Tuesday, December 6, 2011

BHL and Our Users: Dr. Thomas Carefoot

After a short break during which we featured various posts related to the Life and Literature conference, we again resume our BHL and Our User series, kicking things off again with Dr. Thomas Carefoot, a marine biologist and the author of the delightful educational website on west-coast marine invertebrates, A Snail's Odyssey.

What is your title, institutional affiliation, and area of interest?

I am retired from a 35-year teaching and research position in marine biology at the University of British Columbia, Canada. My research specialties include the study of a group of marine snails known as sea hares, and I have sought them out in many tropical areas of the world. I am well versed on invertebrate marine life, most notably on the Pacific west coast, but also throughout the Caribbean, Indo- Pacific, and other tropical areas. I enjoy talking and lecturing about marine invertebrates, and a few years before retirement was awarded the University’s prestigious Master Teacher Award. I have written 2 books on marine ecology, authored some 90 research papers, and have recently produced a large educational website on west-coast marine invertebrates called A Snail's Odyssey. I am currently working on an equally large educational website called the Biology of Caribbean Coral Reefs.

How long have you been in your field of study?

For over 50 years, from commencement of an Honours BSc programme at the University of British Columbia (UBC), leading to an MSc degree at the same institution, and followed by a doctorate at the University of Wales, all in the field of marine biology. My first job was at the Marine Sciences Centre, McGill University, followed by an appointment to the Zoology Department at UBC in 1969. As part of the McGill experience was one year’s appointment as Director of the Bellairs Research Institute in Barbados. In total, I have spent about 3 years in the Caribbean, have visited all but a handful of the major islands, and have SCUBA-dived on most Caribbean reef systems.

When did you first discover BHL?

Several years ago when I first started researching scientific articles on west-coast marine invertebrates for my website A Snails' Odyssey.

What is your opinion of BHL and how has it impacted your research?

BHL provides an excellent service for studies of marine and other biodiversity. However, as my research interests are not in biodiversity per se, I use the service only for accessing pertinent literature on west-coast and coral-reef marine invertebrates for inclusion in my educational websites.

How often do you use BHL?

About once a week.

How do you usually use BHL (read the titles online/download whole PDFs/Selecting Pages to Download for a custom PDF/etc.)

For downloading articles from journals.

What are your favorite features/services on BHL?

The only one that I have regularly used is the PDF downloading privilege.

If you could change one thing about BHL, what would it be, or what developmental aspect would you like the BHL team to focus on next?

I would streamline the system for downloading PDFs. It is currently time-consuming and “out of synch” with similar accessing systems for other scientific journals. For example, the journal I most access at BHL is the Journal of Shellfish Research (JSR), which is presently most easily “downloadable” as entire volumes. It would be a relatively easy job to split each volume into its component research papers, format these as PDFs, and have an accessing system along the lines of other journal publishers. I realize that JSR is just one of the many journals in the BHL, but it would be a start.

Thank you, Dr. Carefoot, for sharing your experience and resources with us! Be sure to check out A Snails' Odyssey, which chronicles the whimsical story of an upper intertidal snail who, finding himself mistakenly cast into the deep waters of the ocean, slowly but steadily makes his way back home to shallower waters. Along the way he encounters many different marine species, which offer a plethora of opportunities for discovery for both the snail and the reader. For each species, there is a short cartoon animation meant to give a light-hearted introduction to the animal, and a scientific Learnabout, which offers more in-depth information, including summaries of a multitude of scientific papers written about the invertebrates. It's a fun, educational site for all ages.

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