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!

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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/)

Kimberley Simpson, University of York

kimberley simpsonMy name is Kimberley Simpson and I would describe myself as a plant ecologist and general biology enthusiast! I’m currently a teaching-focused lecturer at the University of York (UK) where I teach a lot of ecology and data analysis, and I finished my PhD last year, which was based at the University of Sheffield (UK).

If I could summarise my research in three words, they would be: grass, traits and fire! Fire is a disturbance that has shaped plant traits and floral communities for over 420 million years, and the history and success of grasses is particularly linked to fire: they experience and fuel  the highest fire frequencies on Earth. My PhD research focused on how fire shapes grass traits, particularly those related to flammability and post-fire recovery. This means I got to do lots of fieldwork in South Africa which was an amazing opportunity.

I’ve done a fair bit of #scicomm through various outreach events but this will be my first on social media. I’m excited to be @biotweeps curator for the coming week. Expect lots of plants. And fire. Most likely some birds and insects too. Definitely some fungi. Parasites for sure. And I’m sure my mammalian (canine) companion may get a few mentions too…

I look forward to chatting to you on Twitter this week!

Kim

Twitter: @kim_1801

18th September 2017- Hannah Brazeau, Algoma University

Hannah BrazeauHello everyone! I’m Hannah, a final year BSc. Biology student at Algoma University in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Prior to starting my undergraduate degree, I trained as a laboratory technician through the biotechnology program at St. Lawrence College in Kingston, Ontario. The education I received at St. Lawrence deepened my interest in environmental science and gave me the push I needed to pursue a degree in science.

 I am a big-time fan of plants, with an interest in plant-plant interactions and invasive plant species. Now that I am in the final year of my degree, I will be writing my honours thesis in Dr. Brandon Schamp’s plant community ecology lab at Algoma U. You can learn more about the work going on his lab by visiting: http://people.auc.ca/schamp/index.html

While I am at Biotweeps, I will be aiming to give you all a window into the day-to-day experiences of studying biology at the undergraduate level. I will be discussing what it is like to study science at a small university, starting a career in science later in life, early career engagement in science communication, and of course, the fascinating world of plants. There may also be a few Star Trek references thrown in (sorry, I can’t help myself).

 I will also be dedicating a full day to discussing general advice for new students that are just starting out at university for the first time, and I am looking forward to hearing and sharing some words of wisdom from you all.

9th January 2017 – Kelsey Byers, University of Zürich

kelsey-byers-2Hi everyone!  My name is Kelsey Byers; I’m currently finishing up my first postdoc at the University of Zurich in Switzerland.

I grew up in the northeastern United States near Boston and did my undergraduate degree in biology; the program was focused on molecular and cellular biology.  I decided after four years of that and a fifth year as a technician working on transcription factors that I wanted to shift to a more evolutionary focus, while maintaining molecular biology & genetics in my toolkit.  I moved out west to Seattle for a PhD at the University of Washington in the Department of Biology in evolutionary genetics and speciation with my PhD advisors H.D. “Toby” Bradshaw, Jr. and Jeff Riffell.

In my PhD I worked with flowers in the genus Mimulus (the monkeyflowers, family Phrymaceae) and their pollinators.  Two species of Mimulus, Mimulus lewisii and M. cardinalis, are in sympatry (grow together) in the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California.  Where they grow together, the main factor keeping them from hybridizing (the main reproductive isolation barrier) is pollinator choice – M. lewisii is pollinated by bumblebees, M. cardinalis by hummingbirds.  I was able to show with some experiments with hawkmoths that Mimulus lewisii produces floral scent, even though we can’t smell it (humans have very poor noses, as it happens, despite our response to coffee!).  It turns out that bumblebees respond very strongly to these weak scent compounds both neurologically and behaviorally.  I was able to work out the genetic basis of the species’ differences in floral scent compounds, and using transgenic plants in the greenhouse, I demonstrated that if you remove the most critical compound from M. lewisii, its bumblebee pollinators are less likely to visit it.

In August of 2014 I moved to Switzerland to work with Florian Schiestl and Philipp Schlueter on two species of alpine orchids in the genus Gymnadenia that are native to the Alps.  The two species are pretty closely related but look – and smell – really different!  Here I’m working less with speciation and am looking more at adaptation, focusing on two main projects. First, I’m looking at species differences in selection (including pollinator-mediated selection) on a large variety of floral traits in the field.  Second, I’m looking at the patterns of floral trait inheritance in hybrids in Gymnadenia – are they inherited as discrete ‘blocks’ of traits, or do hybrids align more closely to one parent or the other?

In the next few months I’ll be moving to the University of Cambridge to work on a postdoc with Chris Jiggins on speciation and reproductive isolation in Heliconius butterflies in Panama.  Although it’s a bit of a departure from my previous focus on plant-pollinator interactions, the broader concepts of chemical ecology, speciation genetics, and insect olfaction are very much at the center of my research work, so I’m very excited!

Feel free to ask anything and everything!  I’m excited to be here with Biotweeps!

26th of September 2016 – Scott J. Davidson, University of Sheffield

scott-davidsonHi, I’m Scott, a final year PhD student at the University of Sheffield with collaborative links with San Diego State University and Utrecht University.
I am researching linkages between vegetation communities and methane (CH4) emissions at multiple scales in arctic tundra landscapes along a latitudinal gradient in Northern Alaska. I am interested in i) identifying the key biotic and abiotic drivers of CH4 fluxes across fine-scale micro-topographic features and ii) combining vegetation community analyses with field spectroscopy and remote sensing to improve vegetation mapping and thus enable better understanding of scaling from chamber to eddy covariance tower measurements. I’m passionate about all things arctic and alpine, alongside an interest in science communication and promoting more diversity in STEM.

16th May 2016 – Kelly Ksiazek, Northwestern University and The Chicago Botanic Garden

Kelly KsiazekKelly Ksiazek (@GreenCityGal) is a fifth year PhD candidate and Presidential Fellow in Plant Biology and Conservation at Northwestern University and the Chicago Botanic Garden. She believes that the complexity and beauty of nature can be found all around us, including in our plentiful urban habitats. Biodiversity conservation could be better supported in cities if more was known about how communities respond to the harsh conditions of the so-called “concrete jungle.” She sees particular potential in the vegetated or green roof; a type of increasingly common habitat that incorporates a layer of growing media and plants into buildings. Her research looks at the possibility of using urban green roofs as habitat for native plant and pollinator conservation. Most of her experiments take place in and around her hometown of Chicago, IL USA where she is discovering how to incorporate various components of biodiversity into green roof designs that mimic local shortgrass prairies.

As a former high school science teacher, Kelly also enjoys finding opportunities to engage in science communication such as through her research blog (https://GreenRoofResearch.wordpress.com), a recently published activity book for children (www.greeningUPthecity.com) and various school and community presentations (for example, this week at the Laurie Garden in downtown Chicago: http://www.luriegarden.org/education-events).

When she’s not collecting data on green roofs, writing, analyzing data or performing experiments in the lab, she likes traveling to visit friends and discover new places, gardening with edible and native plants, exploring new restaurants and breweries in Chicago and experimenting in the kitchen.