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.


21st November 2016 – Lindsey Thurman, Oregon State University

lindsey-thurmanI am a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University and a Research Fellow with the Northwest Climate Science Center. I’m in my 5th (and final!) year, which is exciting and slightly terrifying. My research focuses on the link between local (community) and landscape (biogeographic) drivers of biodiversity patterns in an effort to improve predictions about community-level response to climate change. I typically use amphibians as a model system because, not only are they extremely sensitive to environmental change, they exhibit diverse life history strategies, differential plasticity, and complex community dynamics.

My dissertation research aims to provide a diverse assessment of amphibian species vulnerability and adaptive capacity to climate change. The experimental portion of my research has involved the quantification of complex direct and indirect interactions among co-occurring amphibian species under natural and novel environmental conditions (e.g. climate warming and rapid pond drying). I examine how shifts in these conditions alter individual species sensitivity and the strength and direction of species interactions, and conversely, how coevolved interactions mediate the effects of climate change factors. Within this context, I examine the costs vs. benefits of behavioral and physiological plasticity as a mechanism for rapid adaptation.
I am also particularly interested in how species respond to climate change as a complex network of interacting species and how these inter-dependencies affect the footprint of amphibians on the landscape. You may see me tweeting about the use (and often misuse) of co-occurrence data as a method for incorporating biotic interactions into species distribution models.
I got my M.Sc. at Oregon State, but before coming to the great Pacific Northwest I did my undergrad at the University of Florida (Go Gators!). I hail from the flatlands of Florida’s beautiful Gulf Coast and grew up in Gulf Breeze (a tiny peninsula town near Pensacola Beach). When I’m balancing work with life, I like to do most anything outdoors like salmon fishing, duck hunting, hiking and playing with my youthful 8 year old Lab, Sierra.
Looking forward to talking with my fellow Biotweeps! In the meantime, follow me on Twitter @ectothurm, check out my personal website www.lindseythurman.com, or join us at the Early Career Climate Forum (@ECCForumwww.eccforum.org

14th November 2016 – Indicators and Assessments Research Unit, Institute of Zoology (ZSL)

zslUnderstanding how biodiversity responds to ecosystem change is critical for effective conservation. From the behaviour and dynamics of individuals and populations to the global distribution and extinction risk of species, our research focuses on the challenges of monitoring biodiversity across these different scales.
zsl_davidMonday 14th November DAVID JACOBY @DJacoby_Marine

My research seeks to use electronic tracking devices and network analyses of animal movements to understand connectivity and grouping behaviour in ecological communities. I’m interested in how aggregation, collective movement and social interactions can fundamentally impact the persistence and vulnerability of a species, helping us to mitigate against threats. Most of my research is within the marine environment where I study the dynamics and drivers of social networks in apex marine predators such as sharks. I also have a soft spot for freshwater eels.
zsl_lpiTuesday 15th November THE LIVING PLANET INDEX @LPI_Science

The Living Planet Index (LPI) is a measure of the state of global biodiversity based on population trends of vertebrates from around the world. The Living Planet Database (LPD ) currently holds over 18,000 population time-series for more than 3,600 mammal, bird, fish, reptile and amphibian species. A small team of four is currently working on the upkeep and updates of the database and on all related analyses. The latest Living Planet Report was released at the end of October with new LPI results showing there has been an average decline of 58% in vertebrate populations between 1970 and 2012. Follow our Biotweeps takeover for an in-depth look at the report and updates on the rest of our work.
zsl_robinWednesday 16th November ROBIN FREEMAN @Robin_Freeman

I’m the Head of the Indicators and Assessments Unit. My research spans many disciplines from understanding the status and trends of global biodiversity, the creation of new kinds of technology for monitoring and tracking animals in the wild, to remote fieldwork utilising those technologies and new methods for analysing and interpreting the data we are now able to collect.
zsl_nrlThursday 17th November NATIONAL RED LIST @NationalRedList

The National Red List Project collates the conservation status of species across a large number of taxonomic groups, much like the internationally recognised IUCN Red List, but on a regional or national scale. This means that the red lists can be readily incorporated into national biodiversity strategies and action plans and can inform local or national conservation, development and planning processes. Here in Indicators & Assessments, 220,411 species assessments from 161 countries and regions worldwide have been uploaded to our database. We recently received a huge influx of red lists to be processed, which will keep our team of four quite busy for a while!
zsl_monikaFriday 18th November MONIKA BOHM @MonniKaboom

I am primarily researching how we can use extinction risk as an indicator of species’ status and trends over time – which means I get to work with the IUCN Red List and on a large number of different species groups. My personal favourites: reptiles, freshwater molluscs, butterflies and dung beetles! I am also interested in climate change vulnerability of species, biodiversity monitoring in general, capacity building for conservation and science communication & public outreach. Expect a mixture of all of the above during my Biotweeps takeover!
zsl_pieroSaturday 19th November PIERO VISCONTI @pvisconbio

My research focus is in predicting future distribution, population trends and extinction risk of terrestrial vertebrates under future global change scenarios. I am also interested in understanding early warning signals of changes in ecosystem function. Expect lots of tweets talking about the future!

27th June 2016 – Centre for Marine Futures, University of Western Australia

Centre for Marine Futures.pngBIG PICTURE THINKING

Our vision is global, with partnerships and field programmes in most ocean basins either side of the Equator. Past and current sampling sites include: Western Australia, Palau, New Caledonia, the Chagos Archipelago, Tonga, French Polynesia, the Savage Islands (Ilhas Selvagens), The Philippines, and the Gulf of Oman.


Our goal is to make a difference
Our research boasts high academic and real-life impact. It is used to directly inform and influence both policy and management actions. We are a member group of the Ocean Science Council of Australia (OSCA), an independent consortium of leading Australian experts concerned with advancing marine conservation.


Our research focuses on marine ecological questions relevant to conservation and largely explores the influence of human activities on marine ecosystems.

Key questions our research explores include:
– How do pelagic sharks and fishes respond to the establishment of large marine reserves?
– What roles do apex predators play in tropical marine ecosystems?
– How is climate variability manifested in fish growth and what does this mean for warming oceans?
– How are sharks and fishes distributed on biogeographical scales and in relation to habitat?
– What are the socioeconomic drivers of illegal fishing?

These questions are addressed using a range of techniques included BRUVS, telemetry, biomarkers and predictive modelling.


Dr Phil Bouchet
Postdoctoral fellow
I am a jack of several trades – marine mammalogist by training, converted into shark/fish ecologist as a doctoral student. I have a keen interest in spatial ecology and statistical modelling as they relate to wildlife conservation problems. Recently I developed abundance models for a number of cetacean species (humpback whales, bottlenose and snubfin dolphins) and distribution models for large pelagic fish (tunas and mackerels) around Western Australia.
My PhD research concentrated on ‘hotspots’ of mobile marine predators, and how these aligned with prominent physical features of the ocean floor such as seamounts, submarine canyons, or offshore shoals and banks. This involved coordinating or partaking in field expeditions to Shark Bay, the Timor Sea and the Perth canyon, where I used a new generation of midwater baited underwater video cameras to film endangered oceanic sharks in deep-water environments.
Dr Shanta Barley
Postdoctoral fellow
Reef sharks are being removed from coral reefs globally yet we do not understand how this affects these hotspots of biodiversity. Where sharks are absent, prey may change in terms of abundance, size, behaviour, diet, condition and growth rate, which could have severe knock-on effects on the rest of the ecosystem.
I explore these issues using stereo underwater video systems, stable isotopes and a range of other techniques.
David Tickler
PhD student
I am investigating how spatial ecology and population genetics impact the exposure and vulnerability of sharks to illegal fishing on Indian Ocean reefs, and how social, economic and legal factors affect the scale and range of the fishing effort in these locations. The study will use a combination of ecological tools (fine- and broad-scale movement tracking and population genetics), fisheries data collection at landing sites, and interviews with fishers and other actors to collect data on both the ecology of reef shark species and the fisheries that target them.
The spatial ecology and genetic studies will help understand the role of large MPAs such as Chagos in providing a refuge to reef shark species, and its wider role for these species in the Indian Ocean based on the connectivity (or lack thereof) between sub-populations. The study of illegal fishing aims to help quantify the magnitude of illegal fishing in a large oceanic MPA, identify the key drivers of this activity, and suggest points of engagement with regional stakeholders that will reduce illegal fishing effort.
Charlotte Birkmanis
PhD student
I am a marine biologist with a special interest in shark behaviour and conservation. My research in shark ecology, behaviour and genetics focuses on the role of sharks as regulators of tropical and temperate ecosystems across the Indian Ocean.
This research involves studying a variety of shark species and their prey to discover the implications of reduced shark populations in our oceans, and to determine the relative health of sharks in the Indian Ocean. I attained a Bachelor of Science with distinction in ecology and a Bachelor of Arts in mandarin from Queensland University of Technology. Following on from this, my research on shark and ray biomechanics earned me a Bachelor of Science (Honours I) degree from the University of Queensland. My research will highlight the importance of sharks in our oceans.
Marjorie Fernandes
PhD student
Pelagic (open-water) marine ecosystems are the largest marine environment on Earth. A key ecological component of pelagic systems are their sharks and fishes. My research will explore spatial ecology and behaviour of sharks and fishes using observations from two large marine protected areas (MPAs), the Chagos Marine Reserve and the Palau Shark Sanctuary.
I will be looking at spatial structure and behaviour patterns relating to environmental and habitat characteristics, regarding three pelagic ecosystems key components: (1) juveniles fishes; (2) forage species, and (3) top predators. I will use an innovative, non-destructive and fishery-independent approach, remote underwater camera system to sample pelagic fish and shark. By improving our understanding of how pelagic species use the environment, it will also contribute to improved MPA design.

6th June 2016 – Olivia Spencer, Plymouth University

Olivia SpencerI’m an MSc student at Plymouth University (UK) studying marine science. This represents something of a sea change in my career plans; my undergraduate degree was in Zoology and focused on terrestrial species, communities and their biology. Like many others who graduated in the recession I found it was a tough and overcrowded job market, and after several volunteering stints I decided to change tack and go back to university – a decision I’ve never regretted! My academic background has led to diverse research interests both terrestrial and marine, and I’m currently studying the effects membership of the European Union has had on marine environmental quality and policy in its member states for my dissertation project. I’m also very interested in marine climate change and will hopefully be joining a research training transect studying this topic in November.

This week I’m hoping to spark some discussions. I’ll talk a little about current marine environmental issues, employability, and career paths. I tweet about all things marine over at @netofwonder if you would like to follow me after the week.

9th May 2016 – The Wytham Tit Project, University of Oxford

Wytham titsThe Wytham Tit Project is a long-term population study of great tits (Parus major) and blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) based at Wytham Woods near Oxford, UK, and is run by the Edward Grey Institute in the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford. The project was set up in 1947 by John Gibb and David Lack, inspired by pioneering work by Kluijver in the Netherlands, in order to study the breeding biology of the great tit. Tits make excellent study species for ecological research as they readily take to artificial nest boxes, breed at high densities and cope well with being monitored. Lack initially put up 100 nest boxes in one section of Wytham Woods; the study was later expanded around 1960 to cover the entire 385-hectare woodland using over 1000 fixed location nest boxes. Over the last 57 years, we have monitored all the breeding attempts in these boxes and individually-marked all parents and offspring (spanning up to 40 generations), making this one of the longest running ecological studies of marked wild individual animals in the world.

Over these decades, scores of researchers, PhD students and undergraduates have used the Wytham tit system to explore a broad range of ecological questions, resulting in over 300 peer-reviewed publications. Some major themes of this work are (1) life-history biology, (2) response to climate change and the ecology of phenology (3) ecology and epidemiology of disease, (3) optimal foraging, (4) predator-prey interactions, (5) social behavior and spread of information through social networks, (6) the causes and consequences of individual variation in personality, and (7) quantitative and molecular genetics.

The 2016 breeding season is now well underway in Wytham Woods. Over 400 female tits have begun laying in our nest boxes and we expect another couple of hundred to start in the coming weeks. We already have our first hatchlings, which, over the next fortnight, will grow to c. 18 times their hatching weight before leaving the nest! Throughout the week we’ll be tweeting news and pictures from the woods (mainly tit-related but also other woodland activity) as well as facts, findings and videos about tit research. Tweeting will mainly be done by Dr Ella Cole (@EllaFCole, Research Fellow and tit project coordinator) and Prof Ben Sheldon (@Ben_Sheldon_EGI, Head of the Wytham Tit Project).

28th March 2016 – Rob Thomas, Cardiff University & Eco-explore

Rob Thomas photoI am a senior lecturer at Cardiff University, and co-director of Eco-explore (www.eco-explore.co.uk); a scientific research and engagement enterprise. My research interests in zoology, ecology and conservation stem from my origins as a birdwatcher in mid-Wales. My research group studies animal behaviour in changing environments, investigating the effects of climate on individuals, populations and ecological processes – particularly how such effects may be mediated by the behaviour of individual animals. The environmental changes that we study range from habitat destruction, long-term climate changes, through seasonal and daily changes, to the sudden appearance of a potential predator or an unfamiliar type of food. This work falls under four main headings, though there is plenty of overlap between these topics.

Climate change biology 

Focusing on several major study systems that use migratory birds as sensitive bio-indicators of climate-driven changes in trophic relationships.

  • The European Storm Petrel –the smallest Atlantic seabird
  • The Northern Wheatear –which has the most extreme trans-oceanic migration of any songbird
  • Reed-bed warblers (Reed Warblers and Sedge Warblers) –a pair of congeneric migrants with contrasting migration strategies
  • Pied Flycatchers and Barn Swallows –two model species in the study of climate impacts on migratory birds.

Sensory constraints on behaviour

  • Eye design in birds and visual constraints on behaviour
  • Impacts of light and noise pollution on wildlife

Dietary wariness and foraging ecology

  • Novel-food wariness in birds and fish, and its evolutionary consequences
  • Strategic regulation of energy reserves in wild birds

Impacts of human activities on wild animals

  • Impacts of capture and handling on birds and other animals
  • Practical conservation of populations, habitats and biodiversity hotspots in a changing world
  • Ecological impacts of eco-tourism

Scientific engagement work

My role in Eco-explore involves a range of scientific engagement work with schools, universities and NGOs. One of my special interests is the teaching of data analysis in a non-intimidating way, to empower amateur and professional researchers to explore the full potential of the data that they collect. I also run regular citizen-science expeditions and field courses in Portugal, Senegal and in the UK.

To find out more about my work at Cardiff University and Eco-explore, follow these links: