Now to print a few of these out and post them around the science building…

It’s hard to recruit students for research projects when you’re off on sabbatical. I’ve got one lined up so far, but I have ambitious plans for the summer and would like to get one or two more, so I’ve put together a recruitment poster.

Maybe I should have used a scientifically accurate close-up of a spider face instead of something bright and cartoony, but I have to get them into the lab first. Then they’ll learn to love our new arachnid reality.


  1. pilgham says

    Love the poster. I can’t believe Marvel will like it though. You may have to lose the guy in the middle.

  2. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Hope you get a couple of students. The results of the survey will definitely be interesting.

  3. says

    For non-economic uses, reusing Marvel’s images is fine. There’s a fine line here, though, because even though PZ won’t be making any money specifically from this endeavor, there is the fact that it relates to his paid employment.

    I seriously doubt Marvel would do anything about it, there’s no upside to suing PZ for them. However, from PZ’s point of view the ideal thing might be to send a letter to Marvel asking them if they

    1) want to contribute to advertising spider research
    2) want to contribute to awareness campaigns for the positive roles spiders play in our environment and the plight of spiders that are either presently endangered or dependent on a specific, shrinking (or degraded) habitat,
    3) if they would mind if PZ uses spider man to help recruit research assistants – both paid and volunteer.

    If Marvel responds at all, the likelihood is that they would deny 1, deny 2, and approve 3. They approve #3 since suing PZ over this isn’t a winner for them even if they get a court to decide this is copyright infringement (I wouldn’t know, but I suspect that would be a tall order), AND this way they get to look generous by approving something that they probably couldn’t stop and wouldn’t want to pay to try to stop. PZ also gains by Marvel’s approval of UMM use for recruiting paid lab techs (including grad student positions that include stipends) now, even if that never ends up happening. The main reason for this, though, is by admitting the possibility that some people might get paid (even if PZ never directly raises any money though use or sale of the image), it makes it even more ridiculously unlikely that they would ever object to any general use of Marvel images in publicizing PZ’s projects. And, of course, asking nicely – whether for the volunteer only project or for more general volunteer + paid position projects – is just plain the nice thing to do.

    But on the off chance they actually think it’s cool that Spider-Man’s image might be used to help the plight of real spiders, PZ would probably have to have some concrete ideas of how to carry out #1 & #2 just in case. They don’t need to be fleshed out in the first letter, but it would be bad if Marvel thought that was really cool and then PZ’s only response was, “Well, that’s neato. Maybe in a year I can figure out what you can actually do.”

  4. says

    That’s a brilliant idea — I’ve been trying to find little ways to get this pilot project off the ground, so I fired off an inquiry to Marvel licensing to see if they’d be willing to contribute (silly person, as if a scientist wouldn’t have a dozen rationales ready to hand for material contributions to their research) in any of a number of ways, the easiest of which is to just allow me to use Spider-Man in a limited, local, non-commercial way to encourage participation in a research project.

    We’ll see what they have to say. Maybe I’ll get a nastygram from a lawyer, which would be a shame…Spider-Man is one of the few positive icons for spiders in the public consciousness. I could leverage that in so many ways to educate people about arachnids.

  5. davidnangle says

    Disclaimer: The rumors of inadvertent super power transfer are unproven, and classified, in any case.

  6. says


    Maybe you could leverage the “neighborhood” Spider-Man tag-line to get them to fund a national network of local spider researchers, each performing a spider census in their own communities.

    The national database receives census results from all the different locales, but then of course any (participating? or just any?) researcher can use the data. You could gain by asking now if other biologists who have been researching spiders longer than you might want to participate to get some spider-luminaries lined up now. There’s probably a list-serve for entomologists or something that you could use to send out a call.

    I really dig the “neighborhood Spider-Census” angle, but of course your work is your own: don’t let me direct it if that doesn’t fit.

    A letter to the editor or better yet an editor’s (or writer’s) note on the letters page might be fun, or maybe they could even donate an ad space to advertising the project if and when you have enough participating “friendly, neighborhood Spider-Researchers”.

    I really, really hope it works out! I would totally buy the issue of Spider-Man with the ad, if it ever happened, just to have a record of your accomplishment.

  7. says

    10: You’ve never looked into the face of a male pholcid, its translucent palps swollen to twice the length of its face, oozing thick with sperm? I’ve got video of that somewhere, haven’t dared to post it yet.