It is important to give back to your community, whether in your neighborhood or in the broader arena of life. At Amherst, I mainly contribute to community through service and public outreach.
Like many of my colleagues, I review about a dozen manuscripts
and proposals each year, act as department webmaster, and participate
in committees that enrich life at the College. I also spend significant
time in two other realms of professional service.
My biggest service investment is as Executive Editor of
the open-access electronic paleontology journal, Palaeontologia
Electronica (PE). Back in my grad school daze, several
colleagues and I founded this journal in response to the rise of digital
publishing technologies, the development of the WWW, and the extortive
publication practices levied by commercial journal publishers. Our goal
was to leverage the web to broaden the scope of paleontological publishing,
while simultaneously improving the financial and temporal efficiency of
these efforts. Started with the support of the major paleontology societies,
PE now reaches over 300,000 readers/month in 100+ countries, including
the professional paleontological community, the avocational community,
and the general public.
My second area of service is aimed at improving the quality of Powerpoint-based pedagogy. Although most academics give good Powerpoint presentations at professional meetings or departmental seminars, most of us give mediocre to poor digital presentations in our classes. Just ask students. One of the best ways to improve our digital presentation skills is to share our specific pedagogical approaches with one another - so we can learn from one another.
By sharing with one another, we can improve the quality of graphics used in our presentations, and reduce the time it takes us to obtain appropriate images/data/animations. With this in mind, my students and I have created a web-based Powerpoint Lecture Exchange, where geologists can freely archive and exchange lectures with one another. The site allows users to download an individual or a complete course's worth of Powerpoint lectures, and to share their lectures with other geoscientists. The site is currently in beta-testing mode, and currently only open to early-adopters. To address copyright issues, the site is password protected, so if you're interested in participating, please contact me directly. New participants are welcome.
Less frequently, I've contributed to projects which reach a broader audience, such as the development of a ReMedia Educational CD-ROM (Prehistoric Animals), or the filming of a National Geographic TV series (The Shape of Life) aimed at chronicling the emergence of animal life. Click on the image at right to view a montage (40 Mb) from this series.