3rd April 2017 – Caroline Bettridge, Manchester Metropolitan University

Caroline BettridgeI’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.

12th December 2016 – Simon Gingins, Max Planck Institute for Ornithology

DCIM100GOPROI 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!

31st of October 2016 – Blair Costelloe, Max Planck Institute of Ornithology / University of Konstanz

blair-costelloeI 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!

11th July 2016 – Dan Sankey, Swansea University

Daniel SankeySo 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!

August 18th 2014 – Gavan Cooke, Bangor University

Gavan CookeI first fell in love with zoological sciences after quickly devouring Charles Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection’ whilst serving on the modern (and presently last) incarnation of the HMS Beagle. I then studied zoology at the University of Leeds and after a short stint in a marine biology taxonomy lab at Hull University I moved to Bangor University to complete a PhD on the behavioural ecology of cichlid fish, focusing on aggressive behaviour by males and females. Due to a long (20 years) standing interest in fishkeeping I then took up managing a large marine (75k litre) and freshwater (25k litre) research aquaria at the School of Biological Sciences, Bangor University. This facility was recently featured in a UK fish keeping magazine (Practical fishkeeping). I also carry out cuttlefish welfare and personality research, along with welfare research for other aquatic organisms, which have been sadly neglected so far. I lecture on animal welfare, cephalopod biology and other marine beasties, and I also run practicals for undergraduates. Feel free to ask me questions on fish/cephalopod behaviour and I will do my best to provide useful answers!