18th March 2019 – Lauren Callender, Queen Mary University of London

Lauren CallenderHi everyone! I’m Lauren Callender (@LozCallender_) and I’m a PhD researcher working in London. Before moving to London I completed a BSc in Biology and an MSc in Molecular Medicine at the University of Leeds. After this I decide to make the move to London and began working as a research assistant at the Institute of Child Health, UCL. Following the brief 9-month stint as a research assistant I was then awarded a 4-year MRes/PhD scholarship with the British Heat Foundation at the William Harvey Research Institute, QMUL. I’ve been there for 3 and a half years, so the finish line is now in sight (wish me luck!).

My PhD research is focused on understanding how ageing and age-related diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease affect the human immune system. I’m particularly interested in a type of immune cell known as a T cell, which is involved in the adaptive immune system. My aim is to understand how and why T cells change with age/disease, and more importantly I want to figure out how to prevent or reverse the changes with the hope to increase longevity.

In addition to my research I love sharing my passion for science through my Instagram and Twitter accounts (@LozCallender_) and my YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/sciencescribbles). Throughout my time as a PhD researcher I have dedicated a lot of time to teaching in underprivileged state schools around London. I created ScienceScribbles as a way to turn the topics I was teaching in schools into fun and interactive tutorials that could be accessed by a wider audience.

I’m really looking forward to taking over the @Biotweeps twitter account. I hope you all enjoy the content I’ll be sharing with you.

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11th March 2019 – Hannah Brazeau, University of New Brunswick

Hannah Brazeau_2019I am a MSc student at the University of New Brunswick (Fredericton, NB, Canada) studying the effects of interspecific competition on pollinator-mediated selection of floral traits. More specifically, my thesis project uses fireweed to look at how floral traits associated with attraction of pollinators (such as floral scent) can change when an unrelated, highly attractiveplant species is growing nearby. This project allows me to combine concepts and methods used in plant community ecology, plant-pollinator interactions, and floral evolutionary biology, with a dash of chemistry thrown in for good measure.

Before starting my masters in Dr. Amy Parachnowitsch’s lab (@EvoEcoAmy on twitter), I completed my BSc in Biology at Algoma University (Sault Ste. Marie, ON, Canada). While at Algoma University, I completed an honours thesis on co-occurrence patterns and temporal stability in an old-field plant community under the supervision of Dr. Brandon Schamp (who now co-supervises my masters project). Prior to my BSc, I completed a three-year diploma in biotechnology at St. Lawrence College (Kingston, ON, Canada).

I’m a first generation student and particularly passionate about improving learning and research experiences for undergraduates, as well as communicating science through art. This will be my second time hosting Biotweeps, (previously hosted as @moietymouse) and I’m looking forward to talking to you all again!

4th March 2019 – Patrick Kennedy, University of Bristol

Patrick KennedyI’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…

18th February 2019 – Kannan Raja, Bangor University

Kannan RajaKannan Raja is a postgraduate researcher/ MscRes student at Bangor University, working on the teeth morphology and the hunting and feeding ecologies of Panthera species. Previously he completed his undergraduate degree, also at Bangor University, where he looked at the prey preferences of mountain lions for his final dissertation. Prior to his time at the university,, Kannan undertook a three-year diploma course in Biotechnology at Temasek Polytechnic, Singapore.

Although many of his projects so far are centred around large felids, dinosaurs are his favourite animal group. He is also passionate about the natural world and evolution in animals under the influence of humans. Kannan is an ‘all-over-place’ sort of biologist, with his interests shifting over the years from various disciplines. However, the ecology of large carnivores seems to be the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ for him. For now.

With the completion of his MScRes, Kannan hopes to gain a career in the field of conservation, and eventually/hopefully, a PhD is not too far off in the future for him.

Aside from facing off with ferocious big cat skulls, Kannan is often found shoving cool (but random) dinosaur facts in the faces of his weary friends, or engaging them in a discussion/debate over lunch about a new discovery or an interesting question that may have crossed his mind.

11th February 2019 – Daisy Maryon, Univeristy of South Wales, Kanahau Utila Research and Conservation Facility, International Iguana Foundation

Daisy MaryonDaisy Maryon is a conservation biologist specializing in endangered iguanas. She is an active member of the IUCN iguana specialist group and,works closely with the International Iguana Foundation. Currently works as research coordinator at Kanahau Utila Research and Conservation Facility in Utila, Honduras, where she is carrying out her PhD on Utila spiny-tailed iguanas with the University of South Wales. Before Daisy found her love of iguanas she worked in the cloud forests of Honduras with Operation Wallacea, leading expeditions of students, she also spend time in Indonesia radio tracking slow lorises with the Little Fire Face project and, worked at Riet Vell nature reserve in Spain with Birdlife international.

On the small island of Utila Daisy works with Kanahau to research and conserve the Critically Endangered Utila spiny-tailed iguana and other endemic species.

Research takes Daisy and the team to Utilas wild western side and unforgiving interior, for a small island there are some incredibly diverse habitats from sandy beaches, to  mangroves to wet neotropical savannahs and hardwood forests.

Education and outreach is a key component of this work as the iguanas are endangered due to habitat destruction and the fact they are considered a delicacy. Known locally as the Swamper on the island due to its habitat preference of mangrove forests, the Utila team came up with the “#SaveTheSwamper” campaign to rally support for the iguanas. Daisy so far has trained one ex hunter as a conservation field guide and hopes to be able to continue to provide more training and alternative incomes to hunting. Now the battle is on to promote the Swamper as a flagship species for the island and ensure the small population can be conserved.

4th February 2019 – Nancy Miorelli, SciBugs

Nancy MiorelliNancy Miorelli is an entomologist living in Quito, Ecuador. After earning her Master’s degree in Entomology from the University of Georgia in 2014 she promptly moved to the heart of the Ecuadorian cloud forest where she volunteered at an ecolodge for two years. During her time motorbiking through the jungle, designing educational programs, filming insects for Discovery Channel’s Naked and Afraid, and convincing tourists that they really did love insects, Nancy continued to work on various SciComm projects including #FaceBug and the blog Ask an Entomologist.

After two years, she moved from the cloud forest to the concrete jungle of Quito where she continues her SciComm endeavors with Ask an Entomologist, travelling to conventions, and starting a new Periscope channel.  She embarked on her own insect tourism business focusing on the interconnections of ecology, conservation, local Ecuadorian culture, and tourism. These are not your typical Ecuadorian tours as these tours take you off the traditional beaten path walked by thousands of tourists each year.   Her objective is to promote tourism and conservation in some of Ecuador’s most threatened and most biodiverse ecosystems including the northern Ecuadorian coast and the cloud forest. Agriculture and mining are the two biggest threats to these fragile ecosystems.

Her main scientific interest is the structural coloration of insects – particularly in butterflies. The intricacies of the microstructures that insects employ to expertly reflect and absorb light are still being discovered in this relatively new field and their applications to our modern-day technology are limitless; including improving fiber optics, security encryption, and eye implants. Nancy is particularly interested in why the butterflies are creating these structures, how the microstructures function to manipulate light, and how we can copy these structures and apply them to our modern-day technology.

28th January 2019 – Jesamine Bartlett, Univeristy of Birmingham & British Antarctic Survey

jesamine bartlettJes is a polar ecologist, and essentially classes herself as a greedy scientist who cannot decide what discipline to follow. So, she does a little bit of all of them at once instead of having to choose! She uses zoology, botany, physiology, environmental science, a bit of soil chemistry, a dash of microbiology and general wistful thinking whilst looking at beautiful landscapes, to answer questions about how ecosystems work. She thinks that working out how all the interactions and connections that make nature what it is, is the biggest question she could possibly ask the planet. And especially in places like the Arctic and Antarctic, or up mountains, where ecosystems are the most sensitive to change. And the views are also not bad. Jes likes cats and cheese, in that order and definitely not at the same time. She doesn’t much like alien invaders and is regretting writing about herself in third person.

Her fickle nature has led her to a range of places, to look at a range of things: from studying tardigrades in glaciers on Svalbard; Arctic foxes in the mountains of Norway; moss in the upland bogs across the Pennines of England; and midge on a remote island in Antarctica. She loves being in these environments but dislikes being cold, so has developed a strong attachment to her tea-flask. She currently lives and works in Birmingham, UK where she still has to be cold owing to her current research into an invasive midge who, being acclimated to Antarctica, must be kept in rooms at a balmy ‘summer’ temperature of 4ºC. A lot of her current work for the University of Birmingham and the British Antarctic Survey, who she is a final year PhD researcher for, focusses on how this invasive midge is surviving where it shouldn’t be and what it is doing to the ecosystem of Signy Island, where it was introduced. The work so far has identified that this species is doing very well, is hard as nails and is likely to spread! So now her research is focussing on biosecurity and areas of policy that may mitigate this from happening.

Jes enjoys science communication and sits on the British Ecological Society’s public engagement working group, where she nags people about the importance of digital media. She is looking forward to taking over @Biotweeps, so expect an eclectic look at polar and alpine ecology, science news and science policy!

(NB: you can hear her speaking about herself and her work in first person, like a normal human, on the podcast Fieldwork Diaries: https://www.fieldworkdiaries.com/people/jes-bartlett/)