Posted by: Jill | May 12, 2010

Teaching Microsoft How to Speak Science

I’m currently writing a paper about my first year research project, which is a study of the coral reefs in the remote, newly-established Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument.  I have quickly learned that the dictionary in Microsoft Word wasn’t written with ecologists in mind.  Frequently, I find myself choosing “add to dictionary” when the spell check complains about my vocabulary.

Some of the terms that I have added to my Word dictionary recently:

  • herbivory: plant eating (for example, I count the number and size of fish in a given area to get a measure of herbivory)
  • macroalgae and macroalgal: algae that we can see, aka seaweed; compare to microscopic algae (phytoplankton)
  • unfished: the state of a place where fishing is not allowed, such as inside a marine reserve. I compare the ecosystems of fished and unfished areas to learn if protection makes a difference (it does!)
  • photoquadrat: a method for counting the stationary plants and animals that live on the bottom.  We count all the types of organisms inside a square area called a quadrat, usually demarcated by a square plastic frame.  It takes too long to count every single organism underwater, so we take photographs of each quadrat and then zoom in on the computer screen to count things.  This method is called photoquadrat analysis.
  • UPDATE, June 2: I just added tidepool to my Word dictionary. I hope this definition is self-explanatory; if not, come visit me in San Diego! We can go explore tidepools (it’s one word, Microsoft!).

And now back to writing, with a slightly smarter Word, I hope.


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