18th February 2019 – Kannan Raja, Bangor University

Kannan RajaKannan Raja is a postgraduate researcher/ MscRes student at Bangor University, working on the teeth morphology and the hunting and feeding ecologies of Panthera species. Previously he completed his undergraduate degree, also at Bangor University, where he looked at the prey preferences of mountain lions for his final dissertation. Prior to his time at the university,, Kannan undertook a three-year diploma course in Biotechnology at Temasek Polytechnic, Singapore.

Although many of his projects so far are centred around large felids, dinosaurs are his favourite animal group. He is also passionate about the natural world and evolution in animals under the influence of humans. Kannan is an ‘all-over-place’ sort of biologist, with his interests shifting over the years from various disciplines. However, the ecology of large carnivores seems to be the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ for him. For now.

With the completion of his MScRes, Kannan hopes to gain a career in the field of conservation, and eventually/hopefully, a PhD is not too far off in the future for him.

Aside from facing off with ferocious big cat skulls, Kannan is often found shoving cool (but random) dinosaur facts in the faces of his weary friends, or engaging them in a discussion/debate over lunch about a new discovery or an interesting question that may have crossed his mind.

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11th February 2019 – Daisy Maryon, Univeristy of South Wales, Kanahau Utila Research and Conservation Facility, International Iguana Foundation

Daisy MaryonDaisy Maryon is a conservation biologist specializing in endangered iguanas. She is an active member of the IUCN iguana specialist group and,works closely with the International Iguana Foundation. Currently works as research coordinator at Kanahau Utila Research and Conservation Facility in Utila, Honduras, where she is carrying out her PhD on Utila spiny-tailed iguanas with the University of South Wales. Before Daisy found her love of iguanas she worked in the cloud forests of Honduras with Operation Wallacea, leading expeditions of students, she also spend time in Indonesia radio tracking slow lorises with the Little Fire Face project and, worked at Riet Vell nature reserve in Spain with Birdlife international.

On the small island of Utila Daisy works with Kanahau to research and conserve the Critically Endangered Utila spiny-tailed iguana and other endemic species.

Research takes Daisy and the team to Utilas wild western side and unforgiving interior, for a small island there are some incredibly diverse habitats from sandy beaches, to  mangroves to wet neotropical savannahs and hardwood forests.

Education and outreach is a key component of this work as the iguanas are endangered due to habitat destruction and the fact they are considered a delicacy. Known locally as the Swamper on the island due to its habitat preference of mangrove forests, the Utila team came up with the “#SaveTheSwamper” campaign to rally support for the iguanas. Daisy so far has trained one ex hunter as a conservation field guide and hopes to be able to continue to provide more training and alternative incomes to hunting. Now the battle is on to promote the Swamper as a flagship species for the island and ensure the small population can be conserved.

4th February 2019 – Nancy Miorelli, SciBugs

Nancy MiorelliNancy Miorelli is an entomologist living in Quito, Ecuador. After earning her Master’s degree in Entomology from the University of Georgia in 2014 she promptly moved to the heart of the Ecuadorian cloud forest where she volunteered at an ecolodge for two years. During her time motorbiking through the jungle, designing educational programs, filming insects for Discovery Channel’s Naked and Afraid, and convincing tourists that they really did love insects, Nancy continued to work on various SciComm projects including #FaceBug and the blog Ask an Entomologist.

After two years, she moved from the cloud forest to the concrete jungle of Quito where she continues her SciComm endeavors with Ask an Entomologist, travelling to conventions, and starting a new Periscope channel.  She embarked on her own insect tourism business focusing on the interconnections of ecology, conservation, local Ecuadorian culture, and tourism. These are not your typical Ecuadorian tours as these tours take you off the traditional beaten path walked by thousands of tourists each year.   Her objective is to promote tourism and conservation in some of Ecuador’s most threatened and most biodiverse ecosystems including the northern Ecuadorian coast and the cloud forest. Agriculture and mining are the two biggest threats to these fragile ecosystems.

Her main scientific interest is the structural coloration of insects – particularly in butterflies. The intricacies of the microstructures that insects employ to expertly reflect and absorb light are still being discovered in this relatively new field and their applications to our modern-day technology are limitless; including improving fiber optics, security encryption, and eye implants. Nancy is particularly interested in why the butterflies are creating these structures, how the microstructures function to manipulate light, and how we can copy these structures and apply them to our modern-day technology.

28th January 2019 – Jesamine Bartlett, Univeristy of Birmingham & British Antarctic Survey

jesamine bartlettJes is a polar ecologist, and essentially classes herself as a greedy scientist who cannot decide what discipline to follow. So, she does a little bit of all of them at once instead of having to choose! She uses zoology, botany, physiology, environmental science, a bit of soil chemistry, a dash of microbiology and general wistful thinking whilst looking at beautiful landscapes, to answer questions about how ecosystems work. She thinks that working out how all the interactions and connections that make nature what it is, is the biggest question she could possibly ask the planet. And especially in places like the Arctic and Antarctic, or up mountains, where ecosystems are the most sensitive to change. And the views are also not bad. Jes likes cats and cheese, in that order and definitely not at the same time. She doesn’t much like alien invaders and is regretting writing about herself in third person.

Her fickle nature has led her to a range of places, to look at a range of things: from studying tardigrades in glaciers on Svalbard; Arctic foxes in the mountains of Norway; moss in the upland bogs across the Pennines of England; and midge on a remote island in Antarctica. She loves being in these environments but dislikes being cold, so has developed a strong attachment to her tea-flask. She currently lives and works in Birmingham, UK where she still has to be cold owing to her current research into an invasive midge who, being acclimated to Antarctica, must be kept in rooms at a balmy ‘summer’ temperature of 4ºC. A lot of her current work for the University of Birmingham and the British Antarctic Survey, who she is a final year PhD researcher for, focusses on how this invasive midge is surviving where it shouldn’t be and what it is doing to the ecosystem of Signy Island, where it was introduced. The work so far has identified that this species is doing very well, is hard as nails and is likely to spread! So now her research is focussing on biosecurity and areas of policy that may mitigate this from happening.

Jes enjoys science communication and sits on the British Ecological Society’s public engagement working group, where she nags people about the importance of digital media. She is looking forward to taking over @Biotweeps, so expect an eclectic look at polar and alpine ecology, science news and science policy!

(NB: you can hear her speaking about herself and her work in first person, like a normal human, on the podcast Fieldwork Diaries: https://www.fieldworkdiaries.com/people/jes-bartlett/)

Kimberley Simpson, University of York

kimberley simpsonMy name is Kimberley Simpson and I would describe myself as a plant ecologist and general biology enthusiast! I’m currently a teaching-focused lecturer at the University of York (UK) where I teach a lot of ecology and data analysis, and I finished my PhD last year, which was based at the University of Sheffield (UK).

If I could summarise my research in three words, they would be: grass, traits and fire! Fire is a disturbance that has shaped plant traits and floral communities for over 420 million years, and the history and success of grasses is particularly linked to fire: they experience and fuel  the highest fire frequencies on Earth. My PhD research focused on how fire shapes grass traits, particularly those related to flammability and post-fire recovery. This means I got to do lots of fieldwork in South Africa which was an amazing opportunity.

I’ve done a fair bit of #scicomm through various outreach events but this will be my first on social media. I’m excited to be @biotweeps curator for the coming week. Expect lots of plants. And fire. Most likely some birds and insects too. Definitely some fungi. Parasites for sure. And I’m sure my mammalian (canine) companion may get a few mentions too…

I look forward to chatting to you on Twitter this week!

Kim

Twitter: @kim_1801

14th January 2019 – Kimberleigh Tommy, Centre of Excellence in Palaeosciences

k tommyHi everyone! My name is Kimberleigh Tommy and I have just began my PhD in Biological Anthropology and Palaeoanthropology at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. I have recently spent a year as the Science Communication Officer for the Centre of Excellence in Palaeosciences as I decided on a project for my PhD.

I grew up in the bustling metropolis of Johannesburg, South Africa, only 15 minutes away from the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Cradle of Humankind. This site is home to a number of hominin species and is important for our understanding of the evolution of our species. I didn’t actually know this while I was growing up and only discovered the fossil richness of my homeland later on in life and that’s why I have made it my mission to bridge the gap between communities and science! I hope that through science communication, we ensure that all South African children experience the wonders of our country including our fauna, flora, geology and fossil record.

I went to the University of the Witwatersrand and completed my undergraduate degree in Zoology, Ecology and Conservation in 2014. It was during an undergraduate project that I fell in love with primate and more specifically primate movement.

I had spent time observing a Spider Monkey (Ateles geoffroy) at the Hartebeespoort Monkey Sanctuary and was fascinated at how effortlessly she navigated through the trees. Later, I combined my love of the old with my love of movement and pursued my Honours and Masters degrees in the evolution and development of bipedalism in our species. In order to do this, I examine the internal or trabecular structure of bones in the pelvis, legs and feet of living primates (including us) and extinct fossils from The Cradle of Humankind. I study the internal bone structure because it gives us information on how a bone was loaded during life. Our bone acts like a diary and keeps a record of our activities so scientists can better understand how our movement (or lack thereof) affects our bones.

I am passionate about science communication, especially in science accessibility and representation. I work with amazing researchers and journalists in order to bring science to communities in languages other than English and to make sure that more people are aware of the importance of South Africa in the global context of human evolution.

I am so excited to be here with you this week and will be discussing all things primate, fossil, locomotion and scicomm!

10th December 2018 – Katherine O’Reilly, University of Notre Dame and National Sea Grant College Program

Katherine O'ReillyI’m Katherine (AKA Katie AKA @DrKatfish), and I’m a Ph.D. candidate studying aquatic ecology at the University of Notre Dame and currently a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Sea Grant Knauss Marine Policy Fellow in Washington, D.C., USA.

My research (in three words): fish, freshwater, and food webs. My research (in slightly more than three words): I look at how fish connect aquatic habitats in the North American Great Lakes. I use a variety of techniques such as stable isotope analysis and otolith chemistry to understand what kinds of habitats fishes use and when they are using them. Understanding freshwater ecosystems such as lakes and rivers, the animals that live there, and effects of humans is incredibly important in a world where freshwater is increasingly at a premium. We’ll be diving into a lot more on this topic during my week on BioTweeps!

Besides catching fish and hanging out on boats around the Great Lakes, you can find me this year in the halls of NOAA HQ as I complete my fellowship with NOAA’s National Sea Grant College program. I serve as Sea Grant’s Science Communications Specialist, which has been an amazing opportunity for me to get experience in doing #scicomm professionally. No matter where my future career path takes me after finishing up my Ph.D. (whether academia, government, or something else), the skills I’m learning during my fellowship year are going to serve me well.

Speaking of #scicomm, I’m so excited to be hosting BioTweeps during the best time of the year: #25DaysofFishmas! What is #25DaysofFishmas, you may ask? For the past two years, I’ve been sharing fish facts each day during December (along with terrible, terrible puns). It’s been an awesome way to connect people from all backgrounds, spread fishy holiday cheer, and maybe even teach people a little about science. While my #25DaysofFishmas started out focusing on Great Lakes fish species, the idea has caught on and now others are sharing fishes from around the world. I can’t wait to introduce BioTweeps to all the fishy fun this year!