has edited it. Before we came up with this more regulated schedule we would simply text each other the morning of a post release and rush to get it figured out.
Having this extreme organization ensures we are all on the same page and no one is rushing to find a post for a given day.
With our diverse team members, we’re here to break that stereotype and show the public — especially those who are thinking about going to college to be a scientist — that anyone, regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, race, age, and/or religion can successfully do science.
For someone interested in starting a blog – especially in a specific field – what suggestions or tips would you offer?
Adriane: For a project of this magnitude, I would first suggest to find someone highly motivated and organized to help you. Jen and I are both organized and have excellent communication skills with one another. It’s rare that a day goes by when we’re not texting or emailing one another. There’s no doubt in my mind that without Jen, I couldn’t upkeep the site by myself. Another suggestion I would offer is to be realistic about the time you have to dedicate to your blog/site. Blogging is so much fun, that I often put off writing posts because I know I’ll spend hours writing just one post, when I should be dedicating those hours to research.
Jen: To add to what Adriane said, be patient, not super critical of yourself, and be persistent. We take time to make figures and content and are inherently critical as scientists. Sometimes it feels like we aren’t doing ‘enough’ but that’s simply not true. There is always more to be done but pace yourself and have a schedule with goals that you aim to meet. We also started with no funding for this project and most projects cost some amount of money but with small grants and Patreon we have been able to mitigate this much faster than we could have ever imagined.
For more, check out the Time Scavengers blog.
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