30th April 2018 – Auriel Fournier, Mississippi State University

Auriel Fournier_18Dr. Auriel Fournier is a postdoctoral researcher at Mississippi State University where she works as a part of the Gulf of Mexico Avian Monitoring Network (gomamn.org) using structured decision making to inform conservation decision making in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Auriel received her PhD from the Arkansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Arkansas in 2017 where she completed her dissertation studying the autumn migration ecology of rails. She is passionate about wetlands, birds and trying to understand their migration while making the conservation and scientific communities more diverse.


23rd April 2018 – Nina O’Hanlon – University of the Highlands and Islands

Nina O'HanlonI am a seabird ecologist with particular interests in foraging ecology, movement behaviour, zoology and anthropogenic impacts on species and habitats. However, I am fascinated by all aspects of ornithology and conservation.

Currently, I am a post-doc at the Environmental Research Institute working on two NPA projects: Circular Ocean and APP4SEA.  For Circular Ocean, I was recently involved in a review to provide a baseline assessment of current knowledge concerning the impact of marine plastic on seabirds in northern Europe and the Arctic region; and I am now focusing on how we can improve our knowledge of nest incorporation of plastic by seabirds. As part of APP4SEA I am working on a package focused on the ecological impact of oil spills on seabirds.

My first move into the seabird world was during my Masters where I got to spend the summer on the beautiful Calf of Man, helping to investigate the impact of rats on the island’s seabirds as part of a planned rat eradication. That led to my PhD at the University of Glasgow investigating spatial variation in Herring Gull traits across south-west Scotland and Northern Ireland, focusing on the gulls’ eggs, resource use and foraging behaviours – carrying out fieldwork on several islands and coastal colonies.

As a birder and bird ringer, most of my spare time is spent outdoors, especially along the stunning Caithness coast of north Scotland. My love of birds and science has also led me to be involved with the BOU‘s Engagement Committee as a Social Media Support Officer and with British Birds as a director focusing on communication and social media.

7th August 2017 – Shandiya Balasubramaniam, Museums Victoria

Shandiya BalasubramaniamHi Biotweeps!

I’m an evolutionary ecologist working on avian systems. In a nutshell, I like to know what birds do, and why, where, and how they do it.

I completed a PhD at the University of Melbourne on the evolution and ecology of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes in south-eastern Australian passerines (songbirds). MHC genes are a vital component of the vertebrate immune system, and I wanted to know more about the evolutionary processes underpinning variation in these genes. I was also interested in how MHC variation was influenced by ecological variables, such as dispersal behaviour and habitat configuration. To answer these questions, I mist-netted over a thousand birds across two years, resulting in a love/hate relationship with early mornings. Somewhere along the winding PhD journey I developed an interest in wildlife disease, and ended up doing a survey of avian malaria in woodland birds as well.

I’m currently a research fellow at Museums Victoria in Australia, where I’m working on a few different projects. My main focus at the moment is on the ecological ramifications of beak and feather disease virus (BFDV) on threatened parrots. BFDV is thought to be infectious to all parrots, but can it also infect other birds? And if so, what does that mean for the transmission of BFDV across species? If you’re interested in knowing more about any of my research, get in contact!

When I’m not science-ing, I’m either baking bread or accumulating cats. I can be found on Twitter @ShandiyaB.

10th July 2017 – Robyn Womack, University of Glasgow

Robyn WomackHi BioTweeps! My name is Robyn and I am a twenty-something pint-sized zoology fanatic from the Isle of Wight, UK.

Currently, I am in my second year as a PhD student at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, investigating biological rhythms of wild birds (or otherwise, how birds “tick”). I spend a good portion of my time during the spring field season out in the wild forests near Loch Lomond working within a nest box system, and the other half in the lab doing genetic analyses. My research questions span a wide range of topics, from disease ecology and avian health to urban ecology and chronobiology (clock biology) – with the overarching theme of environmental factors influencing clocks in the wild.

Although my research focus is on birds, I have a broad interest in all things zoology. Back in 2014, I finished my BSc Zoology at Aberystwyth University in Wales, and since then I have experienced a variety of zoological roles such as research field assistant positions, zoo-keeping and volunteering in conservation. I’ve also experienced some non-zoological roles, such as working in cell culture and being part of an Athena SWAN self-assessment team promoting women in STEM subjects – something I feel passionate about!

I am super excited to be taking on BioTweeps this month as I am a strong believer that science, particularly biology, is awesome. And as biologists, we definitely ought to shout about it some more.

You can find more about me on my personal website http://www.robynwomack.com , or over on Twitter @robynjwomack .

20th March 2017 – Jez Smith, Cardiff University, Eco-explore CIC

Jez SmithHi all! I’m Jez, a 2nd year PhD student at Cardiff University with a NERC GW4+ funded project. My academic passion is studying a small long distance migrant bird, the Pied Flycatcher which is currently in a steep population decline, hence my twitter handle @PiedflyWales. Using novel statistical techniques called Integral Projection Models (IPMs) I hope to try to understand the effect size that various factors have on population trends and which areas management and policy should be focussed on to reverse their fate. I have had the pleasure to study the Pied Flycatcher in Wales, Portugal and Ghana and am interested in all aspects of avian behaviour and migration. Some of my tweets will therefore be focussed around the topics of climate change, birds and animal behaviour.

Other tweets will revolve around different International days this week such as the International day of the forests and world water day. I want to share some of the amazing work that is being done on these topics both academic and non-academic.

One issue that I feel strongly about is the work life balance issue and so will therefore also be wanting to hear from people about their passions outside of work even if it relates to work (i.e. bird ringing). For me, besides my academic research I spend my time competing on the university Latin and Ballroom dance circuit, with a distinct preference for Jive.

Prior to the PhD I worked as a data analyst, expedition leader and ornithologist with experience having participated in and lead expeditions in Europe, Africa and Central America. I have co-lead a Senegalese research expedition with Dr. Rob Thomas identifying causes of decline in Reed and Sedge warblers, contributing to Dr James Vafidis’ PhD. All of the above are co-directors, with Dr Alexandra Pollard, of Eco-Explore (http://www.eco-explore.co.uk).

I’m looking forward to sharing some of my research with everyone and hearing others opinions on their work and the work of others.


27th February 2017 – Alex Evans, University of Leeds

alex-evansHi Biotweeps! My name is Alex and I’m a final year PhD student studying animal locomotion at the University of Leeds. My research is largely focused on integrating the mechanics and energetics of avian flight, but I also dabble in insect flight and terrestrial locomotion. I tend to work with small parrots such as budgerigars and lovebirds, but I’m a big fan of birds in general and will jump at the chance to work with any species!

My research generally involves looking at the mechanics and energetics from both the organismal level and the muscular level, so some days I will be training a flock of cockatiels and others I will be working with single muscle fibres. I’m also interested in the behavioural and aerodynamic aspects of flight, and hope to develop more skills in these areas in the future.

Prior to my PhD, I undertook an MSc in Biodiversity and Conservation, which was also at the University of Leeds. My dissertation project focused on the risks posed by pesticides to British pollinators. I got to do some super fun fieldwork working with farmers and solitary bees, and this experience pretty much set me on the course towards starting my PhD.

Outside of the lab, I’m always looking to get more involved with science writing and STEM outreach activities. I have recently written articles for the Society of Experimental Biology and Biosphere magazine, and I enjoy presenting and discussing my research with a wide range of audiences. During my week of curation, you can expect to hear more about my work with birds, bees and beetles, as well as discussions about animal research ethics and methods of science communication … and hopefully we’ll have a little fun too!

I can often be found posting animal GIFs and preaching about tabletop games on Twitter at @alexevans91 and I blog about birds and bioscience topics over at BirdBrainedScience.

13th February 2017 – Lisa Buckley, Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre

lisa-buckleyLisa Buckley is the Curator & Collections Manager of the Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre, a grassroots research facility dedicated to the protection and education of British Columbia’s fossil vertebrate heritage, and is a vocal advocate for responsible management of fossil heritage. Highlights of this work include research on dinosaur tracks and traces of the Six Peaks Dinosaur Track Site (https://youtu.be/e_8EmzsdXhM), British Columbia’s first dinosaur bonebed, and the world’s first tyrannosaur trackways (http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0103613)

Lisa’s research focus within ichnology (study of tracks and traces) is the track record of Early Cretaceous shorebirds and wading birds. Part of this work is using the tracks and traces of modern shorebirds and wading birds to get as much information about fossil bird species and behavior as possible from tracks. Lisa has a blog called “Strange Woman Standing in Mud, Looking at Birds” at http://birdsinmud.blogspot.ca/