ScienceOnline'09 - interview with Tatjana Jovanovic-Grove

The series of interviews with some of the participants of the 2008 Science Blogging Conference was quite popular, so I decided to do the same thing again this year, posting interviews with some of the people who attended ScienceOnline'09 back in January.

Today, I asked Tatjana Jovanovic-Grove to answer a few questions.

Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Who are you? What is your (scientific) background?

Thank you, Bora

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I am a lucky individual who was given a chance to exist, create and interact with other living beings on this amazing planet. It is hard to put this into right words. Those who know me, know that I was shocked to find out the extent of the Bible Belt grip here in NC, and again, I can not help but have immense respect toward Nature and be as humble as our human existence allows. Dusko Radovic said once (I know there are plenty of ex-Yugoslav readers here, thus both original quote and translation): »Mi smo mrve na Zemlji, Zemlja je mrva u kosmosu. To se moze razumeti sve dok nas ne zaboli zub. Mrvine mrve mrva...« »We are crumbs on Earth, Earth is a crumb in the Universe. All that is easy to comprehend until we have a toothache. Crumb in the crumbs crumb«

So, yes, I was lucky to be born in a wonderful country that used to be, in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Belgrade. Lucky to be surrounded with amazing people who did good, one way or another. Ones who were kind and respectful to show me how to act, and the opposite ones, to show me how not to act and how to avoid the traps. For both of them one big thank you.

Part of why I consider myself lucky is to be able to study biology, and some 24 years ago University of Belgrade had really extensive curricula. Today, according to Bologna accords, BSc in Biology at University of Belgrade is equal to an MSc elsewhere, but when I graduated Serbia was still not part of the Bologna process. I worked for eight years at the Ecology Department at Institute for Biological Research on predator-prey relationships, small mammal identification and mostly owl research. Thus my full name doesn't ring much bells, as Tanja Sova does: 'sova' means an owl, and that was the word people associated with me so often, it became my pseudonym.

When I moved to USA, Arizona at first and two years ago to North Carolina, I developed a line of artwork inspired by nature. Discovering Etsy helped a lot in many ways, but that is a story for some other interview.

What do you want to do/be when (and if ever) you grow up?

Growing up??? You are kidding! Why would I?

Oh, well... Since I went into adulthood, I was provided with tools to play seriously. You know, when we were young, it was digging around and taking care of pets that was considered play. With a degree, you just turned that play into some serious job. Now I play, I mean create artwork, and I love it. Yes, giving and sharing knowledge / skills is my ultimate wish what I want to do when I grow more gray, I mean when I grow up ;-)

What is your Real Life job?

In economy like this, and we've been trained that very well back in Yugoslavia / Serbia, one has to be like a cat: to get on its feet. I am open for possibilities, but for now I am self employed making mostly custom orders on Etsy.

What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?

Biologist in me is active, although in the background for a while. Bringing the missing pieces into the puzzle of personal and professional knowledge, as well providing inspiration for art. As a parent, I enjoy sharing links with my children and discussing them. Sometimes I am too busy to be able to read all I would want to, so the most active blog reader in the family, Djordje comes with his opinion and it develops most of the time into a discussion either when we craft something together or when we are on the road.

When and how did you discover science blogs? Have you discovered any new cool science blogs while at the Conference?

It's all your fault J OK, jokes apart, when we knew we were moving to NC, I googled information that I considered important to learn where am I moving to (SC and VA were options as well), and just came upon your blog. WOW! The new world opened. The amount of time I spend there really depends on available time I have, which is unpredictable. However, sometimes there are some hot topics that steal me from artwork and grab my full attention following the links. I was really, really glad to be able to meet in person many people whose blogs I have read. Irreplaceable experience which I am looking forward repeating. It was discovering many very cool people first of all, and learning about new blogs as well.

When did you become an artist? How do you combine your interests in science and art?

I would rather say that just like this figure was more of a freeing the captured sculpture from within, the same is with artist in us: circumstances make the artist surface from within, with each artwork it is more prominent. Whenever I can, I do my best to combine science and art. I've learned long time ago that having strong imagination helps understanding natural sciences, and understanding science brings vast amount of art themes to create. I really enjoy Etsy for although you can find ANYTHING there, it has somehow enough numbers of free thinking and highly educated people, many biologist themselves amongst sellers, who apply science knowledge / theme / process / subject into their art. Again, being popular amongst scientists and students, Etsy is helping in widening the public for really specific subjects that otherwise would not have as much appreciation in general public. Examples for such an artwork is this pendant that you can see here. The NYTimes article brought some amazing people, such as Leslie Vosshall, with whom I worked on pendants I am sure not many people from general public would appreciate or understand: Drossophila melanogaster and Aedes aegypti. Learning more about her and her work was even greater joy.

You led two sessions at the conference - one about producing Art for a blog, and the other about Open Access in developing countries. How did they go and what did you learn from them?

Meeting Glendon Mellow was a joy even before we met in person. There are so many interests we have in common and I love his visions of science. Luckily the format of unconference was really good, as you have on-the-spot exchanging and sharing information. I am hoping we tackled some strings and definitely know that there were dozens of tips shown that are more, in my opinion, technical information rather than art itself. However, all those tips are enhancing blogging. Lot of laughter, some quite unintentional but very welcome, as a result of miscommunication between Betul and Djordje :-)

Danica and I are coming from two different angles and I believe we have opened some questions and definitely paved the way to the upcoming 2010 session with Jelka Crnobrnja-Isailovic. I think session with Danica was also good example of how it is important to have people with different backgrounds in the library systems. Even in biology itself, I recall often a block to understanding between ecologists and molecular biologists, for instance. Demands of publishing at the same rate with laboratory experiments versus field work that needs to have few seasons before showing proper results worth publishing simply does not add up. That is one of the topics for upcoming session as well.

Jelka and I are not only colleagues, but first of all friends, and I am sure this will reflect in a fluid and relaxed session at the unconference in January.

Is there anything that happened at this Conference - a session, something someone said or did or wrote - that will change the way you think about science communication, or something that you will take with you to your job, your art, blog-reading and perhaps blog-writing?

I wish a day had more than 24 hours (48 would do just fine) for all I would want to do. It was so refreshing being again amongst scientists and some new kids on the block (Balasevicevi 'neki novi klinci'). I have learned a lot as a parent (at that time homeschooling Djordje), as a biologist to pass tricks and tips to my fellow biologists in Serbia, both who are in education and research, and to understand first-hand the American way of approaching problems I could only read about. Talking in person helps a lot, really. It is hard to stress who would stand out, for there are many, really, and placing the names I would not feel good for the others (say I will mention trilobite, tulumbe, vole dance, discussion about religion just to mention a few topics without mentioning the names), but I really have to say I was blown away with Ms Stacey's students! As my owns kids are similar age, I was honored to meet them, and quite a few young ladies and gentlemen impressed me the most with their knowledge, dignity, eloquence and mannerisms. My kudos to them. About my blog: have opened one, but still short in time to write. Hopefully in the future.

It was so nice to meet you again and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.

I am looking forward being part of the conference again. Thank you and Anton for incredible amount of time and energy to organize these truly important events!


See the 2008 interview series and 2009 series for more.


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