A time for reflection….

In this post, Dirt Doctors original founder and recently graduated Olly Pritchard reflects on how the Dirt Doctors blog account has done so far.

It’s been pretty much 18 months now since the Dirt Doctors blog was first exposed to the World Wide Web. And trust me, a lot has happened since then…..

For starters, personally I’ve completed my PhD and moved on from Cranfield. For those of you who didn’t already know, this blog is run by Soil and Plant Science PhD students in the  Soil and Agrifood Institute at Cranfield University in Bedfordshire, UK. Not forgetting Grant all the way up at the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland!

The International Year of Soils (2015) has been and gone, a part of what spurred on the creation of this blog, amongst other things.The Dirt Doctors bloggers have been to schools to teach kids about soils, plants and the technology being used to help increase food production, they’ve stood on soapboxes, have attended conferences around the world and let us not forget the many excellent blog posts that we have seen to date from a varied range of contributors at every stage of their careers.

If you’re new to the blog then you have some catching up to do – just so you know, the posts are perfect for a quick breaktime read – so please do go and have an explore!

As a result of all this prior activity, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on the blog and how it has developed during this relatively short period. Particularly as our latest posts have been reflecting on the careers of distinguished soil and plant scientists, consider this a reflection of the blogs short career.

Reflection lends perspective (Source: Linkedin.com)

Reflection lends perspective (Source: Linkedin.com)

It all started with my own reading of other student-led blogs. Specifically, it was the blogs associated with the EGU (European Geosciences Union) that really caught my eye – you can check them out here if you’re interested. I thought, what a great way to get your science out there. At Cranfield, research spans all ranges of soil and plant sciences from soil physics and biology to postharvest technology to geohazard assessment and environmental informatics. Our initial intention was to therefore provide the reader (you wonderful people) with a flavour of everyday life as a PhD student and the exciting (well to us anyway) research that is currently ongoing. Plus, we have been lucky to share some insights from academics in research life beyond the PhD.

So, reminiscing back to February 2015 and keen to get started, a blog began to take shape. Utilising only a single piece of A3 paper and some funny play with words for a potential blog name, the former I have unfortunately since lost, the blog was born. At this point I must acknowledge the co-support and initial funding of the blogs web page by my PhD buddy, Becky Whetton!

For those of you out there thinking about starting your own blog, both myself and Becky didn’t have any prior experience. Web hosting (i.e. getting the domain name) and setting up the blog style settings (in this case using WordPress) seems relatively daunting at first, but it is in fact extremely easy – you should try it if you’re thinking of setting up a blog. Incidentally, WordPress offer a blogging space for free, and it is only a domain name that will cost you, albeit the latter is an extremely small sum of money!

Since the blog went live, back in March 2015, just over 14,350 people have visited, and I promise that’s not just me over and over! Our posts have been seen in 133 countries, ranging from Algeria to Turkmenistan (see picture below). From something that started as a thought in my head but not 18 months ago, I feel we’ve collectively come a long way.


Visits to the Dirt Doctors blog

Importantly, all of our efforts to date seem to have helped make the soil community that little bit smaller. Although I have now left handed over the metaphorical reins of the blog over to undoubtedly more capable hands, the rest of the Dirt Doctors bloggers I am sure will look forward to bringing you more great articles in the near future.

I realise that this post wasn’t very soil or plant orientated, so here’s a picture to balance that out….

Thanks again, and keep spreading the dirt….

Until next time.

Author: Olly Pritchard (Dirt Doctors Founder)

Twitter: @olly_pritchard


Feature image source: https://drbillwooten.com/2016/01/11/ourselves/self-reflection/