19th February 2018 – Meghan Barrett – Drexel University

Meghan BarrettMeghan Barrett is a PhD student at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. She studies arthropod neuroanatomy (a.k.a. bug brains), human and environmentally friendly pesticides, and bee diversity. Meghan is just getting started with her thesis work where she hopes to focus on the dimorphic males of the desert species Centris pallida (a beautiful, pale, fuzzy bee with huge ‘chaps’ on the legs).

Meghan is also earning her Masters in Undergraduate STEM Education through the Drexel PROFESS program, studying evidence-based techniques for teaching biology. In her ‘spare’ time, she enjoys pairing her love of science with her love of writing – she earned her B.S. in Biology and English/Creative Writing at SUNY Geneseo in New York. Meghan’s ecological poetry can be found on her website, meghan-barrett.com, right next to blog posts, a podcast interview, science articles, a bioethics play, and an interactive high-fantasy gamebook app.

The last of her time is spent kayaking/hiking/rock climbing with her fiancé, Alex, watching League of Legends eSports (her current favorite team in the world is Gigabyte Marines but TSM is obviously the best in the NALCS), playing with her cross-eyed cat, Nyx, and writing, then burying, her fiction novels.

Meghan is excited to talk about science in drama, insects, writing, and undergraduate STEM education on Biotweeps, and can’t wait to converse about all her favorite topics!


16th January 2017 – Patrick Hennessey, Queen Mary University

patrick-hennesseyMy name is Patrick Hennessey; I am a young zoologist from Essex, England. For as long as I can remember I have been interested in animals, but my real passion for animals began when I was ten, when I was first introduced to snakes. Since then all I have wanted to do is be a herpetologist.

My summer of 2016 consisted of both science and travel – two things that go very well together. I spent time in three different countries over the space of two months. Two of the trips were for university modules, and the third was to undertake research for my university dissertation project. For my project I had the privilege of travelling to Cusuco National Park, Honduras. The cloud forests of Cusuco are home to many amazing animals such as endemic amphibians, amazing birds, and most importantly some incredible snakes. During my six weeks I was collecting data on the thermal niche characteristics of two species of pit viper. This is incredibly important because cloud forests are one of the habitats globally that are at risk of being lost due to climate change. Therefore, it is important that environments like this continue to be monitored to show any changes that may occur.

The two snakes that I looked at specifically were the Honduran palm pit viper (Bothriechis marchi) and the Honduran montane pit viper (Cerrophidion wilsoni). Both are pit vipers and both live at higher elevations than most other snakes, meaning their thermal requirements are unique. I am currently in the process of analysing my data and writing up my dissertation, although it isn’t as fun as the field work!

I am currently studying Zoology at Queen Marys University London, where I am halfway through my final year. During my degree I have been privileged to gain knowledge from people whom are experts of many different fields, opening my eyes to different areas of science. One thing that has been made very clear to me is the importance of genetics in conservation, and this has led me to want to integrate this into my future career.

My other interests apart from science are collecting skulls (I don’t have many…yet), reading, and running.

I look forward to talking to everyone over the next week!

October 4th 2015 – Leigh Nicholson, University of Sydney

Leigh NicholsonI am a PhD candidate in my second year at the University of Sydney, Australia. My project started off in reproductive biology; looking at different proteins and cellular properties that affect pregnancy and how that can improve IVF techniques. I have been sidetracked slightly since then and am now researching the same things but in cancer cell migration, specifically endometrial (uterine) cancer. The work that I am currently doing is looking at different protein amounts in cancer cells, comparing between normal, benign and malignant.
I will be tweeting about all these different areas, as well as other broad issues in science, like diversity and “scientific culture” problems!

August 3rd 2015 – Biotweeps first birthday! Featuring Anthony Caravaggi, Holly Kirk, Lauren Sakowski, Adam Hayward, and Vic Metcalfe


An awesome microscope cake by Doughking.

Has it really been one year already? Apparently so.

If I’m entirely honest, when I decided to create Biotweeps, though I had ambitions for it to become a long-running science communication project, I had considerable doubts about whether it would get off the ground. I had put in a decent amount of groundwork with regards to promotion and contacting potential contributors, but I was still sceptical. Then people started signing up. The first few months were full within no time, and, as the schedule filled, I became more optimistic that it might – just might – reach its first birthday. It turns out that we made it, and comfortably at that.

The first year hasn’t been perfect, of course. There are numerous things that I, personally, could probably have done better. Fortunately, the feedback from contributors and followers has been overwhelmingly positive so perhaps I’m being too hard on myself. That said, expanding the international audience and getting contributors from other countries are high on my ‘to-do’ list (if you’d like to help out in this regard, please do get in touch), along with possibly starting one or two associated projects. But more on those in the fullness of time.

It behooves me, then, to thank all the contributors for taking the time to talk about their science and interests, and our followers, who grow in number on a daily basis. The project was conceived for you, and I’m so glad that you’re all making the most of it. Specific thanks to @CarinaDSLR for her support early-on, and @MCeeP and @smiffy for their contributions.

To celebrate our first birthday, we’re having a slightly different week, here on Biotweeps. Instead of one contributor, we have 5, one on each week day. You can read more about this weeks Biotweeps, below.

Thanks again for your support.

Monday – Anthony Caravaggi, Queen’s University Belfast

Anthony Caravaggi 1I am a third-year PhD candidate at Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland, where I’m studying hares; more specifically, the invasive European hare (Lepus europaeus) and its potential impacts on the endemic Irish hare (L. timidus hibernicus). You can view the QUB project page here, or the project Facebook page, here. You can follow/contact me on Twitter at @thonoir, or via other social media which are linked on my website.

My research interests include invasive species ecology, population ecology, biodiversity conservation, community ecology, animal communication and behavioural ecology. I am a keen supporter of science communication and as such I am a UK STEM ambassador, founded the curated Twitter account Biotweeps, and took part in the outreach project I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here in 2013.

Tuesday – Holly Kirk, Oxford University

Holly KirkHolly is studying seabird migration and behavioural ecology. She has spent the last four years working with UK seabirds as part of her DPhil in the Department of Zoology, Oxford University. She uses a range of biologging methods (GPS, geolocation and TDR) to track the movement and behaviour of several seabird species, including puffins, razorbills, guillemots and kittiwakes.

Holly’s current work is on the migration behaviour of the Manx shearwater,Puffinus puffinus. The focus of her study is on how the timing and outcome of different parts of the annual cycle influence behaviour in subsequent years. For more information about her current work go tohttp://oxnav.zoo.ox.ac.uk/hollykirk

Wednesday – Lauren Sakowski, freelance writer (formerly of Nemours Biomedical Reasearch)

Lauren Sakowski

I attended Mount St. Mary’s University and University of Delaware and have a background in molecular biology and neuroscience. I began freelancing in the summer of 2014 and have been freelancing full time since the spring of 2015. My main area of interest is inflammation in the central nervous system and how it ties into neurological disorders (neurodegenerative diseases and depression/anxiety).

Thursday – Adam Hayward, University of Edinburgh

Adam HaywardI’m interested in understanding why animals of the same species seem to vary so much. Why are some bigger than others? Why do some live longer? Why are some so susceptible to infections? Is this variation due to genetic differences or variation in the environment? Animals have limited energy which they must divide between growing, reproducing, rearing offspring and immunity to parasites. These characteristics all affect the number of offspring they produce, and through natural selection, genetic variation in such characteristics leads to evolution. In wild populations, animals vary hugely in how  many parasites they harbour. I’m an evolutionary ecologist by training, and have spent time doing fieldwork on sheep on a remote Scottish island, and on elephants in the Burmese jungle. I find the struggle between parasites and their hosts absolutely fascinating, and the diversity of life-cycles that parasites have evolved truly  staggering. I’m looking forward to talking about how hosts and parasites are continually evolving to get on top and how studies in the wild can help us to understand these interactions better.

Friday – Vic Metcalf, Lincoln University

Victoria MetcalfI’m a marine biologist/geneticist living in New Zealand and mad keen on studying fish and shellfish. I am researching the effects of increases in temperature, ocean acidification and pollution because the effects of climate change are something we should all worry about. I’m also fascinated by epigenetics and the role of the microbiome. I work part-time, mum full-time and am also incredibly interested in the science of parenting.

I’m a very committed science communicator in the form of community and school/teacher presentations, social media, blogging, media articles and involvement in science festivals. I really want to excite the public about science, especially from a young age. You can find me on Twitter at @VicMetcalf_NZ, my parenting blog, Parenting by Instinct, and my science blog athttp://sciblogs.co.nz/icedoctor/

May 18th 2015 – Andrew Lucas, Natural Resources Wales, Swansea University and the National Botanic Garden of Wales

Andrew LucasI studied ecology at UEA, and after a series of short contracts, joined the Countryside Council for Wales (now Natural Resources Wales) in 1992.  Since then, I have worked in Carmarthenshire, Meirionnydd and Swansea, mainly on Sites of Special Scientific Interest, their designation, management and monitoring, as well as liaising with landowners.

In 2011, I went part-time to start a PhD at Swansea University, studying hoverflies in grassland habitats (many of which are SSSIs) and their role as pollinators.  This has involved field studies, as well as DNA barcoding of Welsh hoverfly species, and using metabarcoding to study pollen loads carried by hoverflies.  I am jointly supervised by Dr Dan Forman and Dr Penny Neyland (Swansea University) and Dr Natasha De Vere (National Botanic Garden of Wales and Aberystwyth University)  I aim to finish some time in 2016.

27th April 2015 – Emilie Champagne, Université Laval

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m a Ph.D. student in biology at Université Laval, Québec (Canada) and my thing is plant-herbivore relationships. You might not know that yet, but plant-herbivore is one of the coolest and most important ecological interactions. In many systems, it shapes the structure, composition and functions of the ecosystems! From my master degree, where I studied plant compensatory abilities (regrowth following herbivory) to my Ph.D., I’ve been fascinated by those interactions. In my current research, I look at how plant’s neighbors can influence their susceptibility to herbivory, a process called associational effects. As herbivores select their resource hierarchically, I want to know how associational effects will vary with spatial scales. You can find a description of my various projects on my former and current research group. You might notice that I’m from a large herbivore background, but you can also ask me question about insect herbivory.

So what can you expect in my biotweeps week?

  • Cool stuff about plant-herbivore relationships: how plant resist or tolerate herbivory, herbivore’s selection process, associational effects (of course!), alternative stable states.
  • Engaging discussions about life as a graduate student, open science, women in science.
  • Touching stories about how it is to do science in another language then English, fieldwork in wonderful location (Deception Bay and Anticosti Island!)…
  • Fun

You can find me and my frequent list in my blog (mostly in French, sometimes in English), on twitter, and also Research Gate, stack exchange…so many ways to procrastinate!

April 20th 2015 – Chris Slape, Monash University

Chris SlapeI’m a Research Fellow at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, and a molecular biologist by training. The goal of my PhD project was to identify the chromosome breakpoints in leukemia patients (back before the Human Genome Project made that an afternoon’s work), and I’ve been working in various leukemia genetics projects ever since. I’m currently working on a translational project, trying to bring a molecular discovery (the inappropriate expression of a certain protein in leukemia) made 20 years ago through to a useful clinical application. It’s my first time in a lab with a real biochemistry focus rather than a genetics or cellular biology focus, which is… challenging?


More generally, I’m interested in leukemia stem cells, the cells that are responsible for relapse after chemotherapy, and how they manage to survive and regenerate the leukemia all by themselves. Through my work I aim to understand the genetic mutations and epigenetic events that drive gene expression patterns which control this behaviour. Things I am interested in and wish I was more adept at include bioinformatics and understanding how genome organisation works; good luck with that. Outside of work, I am a keen if slow runner, a keen if mad baseball fan, and a keen if misguided semi-colon user. I have a blog I last updated about two years ago.