Tell us about your career before publishing
My PhD research with Janet Mann at Georgetown University in Washington DC focused on how aging affects the reproduction and behavioral ecology of mammals, and I performed boat-based fieldwork with bottlenose dolphins for several years in Shark Bay, Western Australia. While I have worked with a handful of other marine mammals like humpback whales and manatees, it had always been the evolutionary puzzles, like how menopause evolved in a few mammal species but not others, and the evolution of complex social and mating systems, that really motivated me.
What do you think your research experience brings to your publishing career?
I’ve found that many of the tools I used when critically examining literature as a scientist lend themselves to how I approach manuscripts as an editor: identifying the broad aims of a paper, assessing how the paper fits in with the existing literature, noting the paper’s key findings and evaluating whether they support its main conclusions, and determining the paper’s broader implications for the field. Keeping up with trends and challenges in the field has also been an important aspect of my research experience that has helped with my work as an editor.
What’s your perception of academic research right now, in your capacity as an editor?
I’m really fascinated by interdisciplinary research and work that incorporates methods that are typically used across diverse fields in order to address a unifying question of biology. I hope that we’ll see continued, concrete efforts toward addressing racial, gender, and geographic disparities in authorship and reviewership, and that is certainly a top priority for us at Communications Biology.
What do you miss most about your academic research/pre-publishing career?
My fieldwork involved studying complex behaviors of a highly social and charismatic animal in one of the most isolated and beautiful parts of the world—so that experience is really hard to beat! But the scenery aside, being able to observe behaviors up-close and in real time that are indicative of the broader ecological and evolutionary strategies I study back in the lab was always one of the most rewarding aspects of fieldwork for me.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in their research career?
Strike the right balance of depth and breadth in your research field – I loved delving deeply into the specific research questions that captivated me, but broadening your work to include other systems expands not only your professional network and your skillset, but also the context and perspective from which you approach a particular research question.
Caitlin is an Associate Editor for Communications Biology based in New York.