It’s “application season” for fellowships, jobs, grants, and more. This time of year, I field a lot of queries about fine-tuning cover letters and application materials. I’ve shared various resources for them online (like a workshop series on applying for the NSF GRFP that’s applicable to most application types) and on social media.
Today, I want to share something more specific and detailed about what is arguably the most important part of your application: the cover letter.
To my mind, the cover letter is most important because it may be the only part of your application that a hiring manager, grants program officer, editor, or whomever reads.* Your cover letter is your shot at getting them to want to read your CV, references, etc. With the cover letter, your goal is to get on the short list for reading your full packet or even offering a phone/video-call interview.
In an audio interview and edited transcript, Wyoming Public Radio reporter Ashley Piccone interviewed me and Nell Smith (a student) about an article Nell led which discusses the importance of word choice for scientists.
In the edited article, Meaning-Making in Science Communication: A Case for Precision in Word Choice, we discuss how important it is to actually interpret results with nuance and attention to the different meanings one word can have to various people or interest groups.
Read the interview transcript here. Read the ‘Word choice matters’ paper here.
I had the great honor of collaborating with my friend Dr. Jean Polfus and her Sahtu Dene community collaborators on this publication. In it, we detail how art can be used as an inclusive, innovative research method for ecological research.
The article is available via open-access (for free) at the Ecology and Society website.
Meanwhile, here’s a sample of what you might find useful:
Excerpts from the article abstract (aka summary):
“Interdisciplinary approaches are necessary for exploring the complex research questions that stem from interdependence in social-ecological systems […] Identifying biocultural diversity requires a flexible, creative, and collaborative approach to research. We demonstrate how visual art can be used in combination with scientific and social science methods to examine the biocultural landscape of the Sahtú region of the Northwest Territories, Canada. Specifically, we focus on the intersection of Dene cultural diversity and caribou (Rangifer tarandus) intraspecific variation. We developed original illustrations, diagrams, and other visual aids to increase the effectiveness of communication, improve the organization of research results, and promote intellectual creativity […]Collaborative visual products, like posters that represented different caribou types, allowed Dene partners to more clearly articulate subtleties within caribou intraspecific variation that are manifest through distinct dialects, place-based relationships, and cultural practices. Our results point to the potential for visual art to be used to improve communication, participation, and knowledge production in interdisciplinary and cross-cultural research collaborations and to enhance the sustainable stewardship and protection of biodiversity.
Full citation: Polfus, J. L., D. Simmons, M. Neyelle, W. Bayha, F. Andrew, L. Andrew, B. G. Merkle, K. Rice, and M. Manseau. 2017. Creative convergence: exploring biocultural diversity through art. Ecology and Society 22(2): 4-17. https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-08711-220204
“Too much importance cannot be given to drawing, as it is not only an excellent device for securing close observation, but it is also a rapid method of making valuable notes.”
Inspired by Louis Agassiz, the Harvard Committee of Ten insisted that drawing be an essential part of science education at their institution. While this curricular edict was issued in 1894, it is a learning and research recommendation whose value I rediscover every time I work on the “Ecologically True Story of the Tortoise and the Hare.”