I’m happy to finally break the blog silence with a celebration of my first published paper!
While the first “primary author” paper milestone is still ahead of me (fingers crossed it’s not too far off though!), I’ve had enough of a taste of the publishing scene over the last year or so to take this as a win. Plus, what started out as a fun little side project on Twitter, led by my ICON lab mate Lindall Kidd (who ironically doesn’t have any online presence to link to), has turned into quite an interesting little paper.
Because while we all wish conservation wasn’t a popularity contest (we’re not the only ones to rant about this daily, right?), we do need to acknowledge that it often is. More popular species are simply more likely to get the support that they need to survive. So it seems apt to explore how popular our Australian threatened (EPBC Act listed) species currently are, in the context of the social network Twitter.
We already know that charismatic species are usually more popular, a trend which has led me myself to focus my PhD on so-called “non-charismatic” species (a phrase I would very much like to change by the way. How about needlessly neglected species? Too much?). And this taxonomic bias is a trend that our paper again shows, with mammals and birds (and reptiles – huzzah!) receiving much more attention than frogs and invertebrates on Twitter (see Fig. 1 below).
What struck me more, however, is that 57% of species listed on the EPBC Act had fewer than 20 tweets, indicating that our threatened species are really not receiving much attention on Twitter. Now for each individual species, this may or may not be hugely consequential – not every species needs public attention to be appropriately managed.
However, this general trend does indicate a broad lack of awareness of our Australian threatened species, and this is troubling. Especially when considering that 15% of species had never been tweeted about at all, and of these, 35% were invertebrates (follow @ICON_Science, and the #untweetables to help us remedy this).
But let me haul you out of that murky puddle of dread, because there are some positive lessons to be learned from this work as well. While only 6% of species received more than 1000 tweets (and of these, 39% were mammals), there are some general trends we can see among these Twitter “winners”. Perhaps most cheeringly, is the great effect that ‘species champions’ (e.g. conservation organisations, individual researchers) can have on raising the profile of a species.
This paper is not a comprehensive analysis of preferences towards Australian threatened species, however, it is an interesting snapshot of their popularity on Twitter. Hopefully it will provide some food for thought for future engagement and communications.