Lee Ann Torrans sends me an email

pharaoh ants

An actual email exchange, just now. The first bit is a standard DMCA form notice I send non-commercial copyright infringers:

This letter is a Notice of Infringement as authorized in § 512(c) of the U.S. Copyright Law under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The infringing material appears on the Service for which you are the designated agent.

The disputed images are here:

My original, copyright-protected photographs are here:!i=619427766&k=WqGSp

Please remove these files from your servers at your earliest convenience.

I have a good faith belief that the disputed use is not authorized by myself, the copyright owner. I hereby state, under penalty of perjury, that the above information in this email is accurate and that I am the copyright owner.

Thanks for your time,

Alexander Wild

Lee Ann Torrans responds:

Hey, buddy.

It’s down.

But if you look at the website you will see I sell nothing.  I only serve the public by drawaing attention to a significant problem in this country.

Just wondering, do you do any thing beneficial to society in a major way?

I get emails all the time, thanking me for providing an important service.  Maybe 7,000 to date.

This is the first complaint.

Good look with your copyright infringement crusade.

I have thousand of images on the web, my own.  People use them all the time and I am glad to permit that.

Lee Ann Torrans

Ah, the glamorous life of the nature photographer.

update: thread is closed.

Links for the New Year

Myrmecia pilosula, Australia charming (and dangerous) jack-jumper ant.

Welcome to 2012! You look like you need something to read:

Also, we have a date and place for this year’s BugShot insect photography workshop: 23-26 August at the Archbold Biological Station in Florida. Full details & registration information will be posted by February; consider this a pre-announcement.


Sunset on the Ovens River, Bright, Australia

I’m far too jetlagged from a 17 hour time difference to be productive today- my brain is moving in a different dimension than the rest of me- but I just thought I’d post that we’re back home in Illinois after spending three wonderful weeks visiting friends & family in Australia. I trust everyone’s holidays are going well.


When travelling with sporadic internet access of unpredictable speed, I’m finding Google+ to be easier than Myrmecos for posting photos of the strange and wonderful creatures I’ve encountered:

Alex’s Google+ Stream

My posts are public, so you won’t need to register an account to view them.

Slow Blogging Ahead

Australia's Rainbow Lorikeet is a common backyard bird

Winter descends again on Illinois, bringing insect season to a close. Time to head for the tropics!

Mrs. Myrmecos and I will be spending much of December in Australia, visiting her family and photographing the continent’s bizarre ants. In particular, I’m hoping to capture images of weaver ants weaving- a behavior that has thus far eluded me. Apparently I’ve been visiting the old world tropics at the wrong time of year, when conditions are too cool for optimal nest-building.

I might try to blog a bit here and there, but mostly I’ll be taking time off. The Monday Mystery will resume in January.

Oecophylla smaragdina - Cape Tribulation, Australia

So you want to be a bug blogger.

The inimitable Bug Girl, who founded perhaps the longest running and most successful insect blog in the history of the medium, has shared her upcoming presentation on blogging for the Entomological Society meetings. If you blog, or are thinking about blogging, the best 20 minutes you can spend this morning will be watching Bug Girl’s video.

There’s a lot to chew on. In particular, her insistence that bug bloggers aren’t competing with each other, but against a larger ascientific media, is worth noting. We aren’t locked in a zero-sum game for a limited number of reader eyeballs. If we, as a group, use social media to build our networks and raise the overall profile of Entomology and other sciences, we all get new readers.

Bug Girl notes two successful strategies for attracting attention: 1. Humor; 2. Error. If you’re funny and/or piss people off, you’ll get an audience. I’d like to add a third category: Be Useful. Many of my most successful posts aren’t funny or wrong, but instead explain how to do things. Some readers want to become better photographers, or be better at identifying insects. Sharing your skills- especially your enviable skills- will foster a following.

Blogging will affect your career…

…so sayeth Bug Girl:

It isn’t hard to find examples where science bloggers that use their real names–and that have known employers–have had disgruntled readers contact their boss.  It isn’t hard to find examples where a decision has been made by the higher ups that silence is better than controversy, even if the information provided online is correct.

There is no way to blog–anonymously or not– and never have it affect your career.

This is true. Blogging will affect your career. Your online tracks will be found by employers, present and future, and the more important the position, the harder you’ll be googled.

But- and here is where I think I differ from Bug Girl- a blog is just as likely to affect your prospects positively as it is negatively. Sure, for any given blogging style there are employers who won’t want you. Add that to a long list of other foibles that will disqualify you from various realms of employment.

Let’s not be so down, though. There will also be a subset of employers who view a strong online presence as a positive. A blog highlights your intelligence, your passion for the topic, your varied talents, your writing skills, and your willingness to take risks. Some jobs- especially outreach, writing, and marketing jobs- won’t consider you unless you have a blog.

You may, by blogging, disqualify yourself from 10% of your potential career options. But unless your online presence is a burning wreck of spittle-flecked unprofessionalism, blogging can open up another 10% of career options that wouldn’t previously have been available. I’m making these numbers up, but you get the point. I know tenured PI’s who view blogs as a ready measure of a candidate’s enthusiasm, a quality that can be difficult to gauge from a CV. If you are strongly inclined to blogging, perhaps it is worth writing off careers that won’t tolerate your online activities. You’ll be happier, anyway, at the more forward-looking organizations that want your online talents.

*update*- case in point

*update 2* – if you do bug blog, take Bug Girl’s Survey!

Steve Jobs, 1955-2011: Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish

I don’t own an Apple product. Here I am, typing away on a Windows machine. Still, the news of Steve Jobs’ death is heavy. His creativity and dogged adherence to principle has altered our culture, and for the better. I have no trouble imagining he’ll be remembered along with the likes of Thomas Edison as one of the great figures of his time.

Jobs’s now-famous 2005 Stanford commencement address, embedded above, has been on my mind recently. Watch it, if you haven’t.

In August I took my own leap. When my contract with the University of Illinois ended, I chose not to look for a new paid position. I’d been tunneling ever more deeply into photography- partly because I get to spend more time with living organisms than I do as a reseacher, and partly because I just enjoy it more- so I decided to finally cut the academic umbilical cord.

I now work full-time for myself. When I think about that, when I think about how hard I have to work to replace the security I had a few months ago, it feels as though I’ve stepped into the middle of freeway traffic. It’s a scary amount of responsibility. Yet, Jobs’s words are exactly the sort of reassurance that I’ve made the right decision:

You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

A great person.