Winter Writing Retreat Spurs Productivity and Pizza-Making

by Nora Casson

Members at the Stanley Lab in the wintry Northwoods, ready to some work done. Photo Courtesy: Sam Christel
Members of the Stanley Lab in the wintry Northwoods, ready to get some work done. Photo: Pam Montz

What makes a group of limnologists head into the woods in the dead of winter? In the case of the students and post-docs in Emily Stanley’s lab, it was a need to embrace cabin fever, shut ourselves in and get a lot of work done.
A few weeks ago, eight of us piled into vehicles and drove up to Trout Lake Station for a week-long writing retreat.  The idea was to take some time away from the distractions of our regular offices, set some specific writing goals, and see what we could accomplish with a few days of concentrated effort.
Look out unfinished lit reviews and methods sections, Nora Casson and Luke Loken mean business. Photo: Sam ChristelWe led off the week with a discussion of a fascinating blog post about a fascinating man. Brian McGill from the University of Maine wrote the piece for the “Dynamic Ecology” blog produced by Jeremy Fox at the University of Calgary.
McGill writes that, while William Shockley wasn’t the nicest guy who ever lived, his idea to scientifically research what makes successful scientific researchers produced an excellent “how-to” guide for being more productive and “clearing the hurdles” needed to write a good scientific paper.
After the discussion, we then outlined our goals for the week, which were recorded on the board at the front of the room. Not only was our “to do” list there for all to see, but we could also dramatically and publicly cross them off as we finished each one!
John Crawford waits for his pizza dough to return to earth. Photo: Nora Casson
John Crawford waits for his pizza dough to Sam Christel.

The week provided lots of opportunities for sharing work in progress, discussion of science and informal presentations by lab members.
We also managed to find some time for other group bonding activities, including cross-country skiing, some fun group dinners (where we saw John Crawford’s secret pizza-dough tossing skills first-hand), and lots of Olympic watching – we even put the USA vs. Canada women’s hockey game up on the big screen while we were working.
As a Canadian, I was happy to see our team prevail in a nail-biter!
Work hard and watch others play hard. The Stanley crew takes a break with pizza and Olympic half-pipe action. Photo: Sam Christel
Work hard and watch others play hard. The Stanley crew takes a break with pizza and Olympic half-pipe. Photo: Nora Casson

Overall, we had a fun, productive week; a few of us got some papers submitted, while others made a great deal of progress on projects that had been nagging at them for months.  It was a great experience which will hopefully become a Stanley lab winter tradition! Besides, with this winter, who wouldn’t have welcomed a productive indoor distraction?

3 thoughts on “Winter Writing Retreat Spurs Productivity and Pizza-Making”

  1. Looks like you guys had a blast!
    Canada vs USA game on TV is always a heated experience.
    I am Canadian too, I live in Calgary now. Lots of forests here.

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