Evolution of the #HumpOff: thanks and farewell Tom Houslay

Evolutionary biologist and population geneticist Tom Houslay @tomhouslay wasted no time in getting down to business after taking the reins of the RealScientists account.

Tom also took the time to hand draw several concepts to share with RealScientists followers, which was a charming and whimsical touch.

And weighed in on one of the most vicious and long, standing arguments amongst scientists.

Here’s Tom putting crickets in soundproof boxes. WONDERS NEVER CEASE.

Then this happened, and the hashtag #HumpOff was written into the annals of history


Tom kindly agreed to our post-curation interview, and his very own thoughts and words follow:

In general terms, how did you find your week as a curator?

I really enjoyed it! It was fun thinking about how to communicate ideas about evolutionary biology and the kind of work that I do to a very broad audience.

It can be a shock talking to so many. Did you find the sudden rush of interactions (good and bad) daunting?

I very quickly learned to change the notifications settings for the Twitter app on my phone, and after that it was fine! It was interesting to see the kind of things people were responding to as well.

What were the highlights? Were there any lowlights?

There weren’t really any lowlights; I was a little disappointed by my ‘actual science’ tweets not getting quite as much interaction as I’d hoped (especially compared to how much some of my throwaway comments were getting!), but any negatives were massively overshadowed by my request for interesting facts about mating systems, sex-related adaptations or behaviours etc (the #HumpOff!) trending and then making it into various international newspaper websites! It all got a bit ridiculous, and was very amusing (particularly as the main reason for doing it was to get me through the 7hr train journey I was taking to go and see my wife!)

Is there anything you wanted to get out of / do on the RS account that you didn’t manage to fit in?

I wanted to cover some more of my own work and some more evolutionary theory, but ran out of time. There were a few ideas that I had which just didn’t quite make it, for reasons of time and energy (and because we all got a little carried away with #HumpOff!)

Did you have a plan? If so, did you stick to it?

I had a general plan, but it kind of went out of the window on the first day – I went on a bit of a tangent and only covered about a third of what I’d planned to! I did manage to stick to the plan of how I would tweet, however: in the time I allotted for tweeting each day I would map out what I wanted, then write out a bunch of approximately tweet-sized notes (along with drawings of figures, which I really got into using) so that I could bang out a sequence of related tweets in a short period of time.

Do you have any tips or advice for future RS curators?

Use pictures whenever possible – I think even my hand-drawn figures engaged people more than just the bit of text would have done. Also, don’t get discouraged if you don’t get much feedback at the time – I’ve had a few people say to me since that they really enjoyed my ‘real science’ tweets, which has been really nice to hear!

I’d also recommend being aware that you don’t need to engage with absolutely everybody who responds to you. I’ve become a lot better over the years at identifying interaction that isn’t going to be constructive (usually based on the question and a quick glance at the user’s bio!), and so I just ignored those ones.

Oh, and use a competitive hashtag that will get people sharing weird facts and silly photos that ends up getting your name in the papers…

What other people or accounts should people follow if they enjoyed your tweets this week?

Probably most follow the obvious ones like @edyong209, @bug_gwen etc, but I’d also recommend some friends/colleagues of mine:


Oh, and they should follow me, obviously.

Thanks once again Tom from all of us here at RealScientists HQ. If you missed anything from his week, the tweets are all collated at the following link.


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