I’m a postdoc at the University of Bristol, working on the evolution of animal conflict and cooperation – based in the brilliant lab group led by Professor Andy Radford. I recently finished my PhD, which explored the evolution of altruism (organisms helping others at a personal cost) in South American paper wasps. I focused on a mysterious paradox in social insect biology, and spent my PhD enthusiastically sticking tiny radio-tags to wasps in Panama, French Guiana, and Brazil. As a result, I’ve been thoroughly stung in the name of science. I’ll be biotweeping about the strange world of animal cooperation. Why do we seem to find cooperation everywhere we look, from social bacteria in the gut to elephants on the savannah to the trillions of hard-working cells that make up our bodies?
The enigma of where cooperation comes from has baffled biologists for 150 years – ever since Darwin struggled with the mystery in The Origin of Species. Those 150 years have been filled with a host of exotic characters boldly announcing their own evolutionary solutions – including legions of entomologists, game theorists, political scientists, the occasional sinister eugenicist, people doing dubious things with dolphins, and even one prison-breaking anarchist Russian prince. The controversy got so heated in the 70s that angry communists poured a bucket of water over the head of the world’s leading ant biologist mid-way through a lecture. However, the product of this intense and often acrimonious scientific debate has been the rise of a solid modern understanding of the key principles in the evolution of cooperation. Today, biologists have a spectacular general theory of cooperation. Even so, the debate is far from over, and a number of major riddles about the evolution of cooperation remain to solved…
My name is Liz Franklin and I am an behavioural ecologist and entomologist. My passions are wide spreading but I generally come back to the behaviour of individuals and groups, particularly in the social insects (that’s ants bees and wasps). I studied ant behaviour for my PhD and now I study bumble bees again like in my undergraduate. I am originally from the UK but right now I am working at the University of Guelph in Canada as a post doctoral fellow working on a range of projects to understand how bumble bees use landscapes.
Next to doing science my next favourite thing is talking about it! I am a massive advocate of science communication and engage both in outreach for my work but also as a volunteer. Hopefully I can give some advice to those who are interested in this area.
Along with sci comms I hope to talk about the social insects, highlight some of the cool research going on out there, particularly in the realms of behaviour. I will give a shout out to bee diversity, test the waters of your bee knowledge and hopefully answer your burning social insect questions.
Look forward to speaking with you all!
Jointly hosted by:
Dr Alexander Georgiev
Lecturer, School of Natural Sciences, Bangor University
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.
MScRes student, School of Natural Sciences, Bangor University
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.
Meaghan L. Pimsler is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Alabama working with Dr. Jeff Lozier to integrate physiological, morphological, population genetic, and transcriptomic approaches to study the factors shaping adaptation in native pollinators. She earned her PhD from in the Department of Entomology at Texas A&M University, where she used de novo transcriptomics to investigate sexual dimorphism and behavioral ecology in an invasive blow fly with a unique and poorly understood sex determination mechanism. She received her BS in entomology from Cornell University in 2007, and subsequently spent three years in Okinawa, Japan working at two high schools as an English teacher.
After recuperating sufficiently from the rigors of her undergraduate education, she began her postgraduate journey with Dr. Jeffery K. Tomberlin and Dr. Aaron M. Tarone in 2010. Meaghan has had a deep and abiding love of arthropods her entire life, and determined at the age of four that she would be an entomologist. She helped found entomology clubs in both high school and college, and has helped organize many entomology themed outreach and enrichment events, including working with the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History on their BugFest, and with Cornell University’s Entomology Department on their Open House.
Meaghan is particularly experienced in the field of forensic entomology, and this has led to a certification in Crime Scene Investigation with Texas Engineering and Extension Services; teaching at workshops for federal, state, and local law enforcement groups; several national and international trips to give invited seminar talks; the opportunity to coordinate symposia at the 2013 and 2014 Entomological Society of America annual meetings as well as the 2016 International Congress of Entomology; and her election to Treasurer of the North American Forensic Entomology Association. Meaghan’s current passion, outside of her research, is science policy. After joining the organizing committee for the March for Science- Birmingham, AL, she was selected as an Entomological Society of America Science Policy Fellow in the Class of 2017. She looks forward to talking with you about entomology, bumble bees, bioinformatics, statistics, science policy, and anything else you might be interested in.
Ann-Sophie is currently in her 3rd year of Zoology with Animal Behaviour (BSc) at Bangor University, Wales. Originally from Germany, she decided to move to the UK for her degree as it was much more specific than what she could have done at a German University. Her main interests lie in behavioural ecology, specifically in larger carnivores and predator/prey relationships as well as anthropologic disturbances.
Her dissertation looks into using modified camera traps to identify and research small mammals, for which she has done a four-week camera trapping period in her native Schleswig-Holstein, North Germany. Hopefully, this research will provide an overview over habitat preference of small mammals and occupancy, as well as bringing the idea of modifying camera traps specifically for small mammals to a wider audience. This last point was also Ann-Sophie’s incentive to apply for Biotweeps.
In her free time, Ann-Sophie likes to be outdoors and enjoy the Welsh countryside, as well as practising archery and bouldering. Travelling is another passion, having taken her as far as New Zealand and the United States, where she especially appreciates hiking in the various National Parks.
She hopes to continue at Bangor University for a MSc degree in September 2018, to then potentially pursue a PhD within behavioural ecology.
Hi! My name is Rachael and I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Starks Lab at Tufts University in Medford, MA. As a lab, we study behavioral ecology to understand how animals deal with environmental pressures. My research focuses on how seasonal changes in honey bee diet (i.e. flowers!) affects honey bee health and behavior.
When we go to the grocery store, we have a lot of choices. While our choices do change with season (try to find pumpkins in the summer, or berries in the winter), those choices tend to remain diverse. The “grocery store” for honey bees is our lawns, our gardens, etc., and the choices aren’t always diverse. In the early New England spring, honey bees only have dandelions or clovers to choose from. The summer brings a more diverse choice of flower foods and in the fall, the main choices are goldenrod and aster. How might honey bees change their foraging habitats to cope with the lack of choices? How could the lack of choices alter the honey bee gut microbiome? How does a lack of diet diversity affect the honey bee’s immune system?
These are just the broad questions I am interested in answering during my Ph.D. One of the first studies I did as a Ph.D. student was on honey bees drinking dirty water—you can read about what I found here. Also, check out my personal website to follow my adventures in field biology and beekeeping!
Outside of my research, I enjoy communicating science to the public and am the President of the Boston Area Beekeepers Association. I can also be found playing middle infield for the Tufts Biology Department softball team (Base Pairs), kickboxing at a nearby gym, baking (especially brownies and cookies), crawling on the ground photographing insects, or visiting my waterside hometown in Rhode Island.
I’m a senior lecturer in Behavioural Ecology at Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK. My main research interests are in the social behaviours of mammals, including how flexible behaviour is, how animals respond to the environment they are living in and how an animal’s behaviour increases its survival or reproductive success. My current research focuses on a species of African nocturnal primate – the northern lesser bushbaby, and white rhinoceros. In the past I’ve also used modelling approaches to investigate elements of primate behaviour and human evolution. I do a lot of fieldwork, mostly in East Africa, and also take project students out to the field each year. I also teach on a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses related to behavioural biology, and I currently supervise two PhD students.
I’ve always had a passion for wildlife and I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to pursue a career in this field. It hasn’t always been a direct route, and I took a few years after my undergraduate degree in Zoology, to earn some money and gain some field experience before returning to studying. I completed my DPhil at Oxford University, UK in the Institute for Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, and then did a short teaching fellowship at Lancaster University before starting at my current department.
During my week on biotweeps I’ll probably chat about my behavioural ecology research, as well as some of the work my students are involved in; fieldwork; and my experience of being in academia – including some of the other elements of my job outside of research and teaching.
Outside of work a lot of my time revolves around my high maintenance dog, Huxley a French bulldog cross, and I generally enjoy exploring the outdoors and new places. I’m on Twitter @CMBettridge.
I was born and raised in Switzerland, a landlocked country mostly covered by the Alps, where I love to spend my free time hiking, snowboarding, mountain biking and climbing. For work, however, I prefer travelling to remote tropical islands to study the behaviour or coral reef fishes. I started my studies in biology at the University of Lausanne (Switzerland), where I did a master thesis on the behaviour of the cleaner wrasse Labroides dimidiatus. Cleaners pick parasites off the body of other reef fishes, called “clients”, and have a very elaborate behaviour in order to deal with their incredibly high number of daily cooperative interactions (up to 2000). This was an amazing experience, and I got the chance to keep doing research on cleaners during my PhD at the University of Neuchâtel (Switzerland). For this project, I spent extended periods of time in beautiful locations such as the Egyptian shores of the Red Sea, the island of Moorea in French Polynesia and Lizard Island, on the great Barrier Reef in Australia. Don’t get me wrong, it is not because marine biologists go to paradisiac locations for work that the job is easy. Fieldwork is hard, physically demanding, and often frustrating, but being rewarded with a sunset over the ocean at the end of the day makes everything much, much simpler.
Over the past years I also got interested in collective behaviour, and I had the idea to test some of the emerging questions in this field with group-living damselfishes. Just after completing my PhD, I obtained a fellowship from the Swiss National Science Foundation for this project, which I am currently working on in the Department of Collective Behaviour, at the Max Planck Institute in Konstanz (Germany). You will get to hear more about this endeavour since I will be tweeting for @biotweeps live from Eliat, Israel, the field site where I collect data for this project.
Through all these travels I also developed a strong interest in photography. With my background, unsurprisingly, my favourite place to take photographs is underwater, on the reef. One of the reasons why I love this environment so much is that you can get very close to the animals, much closer than you could on land, which also makes great opportunities for animal photography. But I don’t limit myself to underwater photography, I also enjoy capturing the beauty of mountains and other natural landscapes. You can see a collection of my pictures on my website www.simongingins.com, and interact directly with me on twitter @SimonGingins.
Looking forward to interacting with you all on @biotweeps!
I am a wildlife behavioral ecologist specializing in ungulates (hoofed mammals). As a graduate student in Princeton University’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, I studied the maternal and antipredator behavior of Thomson’s gazelle, a small-bodied East African antelope. I was interested in understanding how mothers manage the often competing demands of raising a highly vulnerable offspring while simultaneously maintaining their own fecundity (i.e. getting enough food) and avoiding predation themselves. My project involved a lot of fieldwork in Laikipia, Kenya – always a fun topic for tweeting!
After completing my Ph.D. I spent a couple of years teaching undergraduate courses and assisting with projects in my graduate advisor’s lab while searching for the next step. The next step turned out to be a postdoctoral position at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology and the University of Konstanz in Germany! For this position I will be shifting away from individual behavioral strategies to focus on collective behavior of animal groups. I’ll be investigating vigilance behavior, collective predator detection, and information transfer in groups of gazelles and other savannah ungulates. This project will involve some fun high-tech camera set-ups and more exciting fieldwork in Kenya!
During my curatorial week on I’ll be tweeting about my past and present research efforts, my road (so far!) to a career in behavioral ecology, my recent job search experience, along with other topics that come up along the way. I will also be tweeting many many wildlife photos. Check out my website at www.blaircostelloe.com to learn more about my work!
So I applied to take over the @Biotweeps twitter feed and they said yes! I’m completely stoked, so I’ve been getting inspired about some new ideas for a direction to take the feed in… Here is the biog I gave them:
As a keen early career researcher, fascinated by consensus decision making in animal groups, I thought it appropriate (and good fun) to create polls on the BIG questions in the Biosciences: a consensus from the experts! To rally enthusiasm, and to get a killer set of questions prepared, I have started sending out question requests to my followers, and this goes for you now too J. I am requesting questions of general interest and importance, to encourage discussion about critical topics in the biosciences.
For example, would the poll for the question: “How should money be distributed on conservation resources?” reflect the actual proportions in place? What can or should be done differently? I look forward to some healthy debate while I’m in the hot-seat.
To keep this side of my time on @Biotweeps relatively profound, I think one BIG question per day (with authors handle attached) should suffice, and hopefully get people thinking about their own core values, ethics and good science!
For the rest (95%) of my time I should be out in Chamois; France, tagging cattle to help @Richwithtea on his research project (in the name of movement ecology), and paying tribute to the cows too (by eating their tasty cheese! ). So expect loads of lush mountain views, and posts about interesting new science in behavioural ecology and beyond!