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.

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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.

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

26th November 2018 – Cecilia O’Leary, Stony Brook University

Cecilia OLearyI’m a quantitative ecologist and oceanographer. In general, I study marine animal size and age structures (what sizes and ages make up a population) & how environmental and biological processes drive this. We often call this field population dynamics. Lately, I’ve focused on the temporal population dynamics of fish and how climate influences those dynamics (i.e., how do fish numbers change over time?). I think about why we’re observing the number of fishes we see in the ocean, and if large-scale regional climate patterns can describe those changes in abundance. I’ve also studied marine mammals in the past.  I always try and tie my work back to the application of these findings. Often, that means how will a populations response to climate influence the effectiveness of our fisheries management. I enjoy studying both fisheries and marine mammals because of their direct ties to management and importance to the sociology and economy of many coastal places. I love field work and have been lucky enough to participate in fieldwork in the Florida Keys, Mojave Desert, Antarctica, and the Missouri River. The majority of my day to day work now is programming, primarily in #rstats. I’m also all about social change & inclusion in STEM, humanizing the Ph.D. process and the igniting open discussions about the struggles we face as students, and promoting women in STEM. Finally, I absolutely love to talk to students, especially young woman, about what life is actually like as a scientist, so feel free to contact me about speaking to your classroom! You can read more about me, my science work, and life as a woman in STEM here: https://rapidecology.com/2018/03/15/ecologist-spotlight-cecilia-oleary/

19th November 2018 – Elizabeth Franklin, University of Guelph

Liz FranklinMy name is Liz Franklin and I am an behavioural ecologist and entomologist. My passions are wide spreading but I generally come back to the behaviour of individuals and groups, particularly in the social insects (that’s ants bees and wasps). I studied ant behaviour for my PhD and now I study bumble bees again like in my undergraduate. I am originally from the UK but right now I am working at the University of Guelph in Canada as a post doctoral fellow working on a range of projects to understand how bumble bees use landscapes.

Next to doing science my next favourite thing is talking about it! I am a massive advocate of science communication and engage both in outreach for my work but also as a volunteer. Hopefully I can give some advice to those who are interested in this area.

Along with sci comms I hope to talk about the social insects, highlight some of the cool research going on out there, particularly in the realms of behaviour. I will give a shout out to bee diversity, test the waters of your bee knowledge and hopefully answer your burning social insect questions.

Look forward to speaking with you all!

22nd October 2018 – Katherine Raines, Univeristy of Stirling

Katherine RainesI have recently finished my PhD at the University of Stirling. My PhD investigated the effects of low dose chronic ionising radiation to bumblebees as part of the NERC Radioactivity and the Environment (RATE) programme.

My fieldwork involves visits to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and laboratory-based experiments to gain understanding as to what has happened to the wildlife over 30 years post-accident. The focus of my research has been at looking at life history endpoints in bumblebees such as reproduction and lifespan to understand if radiation dose rates found at Chernobyl cause damage to invertebrates. A development during my research resulted in a focus on the interactions between parasite infection and radiation dose rate both in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and in the laboratory.

Presently, I am preparing for my PhD viva and trying to put together a meta-analysis of the data on effects of radiation from research that we have undertaken during the programme on a range of different species.

I am just about to start a NERC knowledge exchange fellowship for the RATE programme. Pulling together all the research from across the wide-ranging programme and making it available for users such as regulators and governments. This research ranges from the physics and geology relating to the planning of the Geological Disposal Facility for high-level radioactive waste which has been proposed for the UK, the chemistry of how radionuclides move in the environment and in particular into human food chains and the biology of effects of radiation to wildlife.

Outside of academia, I love gardening, dressmaking and keeping two stepchildren off the Xbox by running around in the Scottish outdoors.