13th August 2018 – Danny Haelewaters, University of South Bohemia

Danny HaelewatersFrom when I was able to utter my first few words as a baby I wanted to become a veterinary scientist, but you know how things go in life. So … I became an assistant-salesman, an all-rounder at a hotel and even the running manager of a bed and breakfast in the rural South of France. However, the science was never too far away – it’s in my blood – so meanwhile I became a biologist and earlier this year I graduated from Harvard University with a PhD in organismic and evolutionary biology. Speaking about some change!

These days I am a postdoctoral researcher, currently at the University of South Bohemia (Czech Republic) and starting November 2018 at Purdue University. I am a mycologist, with interest in phylogenetic relationships and associations with other organisms. My PhD research at Harvard University focused on Laboulbeniomycetes biotrophic fungi. I worked on resolving phylogenetic relationships and patterns of speciation. As a postdoc in the Czech Republic I continue my work with “labouls” but I also work on a project on parasitoid wasps that are natural enemies of ladybirds. At Purdue, I will characterize fungal microbes associated with romaine lettuce through a combination of experimental and next-generation sequencing techniques. A lot of diverse projects, and I haven’t even mentioned my interest in Leotiomycetes fungi.

I have a wife and daughter (Luna, almost 2) but I identify as bisexual. I have had relationships with guys and have no problem talking about this with LGBT+ or straight/gender-conforming people. I care about diversity a lot. We founded the Diversity and Inclusion Committee of the Mycological Society of America, which I chaired this past year. This Committee organized a symposium “Boosting Diversity in Mycology” at the International Mycological Congress in Puerto Rico, focusing on contemporary issues such as (lack of) diversity, LGBT+ in STEM fields, and unconscious bias


6th August 2018 – Alexander Georgiev & Ann-Sophie Warkentin, Bangor University

Jointly hosted by:

Alexander GeorgievDr Alexander Georgiev
Lecturer, School of Natural Sciences, Bangor University
Twitter: @alexvgeorgiev
Website: alexandergeorgiev.co.uk

I am a primatologist interested in behavioural ecology, physiology and conservation. I am particularly keen on understanding the great variation of reproductive strategies seen among primates, both within and between species. Two key questions I am beginning to address in my ongoing work are: (1) How anthropogenic disturbance affects the physiology and health of primates living in human-modified habitat; and (2) Whether that in turn influences their reproductive performance and, by implication, the long-term survival of their populations.

I have studied the energetics of male reproductive effort in chimpanzees in Uganda, and have also worked with wild bonobos in the DRC, free-ranging rhesus macaques in Puerto Rico and data on human life history and reproduction from Cebu, in the Philippines. I am now in the process of establishing a long-term field study of the endemic and endangered Zanzibar red colobus at Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park, Zanzibar. This week on Biotweeps my student (Ann-Sophie Warkentin) and I will be tweeting live from Jozani Forest and the surrounding agricultural fields about our work with these fascinating colobines! Join us to find out more about the challenges of starting a new study involving multiple groups of similar-looking individual monkeys. And more.

Ann-Sophie Warkentin_2Ann-Sophie Warkentin
MScRes student, School of Natural Sciences, Bangor University
Twitter: @ASWarkentin

I’m a MScRes student in Biological Sciences at Bangor University after having just completed my BSc in Zoology with Animal Behaviour also at Bangor. I’m interested in ecology, especially behavioural ecology and anthropogenic disturbance. My undergraduate dissertation examined the ecology of small mammals using camera traps. I’m originally from Germany and decided to study in the UK due to the more specialised degrees and modules offered there. Through one of these modules in third year, I got more interested in primatology and got in contact with my current supervisor to talk about potential MSc projects.

During my fieldwork this summer, I am collecting data on activity budgets and ranging behaviour of Zanzibar red colobus to investigate potential effects of tourism on the colobus at our study site. Because the monkeys at Jozani are very well habituated, they are frequently visited by tourist groups of different sizes and compositions and I am interested to see if the behaviour of these tourists affect the colobus’ behaviour and ranging patterns. This is my first real experience with fieldwork and I’m excited about the opportunities and experiences that come with it. During the week of co-hosting Biotweeps, I’m hoping to provide an insight into what fieldwork can look like at a pre-PhD level and I will talk about how I got to be here in the first place.

30th July 2018 – Aliza le Roux, University of the Free State-Qwaqwa

Aliza le RouxI’m an associate professor in Zoology on a tiny little rural campus in Qwaqwa, South Africa. I might be the only cognitive ecologist in South Africa – few African researchers appear to be curious about the workings of animal minds. Up till now, I’ve done research on a variety of species. For my PhD, I studied yellow mongoose communication and cognition in the Kalahari Desert (they’re the sexiest mongoose species!), and as postdoc I looked at gelada monkeys in the Ethiopian highlands. Primates are clever, but I’m quite drawn to secretive creatures like carnivores. I’ve chased around after bat-eared foxes, trying to unravel the drivers of the extensive paternal care you can see in this species, and now I’m quite caught up in events in my own backyard. I work up in the mountains near Lesotho, and this absolutely stunning location is driving my current research. My research group is looking at rodents’ and small carnivores’ responses to mountain living: we are a high-altitude grassland, experiencing regular fires, snow in winter, and of course the unique challenges of spatial navigation! On top of this, humans are impacting the ecosystem. So, I have my work cut out for me.

To my shock, I’m becoming a mid-career scientist, and I’m not quite ready for it. I probably have a lot of wisdom (from hindsight!) about starting a new research group on a shoestring… In the meantime, I have to say that few of my peers appear to be interested in #SciComm, and I hope that my Biotweeps week will swing a bit more attention in the direction of research done in Africa, by locals. If you want to see some of my publications, I maintain a ResearchGate profile here and I’m also on Google Scholar.

23rd of July 2018 – Stacey Felgate, National Oceanography Centre (NOCS) / University of Southampton

Stacey FelgateI am a 1st year PhD candidate in marine biogeochemistry at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOCS). At the age of 31 I obtained my BSc Hons in Marine Science from the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS-UHI) during which time I  won a Carnegie Trust Summer Research Bursary to study the impacts of a simulated Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) facility, sailed aboard RRS Discovery for a month sampling the Rockall Trough and Iceland Basin, then completed a fellowship at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) to study coastal carbon storage with the US Geological Survey. My undergraduate study focussed on the various ways in which the world’s oceans and coastal zones can help to mitigate climate change. My final year thesis focussed on the natural carbon storage capacity of saltmarshes, using a range of isotopic markers to understand whether a marsh was storing or releasing its historic carbon.

After graduating, I undertook an internship at the UK Environment Agency where she worked within the Marine Management and the Estuarine and Coastal Monitoring and Strategy chemicals teams before taking up graduate study at the University of Southampton. For my PhD, Stacey is currently working on understanding what happens to organic matter produced on land when it enters rivers and moves towards the open ocean. A large portion of this organic matter enters rivers, but very little is known about what happens to it in transit, and even less is known about where the ~50% of it that doesn’t make it to the ocean ends up. I’ll be taking over @Biotweeps fresh from 2 weeks in the North of Scotland, conducting an intensive study of the Halladale river catchment.

Aside from the science, I’m really interested in issues of equality and in how healthy the way the scientific community handles ‘different’ is. I also think we should never stop talking about what makes effective science communication and how we can all become better at it.

16th July 2018 – Eleanor Senior, University of Liverpool

Eleanor Senior 2Hi I’m Eleanor, I am currently a 2nd Year PhD student at the Institute of Infection and Global Health at the University of Liverpool.  My PhD is in Veterinary Parasitology, looking at the bovine parasite Tritrichomonas foetus which causes the disease bovine trichomoniasis.  This parasite is sexually transmitted between cows and bulls and can cause infertility and spontaneous abortions, which is pretty rough on the poor cows. My PhD is aiming to find vaccine candidates for this parasite so that one day we can have a long lasting working vaccine for this parasite.

Before I started my PhD I studied Biological Sciences at the University of Birmingham, where I was essentially jack of all trades looking at a range of things, such as ecology, plant biology, and microbiology.  I knew I wanted to study something microbiology related and when this PhD came up I had to do it.

My PhD is different to many in that it contains both lab based and computer based parts so I spend 50% of my time looking at parasites in the lab and 50% analysing data and doing bioinformatics and coding in the office.  I’m interested in all aspects of parasitology, microbiology and animal welfare and am keen to explore all these areas.

9th July 20018 – Brandyn Lucca, Stony Brook University

Brandyn LuccaBrandyn Lucca (@brandynlucca) is a PhD student at Stony Brook University in Long Island, NY. His current interests involve studying how underwater sound reflects off of different types of animals and how both active and passive acoustics can be used to quantify multiple facets of aquatic life. He obtained his BSc in Marine Biology from the University of Rhode Island (2012) and an MSc in Biological Oceanography from Stony Brook University (2016). His MSc thesis work used sonar to quantify distributions of abundance, biomass, and size-class of Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus) in the Peconic River and off the southern shore of Long Island.

His dissertation research, while still in flux, quantifies the ‘acoustic fingerprint’ of individual animals ranging from small krill to larger fish. These measurements are important for converting the acoustic energy what we see on our fancy fish fish finders to actual numbers non-acousticians care about (e.g., number of fish) and identify the types of animals we are seeing. These experiments are conducted in a super-sophisticated water tank that is most certainly not a 44 gallon trash can, which would be preposterous. Brandyn is also an unofficial krill wrangler (and other small critters!) due to his tireless efforts in tying beautiful knots (despite his adviser’s near-daily critiques) to tether the animals since it is significantly easier to record measurements of stationary animals.

Outside of his PhD, Brandyn is pretty bland: no alter-egos, takes mediocre nature photographs, breaks bones by accidentally running into trees, and brews beer that could only be described as “this did not need to be brought into this world”.

2nd July 2018 – Sarah Cosgriff, Institute of Physics

Sarah CosgriffSarah Cosgriff is a Gender Balance Officer at the Institute of Physics. She helps schools embed approaches to tackle gender bias with the aim to encourage more girls to take A level Physics. She is also a freelance science communicator and trainer who loves to present shows and talks, run hands on activities, help people develop their science communication skills and sometimes dabbles in comedy.
Sarah has a BSc in Biological Sciences with Cell Biology and a MSc in Systems Biology from the University of Warwick. She started a PhD focused on cell migration but found that research was not quite the right fit for her and ended up pursuing science communication instead. Her career history includes managing the STEM Ambassadors Programme in Birmingham and Solihull, developing training focused on STEM activities within youth work at The Prince’s Trust and presenting a TEDx talk focused on failure. She also co-founded #BrumScicomm, a network of science communicators in the West Midlands.
In terms of what she is going to cover this week, she is going to talk about how she went from lab bench to science communication, her views on science communication and what she is currently involved in.