22nd July 2019 – Steven Allain, University of Kent/Zoological Society of London

Steven AllainSteven is a current PhD candidate at the University of Kent where his research focuses on the population dynamics of the barred grass snake (Natrix helvetica) and the effects of snake fungal disease (Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola). Steven holds a BSc Zoology from Anglia Ruskin University and an MRes in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation from Imperial College London. Throughout his academic career, Steven’s main interests have been the conservation of amphibian and reptiles. This has taken many forms over the years including population monitoring and investigating for the influence of disease. One of the projects which you may be aware of is the monitoring of midwife toads (Alytes obstetricans) in Cambridge, where Steven has been coordinating a project to investigate the population size and to also screen for disease since 2015.

Steven is actively involved with the conservation of the UK’s herpetofauna but is also involved in projects across the world. Steven’s research has also seen him travel to a number of countries including Germany, Malaysia and Tanzania. Some of Steven’s affiliations include the British Herpetological Society (where he is a council member), Save the Snakes (where is on the advisory board) and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Amphibian and Reptile Group (where he is chairman). Aside from Steven’s strong passion for the natural world and particularly of herpetofauna, he also has a strong scientific background too. With a large number of publications under his belt before starting his PhD, it is clear that Steven strives to improve our understanding of amphibians and reptiles as well as making this information available. You can find out more about Steven by visiting his website: http://www.stevenallain.co.uk/

3rd June 2019 – Maiko Kitaoka, University of California, Berkeley

Version 3Hi everyone! I’m Maiko Kitaoka, and I’m a PhD student in Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley (USA). I study mechanisms of chromosome mis-segregation using various species of Xenopus frogs and particularly chromosome loss in inviable Xenopus hybrids. My thesis project combines cell biological mechanisms and genomics in a unique evolutionary context, making it both interdisciplinary and exciting for this self-proclaimed cell cycle/cell division and microscopy nerd! Previously, I completed my undergraduate degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where my research focused on the cell biology of developmental cell cycle transitions in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster.

In addition to my research, I’m really passionate about improving academic science to make it more generous and accessible to all. Science is difficult enough at the bench, so every other aspect (career progression/trajectory, publishing, collaborations, communication, etc) should be as open and kind and positive as possible. To this end, I’ve recently become an eLife Ambassador where I hope to contribute to specific initiatives to aid in reproducibility, open-access publishing, and improving the daily “life of a scientist” (whatever that means to you). I also contribute regularly to preLights, an initiative by the Company of Biologists to highlight new and cool bioRxiv preprints in an effort to speed up the availability of scientific information and discovery.

Some fun facts about me: I was previously a pre-professional ballet dancer with American Ballet Theatre in NYC before discovering science at MIT, so you can often find me pirouetting around the bench doing my experiments these days (to my lab’s amusement). I know many Broadway musicals by heart (perhaps to my labmates’ annoyance), read voraciously, and believe that laughter and sunshine and love is the best medicine for anything. I dream about (in no particular order) writing my own book, starring in a Broadway production, owning a book café, and making it as a scientist and changing science for the better.

I’m really looking forward to taking over the @Biotweeps account for the week, and I hope you enjoy this peek into my life as a graduate student scientist! There will be frogs, mitotic spindles, sunshine, and more! Follow me on Twitter (@MaikoKitaoka) and Instagram (@maikokitaoka) for more insights into my life as a PhD student, frog wrangler, bookworm, and weird human being. Check out my website to learn more about me, my research, etc, and follow my blog for more of my personal thoughts about graduate school, #scicomm, and the state of science.

Website: https://maikokitaoka.wordpress.com/
Blog: https://maikokitaoka.wordpress.com/blog/
preLights: https://prelights.biologists.com/profiles/mkitaoka/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MaikoKitaoka
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/maikokitaoka/

21st November 2016 – Lindsey Thurman, Oregon State University

lindsey-thurmanI am a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University and a Research Fellow with the Northwest Climate Science Center. I’m in my 5th (and final!) year, which is exciting and slightly terrifying. My research focuses on the link between local (community) and landscape (biogeographic) drivers of biodiversity patterns in an effort to improve predictions about community-level response to climate change. I typically use amphibians as a model system because, not only are they extremely sensitive to environmental change, they exhibit diverse life history strategies, differential plasticity, and complex community dynamics.

My dissertation research aims to provide a diverse assessment of amphibian species vulnerability and adaptive capacity to climate change. The experimental portion of my research has involved the quantification of complex direct and indirect interactions among co-occurring amphibian species under natural and novel environmental conditions (e.g. climate warming and rapid pond drying). I examine how shifts in these conditions alter individual species sensitivity and the strength and direction of species interactions, and conversely, how coevolved interactions mediate the effects of climate change factors. Within this context, I examine the costs vs. benefits of behavioral and physiological plasticity as a mechanism for rapid adaptation.
I am also particularly interested in how species respond to climate change as a complex network of interacting species and how these inter-dependencies affect the footprint of amphibians on the landscape. You may see me tweeting about the use (and often misuse) of co-occurrence data as a method for incorporating biotic interactions into species distribution models.
I got my M.Sc. at Oregon State, but before coming to the great Pacific Northwest I did my undergrad at the University of Florida (Go Gators!). I hail from the flatlands of Florida’s beautiful Gulf Coast and grew up in Gulf Breeze (a tiny peninsula town near Pensacola Beach). When I’m balancing work with life, I like to do most anything outdoors like salmon fishing, duck hunting, hiking and playing with my youthful 8 year old Lab, Sierra.
Looking forward to talking with my fellow Biotweeps! In the meantime, follow me on Twitter @ectothurm, check out my personal website www.lindseythurman.com, or join us at the Early Career Climate Forum (@ECCForumwww.eccforum.org