Strategies for teaching a field biology course

…Part 2 from a series of posts about the value of field biology courses

I previously wrote about the value of field courses in undergraduate University programs, and promised to follow up with a post focused on the ‘how’.  It’s also timely since my field biology course from this term is wrapping up, so it’s a good opportunity to reflect on the past term.  It is important to write about some practical strategies for instructing field biology courses because I sometimes hear from my colleagues (and some University administrators) that field biology courses are too expensive, only possible with small class sizes, impractical for introductory classes, and otherwise difficult to successfully integrate into an Academic program.   I have been teaching field biology for a number of years, and believe that most of these criticisms are not valid.    I hope this post can dispel some myths about field biology courses, and convince more people to offer outdoor experiences and experiential learning as part of University curriculum.

Sampling pond invertebrates, five minutes from campus

1. Think global, act local.  Field biology classes do not need to go to exotic locations to be successful.  Many people associate field biology with traveling to a Caribbean Island, a rainforest, or the desert – true, these are prime locations for field courses, but it’s not necessary to travel far to teach field biology.  Our own backyards are ideal locations to study.  In fact, our own backyards are highly relevant to field biology since they are habitats that can be most relevant to our own well-being!   A trip to a local agricultural field will firmly implant the importance of food security and the relationship between food production and global food markets.  A trip to a urban park can be an opportunity to discuss and learn about introduced species and how they are affecting our local biota (European starlings, anyone?).  A trip to a roadside ditch can illustrate how local dispersal plays a role in governing the population dynamics of aquatic macroinvertebrates.  All of these concepts can be illustrated by habitats found within walking distances of many University campuses.  No flights required.

2. The yellow school bus.  Without a doubt, transportation is expensive, and even local trips can be costly.  However, it’s important to remember that ALL courses are expensive, and the fees associated with a yellow school bus are analogous to fees for chemicals, glassware and other consumables associated with a wet chemistry laboratory.  Unfortunately, my experience has been that Administrators do not see outdoors labs through the same lens as indoor labs. Although indoor ‘lab fees’ are often within Departmental or Faculty budgets, renting buses is often an expense that is not accounted for in the same way.  This can be a key reason for the impression that field biology courses are expensive.  I urge you to work within your own systems to find a way to make the yellow school bus as important as all other fees associated with delivering any University course.  Until this institutional shift is made, you will need to come up with creative solutions to the transportation issue.  For example, I often work with my colleagues to find a way to share busses, or do some laboratories within walking distance of our campus.  It may also be possible to have students take public transit to a designated field site.

3. Group work!  A few years ago I was faced with increased enrolment in my field biology course and this presented a challenge.  Suddenly ‘in the field’ lectures and discussions would be impossible (how do you speak to 60 students outside, in a gale-force wind?).  Discussing strategies with colleagues was informative, and I learned that many field biology courses were capped to avoid taking too many students outside.  I didn’t like this – and I could not cap my course without good reason, especially since my course was a requirement for the program.  The solution?  Group work and student-led learning!  For most of my laboratories, I have designed specific activities that don’t require any formal ‘outdoor lectures’ (which, by the way, are generally useless).   Upon getting off a bus, students are often put into groups (sometimes predetermined, sometimes not) and they rotate through different activities.  Here are some examples:

(i)  In a lab about agroecosystems this term, groups of students walked separately through different field crops at the local horticultural centre, and were asked to observe various aspects of the small-scale agriculture system.  The instructor and the TA walked among the groups and took part in the discussions as necessary.  The students were asked to ask questions, make observations, and then meet at a designated time to discuss their questions with the head of the horticultural centre.

(ii) In an earlier offering of my course, students were put into groups at a local forest, and were asked to move around to different locations where they were met by instructors or TAs, and at those locations they took part in small activities related to studying biodiversity in the forest – invertebrates at one location, bird calls at another, plant identification at a third, etc.

(iii) I have sometimes sent all groups off to do the same activity (e.g., measuring soil types in a forest or agroecosystem) and then bring the data back to a classroom and their data provided the content for a lecture about variability in nature and bias in observation.

(iv) As a final example, in one laboratory to a wetland conservation area, individual students were asked, ahead of time, to research specific species that we would see while visiting a field site.  The students became the experts and they were asked to share their knowledge with their peers (i.e., when they were in groups, in the field).  The students became the instructors, and nothing reinforces concepts and content like having to teach it!

….Fundamentally, field biology with a larger class size must embrace the idea of doing group work.

Students, working in groups

4. Bring in the experts.  Field biology is complex to teach in part because of nature’s variability and because an instructor cannot be the expert in all things.  I use the approach of inviting my colleagues (and graduate students) to take part in (and lead) specific activities related to their own expertise.  By in large, I have found my colleagues to be very open to this idea, and provided I do not ask them for help every year, they are most willing to take part.   For many of my colleagues who do not teach in field biology courses regularly, this is a nice opportunity to get outdoors and take part in a different style of teaching.  It’s also a big advantage to students as they are able to appreciate different teaching styles, and gain a recognition for various levels of expertise by instructors.  In fact, this week I am inviting a geologist to take my students on a walk around Mont Royal in Montreal.  Understanding the geological foundations to our local ecosystems is only possible in this class because of the generous involvement from my colleague.  In sum – a  field biology course can be improved by bringing in additional help.

5. Set-up your lab with a lecture:  I have found it immensely useful to set up a field biology laboratory with some kind of content in advance of the trip.  This allows for ‘setting the stage’ so the unfamiliar can be a little more familiar.  To relate this back to my geology field-laboratory, earlier in the term the same colleague came and gave a (indoor) lecture on the geology of the greater Montreal area.  The students therefore have had exposure to the topic in advance of the lab, and were asked to do some readings prior to the laboratory.  This avoids that problem of tying to deliver lectures outside.  Trying to combine experiential learning, in the field, with learning content and concepts, can be difficult.  Use an earlier lecture slot as a means to set up the field activities and laboratories. Sometimes this will mean unique scheduling options for your course.  For example, I have timetabled my course by doing a one-hour lecture each Tuesday an one four-hour field lab each Thursday – the Tuesday lecture can be used to cover some content and allows me to devote the entire field laboratory to field activities.

Field Biology in the winter – why not?

6. Embrace the unpredictable:  Taking students out in a rainstorm, or when it’s -15C, is part of the field biology experience.  Nature can be unpredictable, and we need to embrace this instead of shy away from it.  In the Montreal area, seasonability is a driving force in all our ecosystems, yet field biology courses tend to be focused in ‘nice weather’ seasons.  My colleague Murray Humphries is always telling me that our students must realize that winter ecology is as important as what happens in the summer!  He’s right! (Murray, by the way, does take students out on winter trips in his mammalogy course, and they do winter tracking and other activities relate to cold-weather science).   We can see and do a lot of field biology in all seasons, and must change the mindset of associating field biology with the warm months.  And, as an anecdote, of all the camping trips that I did with my father when I was (much) younger, I remember vividly the ones with rain, sleet, snow and wind storms.  Nice weather is boring.

In sum, field biology courses are doable, providing the instructor can be creative and embrace alternative approaches to teaching.

What are your own strategies?  Please share…

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Plain-language summary of research results: Mites, rotten wood, and forests

Last week I wrote a post that outlined a proposal to require plain-language summaries of all research papers. I decided that I would start to do this with my own papers to see how difficult it might be, and also to see if this could help to make the research more accessible to a broad audience.

So… here it goes. This is a summary of paper written with my former MSc student Andrea Dechene, about mites, forests and fallen logs:

         Mites are small animals, closely related to ticks and spiders. They are so small that it is very difficult to see them without the help of a magnifying glass or microscope. There are many kinds of mites, and they are found almost everywhere, including forests. Mites are important in forests because they can affect how leaves and rotten wood decompose on the forest floor. 

          In this research, we studied whether certain kinds of mites were associated with logs that were decomposing on the forest floor, and we did this work in north-western Quebec. We collected mites living in the wood, on the ground near the wood, and on the forest floor about 1 m away from logs. Mites were collected by taking a handful of soil, leaves or rotten wood, putting this in a zip-lock bag, and then the samples were taken to a laboratory. In the lab, these handfuls of soil, leaves and wood were placed on a bench below a light. Mites do not like bright lights and they try to get away by moving away from the light – in this case, they move downward where they think it is safe. The samples are on a screen, however, and the mites fall through the screen and into a jar that contains a liquid that will kill them. These jars are taken to a different lab where the mites are inspected with the help of a microscope. With the help of books and other resources, we could figure out all the different kinds of mites and sort them into their different varieties.  Some kinds had names while other ones did not 

         We discovered 80 different kinds of mites and over 15,000 mites, in total, fell into the jars. That means a lot of mites live in forests! We also discovered that different kinds of mites live in the rotten wood compared to the forest floor and compared to the leaves. We found that the most different kinds of mites actually lived in the leaves that were over top of very, very rotten wood. This is an exciting result because nobody figured this out before, and it means that long after wood decomposes, there are still animals that ‘remember’ the wood was there and are using it as a suitable place to live. Lots of scientists have worked on rotten wood and it is well known that wood is very important for many animals and plants in a forest. Our work is different because we looked at some of the tiny animals in forests and they are also telling us that rotten wood is a good place to live. Next time you see a fallen tree, remember that many kinds of mites depend on that tree and you should leave it where it is.

Mites live here.

Phew.

By the way, here is the actual Abstract from that paper:

The removal of timber during harvesting substantially reduces important invertebrate habitat, most noticeably microhabitats associated with fallen trees. Oribatid mite diversity in downed woody material (DWM) using species-level data has not been well studied. We investigated the influence of decaying logs on the spatial distribution of oribatid mites on the forest floor at the sylviculture et aménagement forestiers écosystémique (SAFE) research station in the Abitibi region in NW Québec. In June 2006, six aspen logs were selected for study, and samples were taken at three distances for each log: directly on top of the log (ON), directly beside the log (ADJ) and at least one metre away from the log and any other fallen wood (AWAY). Samples ON logs consisted of a litter layer sample, an upper wood sample and an inner wood sample. Samples at the ADJ and AWAY distances consisted of litter samples and soil cores. The highest species richness was collected ON logs, and logs harboured a distinct oribatid species composition compared to nearby forest floor. There were species-specific changes in abundance with increasing distance away from DWM, which indicates an influence of DWM in structuring oribatid assemblages on the forest floor. Additionally, each layer (litter, wood and soil) exhibited a unique species composition and hosted a different diversity of oribatid mites. This study further highlights the importance of DWM to forest biodiversity by creating habitat for unique assemblages of oribatid mites.

The Extractor – getting mites from the samples

Thoughts? –I kind of like the plain-language summary.

The plain language summary was not easy to write and it took a lot of words to explain certain things. Despite the challenge, I’m convinced it was a worthwhile use of time.  Please consider doing this with your own papers!  

Reference:

Dechene, A. and C. M. Buddle. 2010. Decomposing logs increase oribatid mite assemblage diversity in mixedwood boreal forest. Biodiv. Cons. 19: 237-256. http://www.springerlink.com/content/r3681l0185620311/

Arthropods in the tree-tops: Canopy ecology in Quebec (Part 1)

This blog post is reproduced here, with permission, from the Spring-Summer 2012 Newsletter of the International Canopy Network.  Given the length of the article, I have split the newsletter into three separate blog posts – this is Part 1. 

Canopy research in most parts of eastern Canada is in its infancy, which is somewhat surprising because I think many Canadians feel a significant connection to forests and to trees – you might even argue it’s part of our culture, along with ice hockey and maple syrup.   I have spent a lot of time doing research on arthropods in forests, but only relatively recently began to shift my focus upwards to the canopy.  The reason is quite straightforward:  when studying the biodiversity of insects and spiders in forests, you just can’t ignore the canopy!

PhD student Dorothy Maguire demonstrates “Single Rope Technique” for accessing the canopy.

As I moved (up) into canopy research, I had originally planned on doing some process-oriented, experimental food-web research in the tree crowns.  I was optimistic that I could go to the literature to find some base-line inventories and those studies would provide a starting point for my research.  I quickly realized, however, that literature on arthropod diversity in “northern” canopies was virtually non-existent (with the notable exceptions being the excellent research done in the temperate rainforest system of western Canada, e.g., Lindo & Winchester 2007, 2008 and related publications). It therefore became clear that the first years of this new research direction would be focused on descriptive biodiversity research.  This is not a bad thing as it allows for the kind of work entomologists and arachnologists love to do:  trap some bugs, identify them, complete a faunal list, and investigate diversity patterns.

Canopy Access

Our laboratory has used two main methods of canopy access over the past six years: a mobile aerial lift platform, and single rope technique.  The mobile lift was acquired by a grant from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation.  It provides a safe way to get people into the canopy (its maximum height is about 26 m – which in our system, takes us to the upper canopy).  Its main limitation is that the lift platform has to be driven into a field site, meaning there must be a 2 m wide trail for access.  This means that selection of field sites, and individual trees, can be somewhat biased and limiting.  You could also argue that all our trees are on soft forest edges.    For that reason, we have more recently starting accessing canopies using the well-known single-rope technique.  It has the benefit of getting you to any tree you like, but can be limiting if the researcher needs to complete complicated tasks at the ends of branches.  However, we are finding the single-rope technique a valuable method for getting our work done in Quebec forests.

Our laboratory’s “mobile aerial lift platform” used to access the canopy.

Stay tuned for Part 2, which will be about spatial patterns of diversity.

On being a successful graduate student

In the spirit of the new academic year, I have decided to post some notes that I give to my own graduate students when they start working in my laboratory.  These are compiled from discussions with other people, from my own experiences, and from a graduate class I took in the mid 1990s at the University of Alberta. 

During graduate school you will transform from a student of science to a scientist over a short period of time.  It is important that you come through this transformation quickly and efficiently.   Here are some things to think about, and some pieces of advice as you embark on this journey.

Take responsibility for your career.

Look at graduate school as a career instead of a lifestyle and instead of an extension of your undergraduate.  See others for advice and criticism but think for yourself.  Your thesis research is your thesis research.  Advisors, committee members, and peers are there to help, and to put down some pylons to make sure you don’t drive off the road, but ultimately you are responsible for your career.   Do not depend entirely on your supervisor.  Be a skeptic, think critically, and ask questions along the way.  Use interactions with other people to learn about different viewpoints and techniques and to facilitate enthusiasm about the work in your chosen field.

Think and act like a professional:

  • Form a strong relationship with your supervisor: you must have an excellent working relationship with him/her.  They will write letters for you and help you in many intangible ways.  Keep your ego outside of this relationship, and deal with any problems as soon as possible and in a transparent manner.
  • Commit yourself to graduate school. Competition in academia is fierce, and only the best and most committed individuals succeed.  It’s a lot easier being committed if you have participated significantly in the thesis project and planning from the start!
  • Don’t work two jobs: graduate school is full time, and unless you are registered part-time, you need to treat graduate school like a full time job.
  • Know the literature: collect, read and catalog it.   Spend time every week reading papers both within and outside your discipline. Read papers that your supervisor recommends.
  • Collaborate and learn from others: meet with visiting scientists whenever possible; correspond with other people working in your area of research (don’t feel intimidated by this!  You’re in the big league now – leave intimidation behind); attend and participate in scientific meetings; participate in scientific discussion groups; join scientific societies.
  • Buy an agenda and use it.  Never complain about not having enough time – nobody cares and nobody likes a whiner.
  • Don’t be late: this includes meetings as well as due dates for written material. Be organized, manage your time, and don’t miss deadlines; come to meetings prepared.
  • Do not be afraid to make mistakes.  Everyone makes mistakes.
  • Read papers written by your supervisor and compare the quality of your work with the quality of his/her paper(s).
  • Hone your oral presentation skills. Give lots of scientific talks, and try to lecture in an undergraduate class: the practice will help.
  • Get experience judging your peers and compare your performance to theirs: you will continue to do this throughout your career
  • Help others: there’s a lot of Karma in the scientific community
  • Publish your work.  It is an important and essential responsibility

Comments on publishing:

Keep publications in mind at all stages of your thesis research – this helps with planning and execution, and publishing is a fun and validating experience.  Try to design your program of study so that you can produce scientific papers.  Keep an eye out for short, peripheral studies that can be done without jeopardizing your main project.

Publish quality and not quantity:  don’t fall into the trap of publishing your very good material in Least Publishable Units (LPUs):  two or three substantial papers are much better than a string of trivial ones.

Authorship:  have a clear understanding with your supervisor and other cooperating individuals about authorship.

Don’t become married to your research project.

Your research should be one component of your life and your graduate school experience, and although it is the most important component, it’s not the only one.   Make sure you live a little bit, read outside your area of research, and continue to increase the breadth of your knowledge as well as its depth.   Interact with the outside world: you will become a very narrow person if you never escape the ‘ivory tower’.   Have fun and find a way to meet people and do activities outside the academic world, and don’t be afraid to communicate your research activities with the non-academic world.  This is an important and underestimated skill.

Characteristics of influential scientists.

Influential scientists are not often those with the highest numbers of papers, most graduate students, biggest research grants, etc.  They are:

• someone who contributes new ideas to their discipline

• someone who contributes ideas that change the direction of a discipline

• someone who innovates

• someone who synthesizes diverse facts and ideas to develop new paradigms.

Always expect the best.

If you anticipate the worst, chances are you will experience it. Develop a positive attitude, decide what you want and then pursue it.  Take full advantage of opportunities, and opportunities seem to come easier if an individual adopts a positive attitude.   Be an active and independent person in graduate school.

Graduate school can be a truly enriching and wonderful part of your life, or it can be a miserable and excruciating experience.  You have the ability to make sure the former happens, and much depends on attitude, passion, and your ability to get the job done.

Determining authorship for a peer-reviewed scientific publication

Authorship on written work should never be taken lightly.  Authorship implies ownership and responsibility for the ideas and content portrayed as the written word.  In science, our currency is the written word, in the form of peer-reviewed articles submitted and published in scientific journals, and multi-authored works are the norm (sometimes to ridiculous degrees!).   Being an author on a paper is critically important for success in academia: the number of publications on your CV can get you job interviews, scholarships, and often leads to increased research funding.  Scientists are often judged by publication metrics, and although we may not like this system, it remains prevalent.  With this context I pose the following question: What is the process by which an individual is granted the privilege of being an author on a peer-reviewed journal article?  This blog post will provide an objective method to determine authorship for a publication, and by sharing it, I hope it helps bring some clarity to the issue.

(Note: as a biologist, I am drawing from my experiences publishing in the fields of ecology and entomology, and in my role as the Editor-in-Chief for a scientific journal, The Canadian Entomologist – the ideas presented below may not be transferable to other fields of study).

A paper that resulted from a graduate class; should all these individuals be authors on this paper? (yes, of course!)

The method outlined below starts by thinking about five main stages in the publication process, and there are individuals associated with each stage:

1. Research concept, framework, and question:  The research process leading to a publication has a conceptual backbone – it is the overarching research framework.  The background ideas and concepts that initiate the research that leads to a publication come from somewhere (…and someone).  Although the end product of research may be the publication, a good research question is at the start, and drives the entire process.  Without a solid framework for research, and a clear question, the research will simply never be in a form suitable for publication.   The person (or people) who developed the big-picture ideas, research framework, and research question are to be considered as authors on the final publication.  In the University framework, this is often an academic who has developed a laboratory and research program around a thematic area of study.

2.  Funding.  Someone has to pay for research – whether it be a large, collaborative research grant that supports many graduate students, or whether it be a small grant from a local conservation agency.  An individual scientist applied for money, and was able to support the research that leads to the publication.  These monies could directly support the research (e.g., provide travel funds, purchase of equipment), the individual doing the research (e.g., pays the graduate student stipend, or technician), or the monies could offset the costs associated with the publication process itself (e.g., many journals charge authors to submit their work, also known as page charges).    The individual(s) who pay for the research need to be considered as authors on the final publication resulting from the research.  More often than not, this individual is the main “supervisor” of a research laboratory, but could also be important collaborators on grant applications, often from other Universities or Institutions.

3. Research design and data collection:  Once the overall research question is in place, and funding secured, the actual research must be designed and executed.  These are placed together under one heading because it is difficult to separate the two, nor should they be separated.  You cannot design a project without attention to how data are collected, nor can you collect data without a clear design.  In a typical University environment, Master’s and PhD students are intimately associated with this part of the research equation, and spend a very significant portion of their time in design and data collection mode.  Without a doubt, the individual(s) who “design and do” the research must be considered as authors.

4.  Data analyses, and manuscript preparation:  The next step in the process is taking the data, crunching the numbers, preparing figures and tables, and writing a first draft of the manuscript.  This is a very important step in the process, as this is the stage where the research gets transformed into a cohesive form.  In a typical University laboratory, this is often done by Master’s students, PhD students, or post-docs, and the product of this stage is often (part of) a graduate student’s thesis.   However, it is also quite likely that a research associate, technician, or Honour’s student be involved at this stage, or that this stage is done by multiple individuals.  For example, data management and analyses may be done by a research technician whereas the head researcher does the bulk of the synthetic writing.  Regardless, one or many individuals may be involved in this stage of the publication process, and all of these people must be considered as authors on the final product.

5. Editing, manuscript submission, and the post-submission process: The aforementioned stage is certainly not the final stage.  A great deal of time and effort goes into the editing process, and quite often the editing and re-writing of manuscripts is done by different individuals than those who wrote the first draft.  Important collaborators and colleagues may be asked to read and edit the first draft and/or other students within a laboratory may work to fine-tune a manuscript.  Most likely, the supervisor of a graduate students invests a lot of time and energy at this stage, and works to get the manuscript in a form that is ready to be submitted to a scientific journal.   The submission process itself can also be difficult and daunting – papers must be formatted to fit the style requirements for specific journals, and the on-line submission process can take a long time.  After the manuscript has been submitted and reviewed by peers, it will most likely return to authors with requests for revisions.  These revisions can be lengthy, difficult, and require significant input (perhaps from many individuals).   For all these reasons, this fifth stage of the publication process cannot be undervalued, and the individual(s) associated with editing, submitting and dealing with revisions must be considered as authors.

Those five categories help define the main stages that lead to a scientific publication, and there are individuals associated with each stage.  Here’s the formula to consider adopting when considering which individuals should be authors on the final product:  if an individual contributed significantly to three or more of the above stages, they should be an author on the final paper.  Here’s an example: in a ‘typical’ research laboratory, the supervisor likely has a big-picture research question that s/he is working on (Stage 1) and has secured funding to complete that project (Stage 2).  A Master’s student, working with this supervisor, will work on the design and collect the data (Stage 3), and as they prepare their thesis, will do the bulk of the data analysis and write the first draft of the paper (Stage 4).  In most cases, the editing and manuscript submission process is shared by the supervisor and the student, and both individuals are likely involved with the revisions of the manuscript after it has been peer-reviewed (Stage 5).  In this case, both individuals clearly contributed to at least three of five categories, and the paper should be authored by both individuals.

A classic example of a paper with a graduate student and supervisor as co-authors.

What about the research assistant that helped collect data? – since they only contributed to Stage 3, they are not considered as an author.  The same is true of a collaborator at a different University who may have helped secure the funding (Stage 2), but did not help with the process in any other way – they do not qualify as authors on this work.   It is quite possible that a post-doc in a laboratory contributes to multiple stages, even on a single Master’s project. For example, the post-doc may have helped secure the funding, assisted significantly with data analysis, and helped to edit the final paper – this entitles them to authorship.

This entire method may be considered too rigid, and cannot really be implemented given the complexities of the research process, and given personalities and politics associated with the research process. Furthermore, many researchers may include their friends on publications, in hopes that the favour will be returned so both individuals increase their publication numbers.    I do not think this is ethical, and overall, if an individual did not contribute to the research process in a significant way, they should not be authors.  The method outlined above provides one way to help determine how this ‘significant way’ can be determined objectively.  The process is certainly not without fault, nor will it work in all circumstances, but perhaps it will help to define roles and help to consider seriously who should be considered as authors on papers.

I can also admit that I have not always contributed to “3 of 5 stages” on all the paper for which I am an author, so you can call me a hypocrite.  That’s OK, (I’ve been called worse), and I reiterate that the process outlined above is context-dependent, and simply provides a framework, or guide, for thinking about this important issue in science.

I am certainly not alone in this discussion, nor with this concept – Paul Friedman wrote about this (in A New Standard for Authorship) and the method in analogous to the one outlined above (although with more categories).  Some journals also specify their expectations for authorship.  As an example, in its instructions to authors, PNAS states that ‘Authorship should be limited to those who have contributed substantially to the work’, and request that contributions be spelled out clearly.  This is a good idea, and forces people to think about the issue.

I’ll finish with two more important points:  First, determining authorship, and thinking about authorship, must be a transparent and clear process.  Graduate students must not be surprised when their supervisor states that some other researcher will be an author on their work – this should have been clear from the start.  A discussion about authorship must occur early in the research process.  Full stop.

Second, another key question is the order of authors.  For example, when is the student’s name first on a publication, and the supervisor second?  What’s the convention for your field of study? Who should be second author when there are four or five co-authors?  This is a complicated question and, you guessed it, one that will be addressed in a future blog post!

Please share your thoughts… how does your laboratory deal with the question of authorship on scientific papers?