I’m Professor of Science Communication at the University of Gloucestershire, but first and foremost I’m a biologist. Like many academics my job divides itself between teaching (all manner of topics from field biology to statistics with a bit of behavioural ecology thrown in) and research but in addition I undertake a large number of science communication activities. Some of that activity can reach a big audience. I’ve been lucky enough to present some documentaries for BBC TV and BBC Radio 4 (on everything from gut microbes to de-extinction), but I also really enjoy science festivals, visiting schools or giving talks to specialist groups and science clubs. And Twitter of course.
I’m very excited to be curating Biotweeps this week because it gives me a chance to spend a week tweeting about nothing other than my favorite group of animals: the ants. I did my PhD on leafcutting ants and although I’ve branched out into other things I always seem to return to them. I have 8 colonies of leafcutters in my lab at the moment, researching hygiene and thermal behaviour.
I have developed a very hands-on Masters course in Science Communication that starts in September 2015 and my first popular science book (The Encyclopoodia – How Bacteria Rule Our Lives) will be out around the same time so I’ll be pretty busy over the summer. With any luck, there should still be enough time left to carry on with ant research. One interesting summer project combines communication with data collection through the Society of Biology co-run “Flying Ant Survey”, which is one of several on-going citizen science projects I’m been fortunate to be involved with. Asking the public to record the mass emergences of flying ants in the UK has produced some fascinating data and we are busy analyzing and writing up the first three years’ worth. There are also some very interesting patterns emerging from analyzing Twitter mentions…
Ants are so diverse and have such interesting biology that a week won’t be nearly long enough but I’ll try to do my best for them. I once gave a 24 hour lecture on ants and bees for Biology Week in the UK, so I’m hoping that will have been good preparation!