14th November 2016 – Indicators and Assessments Research Unit, Institute of Zoology (ZSL)

zslUnderstanding how biodiversity responds to ecosystem change is critical for effective conservation. From the behaviour and dynamics of individuals and populations to the global distribution and extinction risk of species, our research focuses on the challenges of monitoring biodiversity across these different scales.
zsl_davidMonday 14th November DAVID JACOBY @DJacoby_Marine

My research seeks to use electronic tracking devices and network analyses of animal movements to understand connectivity and grouping behaviour in ecological communities. I’m interested in how aggregation, collective movement and social interactions can fundamentally impact the persistence and vulnerability of a species, helping us to mitigate against threats. Most of my research is within the marine environment where I study the dynamics and drivers of social networks in apex marine predators such as sharks. I also have a soft spot for freshwater eels.
zsl_lpiTuesday 15th November THE LIVING PLANET INDEX @LPI_Science

The Living Planet Index (LPI) is a measure of the state of global biodiversity based on population trends of vertebrates from around the world. The Living Planet Database (LPD ) currently holds over 18,000 population time-series for more than 3,600 mammal, bird, fish, reptile and amphibian species. A small team of four is currently working on the upkeep and updates of the database and on all related analyses. The latest Living Planet Report was released at the end of October with new LPI results showing there has been an average decline of 58% in vertebrate populations between 1970 and 2012. Follow our Biotweeps takeover for an in-depth look at the report and updates on the rest of our work.
zsl_robinWednesday 16th November ROBIN FREEMAN @Robin_Freeman

I’m the Head of the Indicators and Assessments Unit. My research spans many disciplines from understanding the status and trends of global biodiversity, the creation of new kinds of technology for monitoring and tracking animals in the wild, to remote fieldwork utilising those technologies and new methods for analysing and interpreting the data we are now able to collect.
zsl_nrlThursday 17th November NATIONAL RED LIST @NationalRedList

The National Red List Project collates the conservation status of species across a large number of taxonomic groups, much like the internationally recognised IUCN Red List, but on a regional or national scale. This means that the red lists can be readily incorporated into national biodiversity strategies and action plans and can inform local or national conservation, development and planning processes. Here in Indicators & Assessments, 220,411 species assessments from 161 countries and regions worldwide have been uploaded to our database. We recently received a huge influx of red lists to be processed, which will keep our team of four quite busy for a while!
zsl_monikaFriday 18th November MONIKA BOHM @MonniKaboom

I am primarily researching how we can use extinction risk as an indicator of species’ status and trends over time – which means I get to work with the IUCN Red List and on a large number of different species groups. My personal favourites: reptiles, freshwater molluscs, butterflies and dung beetles! I am also interested in climate change vulnerability of species, biodiversity monitoring in general, capacity building for conservation and science communication & public outreach. Expect a mixture of all of the above during my Biotweeps takeover!
zsl_pieroSaturday 19th November PIERO VISCONTI @pvisconbio

My research focus is in predicting future distribution, population trends and extinction risk of terrestrial vertebrates under future global change scenarios. I am also interested in understanding early warning signals of changes in ecosystem function. Expect lots of tweets talking about the future!


February 2nd, 2015 – Peter Harrison, University of Leeds

Peter BharrisonI’m a PhD student obsessed with evolutionary developmental biology. Let’s call it evo-devo from now on. I’m interested in explaining mysteries that occurred several hundred million years ago during animal evolution. I do this by studying metazoan body plan evolution, gene co-option (and loss) in homologous gene regulatory networks, and issues of deep homology.

In St Andrews I worked with annelids (marine worms), investigating the co-option of developmental genes in the evolution of novel regenerating structures (Callan Memorial Scholarship). Or in plain English, I’m interested in how evolution can teach old genes new tricks. Genes don’t exist in isolation. When it comes to the development of an animal and its many tissues and organs, many genes and their products interact in complex gene regulatory networks. Some species might share the same network but the individual components may have changed. Networks can lose genes, gain entirely new ones, and ancient genes can find new roles.

I’m currently researching segmentation evo-devo in the red flour beetle and the potentially ancient origins of an arthropod segmentation clock. The evolution of segmentation can be quite contentious. We are internally segmented (think of your vertebrae), and so are many other animals such as earthworms and even fruit flies. But are we all segmented for the same reason? Was our last common ancestor segmented? Or has segmentation evolved multiple times independently? Perhaps more interestingly, has evolution used the same building blocks over and over to come up with segmentation? If so, it might be very difficult to tell what is convergent evolution and what isn’t. These problems fascinate me and I look forward to discussing them with the Biotweeps followers.

When I’m not playing with my cancer beetles (if you eat the flour they live in, you might get cancer), I’m communicating science through comedy, public-speaking, and occasional internet shenanigans. I have over 20 Twitter accounts. Please send help.