25th September 2017 – Alex Thornton & Meagan Dewar, International Penguin Early Career Scientists (IPECS)

Meagan & AlexInternational Penguin Early Career Scientists (IPEC; ) is an international network dedicated to providing career development, networking, and other educational opportunities and support to early career penguin professionals in academia, NGOs, private industry, and beyond. You can learn more at .

Alex Thornton () is a marine ecologist based in Alaska, USA, and is interested in how polar seabirds and marine mammals respond to environmental change. He’s a life-long penguin nerd and co-founded IPECS with Meagan Dewar. You can learn more about him at .

Dr Meagan Dewar is a lecturer in Environmental Science from . Meagan’s research focuses on the microbial composition of marine wildlife and understanding what factors influence the microbial composition and its importance. Meagan is the co-founder of IPECS with


18th September 2017- Hannah Brazeau, Algoma University

Hannah BrazeauHello everyone! I’m Hannah, a final year BSc. Biology student at Algoma University in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Prior to starting my undergraduate degree, I trained as a laboratory technician through the biotechnology program at St. Lawrence College in Kingston, Ontario. The education I received at St. Lawrence deepened my interest in environmental science and gave me the push I needed to pursue a degree in science.

 I am a big-time fan of plants, with an interest in plant-plant interactions and invasive plant species. Now that I am in the final year of my degree, I will be writing my honours thesis in Dr. Brandon Schamp’s plant community ecology lab at Algoma U. You can learn more about the work going on his lab by visiting: http://people.auc.ca/schamp/index.html

While I am at Biotweeps, I will be aiming to give you all a window into the day-to-day experiences of studying biology at the undergraduate level. I will be discussing what it is like to study science at a small university, starting a career in science later in life, early career engagement in science communication, and of course, the fascinating world of plants. There may also be a few Star Trek references thrown in (sorry, I can’t help myself).

 I will also be dedicating a full day to discussing general advice for new students that are just starting out at university for the first time, and I am looking forward to hearing and sharing some words of wisdom from you all.

11th September 2017 – Nicholas Pilfold, San Diego Zoo Global

Nicholas PilfoldDr. Nicholas Pilfold is a Postdoctoral Associate at the Institute of Conservation Research for San Diego Zoo Global. Nicholas is a large carnivore biologist focused mainly on bear species, but his research also extends to large cats.

Nicholas leads and collaborates on projects for four large carnivore species: polar bears, African leopards, Andean bears, and giant pandas. Nicholas’ research is focused on several themes within spatial and population ecology. His work includes assessment of diet and foraging patterns, reproductive and mating behavior, human-carnivore conflict resolution, as well as understanding the role a changing climate has on large carnivore persistence. Nicholas is interested in identifying broad ecological patterns useful to the conservation of all large carnivores.

Nicholas earned his bachelor’s degree in Life Sciences from the University of British Columbia and his doctorate in Ecology at the University of Alberta. His interest in large carnivore research was initially spurred while volunteering on small wildlife reserves in South Africa. Prior to joining San Diego Zoo Global, Nicholas worked with researchers at the University of Alberta and Environment and Climate Change Canada.


4th September 2017 – Sheryl Hosler, Northern Illinois University

Sheryl HostlerSheryl Hosler is currently a graduate student in the biology program at Northern Illinois University, where she researches community restoration ecology in a tallgrass prairie. Sheryl is passionate about arthropods, with her main study organism currently being dung beetles. Before grad school, Sheryl spent the better part of 5 years as an environmental educator. Strongly invested in science communication and outreach, Sheryl loves to teach the public more about environmental science. To further these efforts, she is the creator and host of 2 YouTube channels, Get Messy (for kids) and The Roving Naturalist (for young adults).

28th August 2017- Julie Blommaert, University of Innsbruck

Julie BlommaertHi Biotweeps!

I’m Julie (@Julie_B92) and I’m really looking forward to hosting biotweeps and chatting to all of you this week about my interests and research!

My research interests all focus around evolution and genetics. I guess I should start with a little background about how I got to be interested in these topics. Growing up, I wanted to be a vet, but then a few life things pushed me away from vet school, and for a while I didn’t know which direction I’d like to go in, other than not-vet. I considered being a pilot, and was even lucky enough to be gifted a test flight for my 16th birthday, but decided that, even though flying is fun, I didn’t think I’d like it as a job. I still hope to get my private pilot’s licence though! A few months later, we started to focus on genetics in my biology classes, and I was hooked!

Fast-forward a few years, and I found myself at the University of Otago, doing my BSc majoring in Genetics. We had so many chances to do different lab projects and experiments, and I found my interests in EvoDevo (Evolutionary developmental biology- the field that compares how different species develop to get a deeper understanding of how different forms evolved). So that’s what I did my honours project in, looking at some genes that control early development in a weird animal called a rotifer (a tiny, cute zooplankton). I had some further adventures in EvoDevo, but I’m now doing my PhD in evolutionary genomics.

My PhD project focuses on the evolution of genome size in, coincidentally, the same species of rotifer that I worked with for my honours project! So, what is genome size and why do we care? Genome size refers to the amount of DNA per cell of any species. Usually, different individuals of the same species have the same amount of DNA per cell as each other, but not my rotifers! Within the same species, their genome size can vary by up to 30%, which is really weird. But again, why do we care? Genome size varies a lot across the whole tree of life, and there are lots of debates about why this might be. Lots of people have tried to make comparisons to figure out why this might be, but often, there have been other things that get in the way of comparing genome sizes because the species being compared were so different. So, hopefully, we can study genome size change in a single species and learn a bit more about why genome size changes, and why some genomes (including our own), seem to be mostly “junk”.

Other than my PhD work, I really like spending time outdoors; climbing, hiking, relaxing in the sun, and I also play for my local canoe polo team.

I’ll talk more about my work and hobbies through the week, I hope you’re as excited about this week as I am!

21st August – Rachael Bonoan, Tufts University

Rachel BonoanHi! My name is Rachael and I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Starks Lab at Tufts University in Medford, MA. As a lab, we study behavioral ecology to understand how animals deal with environmental pressures. My research focuses on how seasonal changes in honey bee diet (i.e. flowers!) affects honey bee health and behavior.

When we go to the grocery store, we have a lot of choices. While our choices do change with season (try to find pumpkins in the summer, or berries in the winter), those choices tend to remain diverse. The “grocery store” for honey bees is our lawns, our gardens, etc., and the choices aren’t always diverse. In the early New England spring, honey bees only have dandelions or clovers to choose from. The summer brings a more diverse choice of flower foods and in the fall, the main choices are goldenrod and aster. How might honey bees change their foraging habitats to cope with the lack of choices? How could the lack of choices alter the honey bee gut microbiome? How does a lack of diet diversity affect the honey bee’s immune system?

These are just the broad questions I am interested in answering during my Ph.D. One of the first studies I did as a Ph.D. student was on honey bees drinking dirty water—you can read about what I found here. Also, check out my personal website to follow my adventures in field biology and beekeeping!

Outside of my research, I enjoy communicating science to the public and am the President of the Boston Area Beekeepers Association. I can also be found playing middle infield for the Tufts Biology Department softball team (Base Pairs), kickboxing at a nearby gym, baking (especially brownies and cookies), crawling on the ground photographing insects, or visiting my waterside hometown in Rhode Island.

14th August 2017 – Inés Dawson, University of Oxford

Ines DawsonInés is a final year interdisciplinary DPhil student at the University of Oxford. Her research, with a strong background in biological sciences, involves studying the biomechanics of insect flight, specifically how an insect’s flapping wing and body kinematics translate into the complex aerial manoeuvres performed during free flight. This combination of biology and engineering is aimed at inspiring the next generation of bio-inspired MAVs.

Apart from her research, Inés is also an award-winning science communicator in English and Spanish and runs two YouTube channels, Draw Curiosity and Inés-table, in order to make science stories interesting and internationally accessible. She is an enthusiastic and engaging educational speaker who enjoys informing and entertaining audiences of all ages and nationalities about different aspects of science.

In addition to her personal science communication work, she has also collaborated with BBC World Service, Discovery, Merck and Naukas to help put a human face on scientific research.

http://youtube.com/DrawCuriosity and http://youtube.com/Inestable and http://drawcuriosity.com