24th April 2017 – Danielle Gilroy, Operation Wallacea

Danielle GilroyI am a terrestrial research and operations officer at Operation Wallacea, based in the UK with offices worldwide, and carrying out conservation research in 15 different countries. I oversee of all the forest-based research and am also the Senior Scientist for our largest forest site, Cusuco National Park in Honduras. My main research interests are centred in evolutionary biology and using a combination of molecular and ecological tools to investigate how evolution shapes diversity in populations. I have always strived to carry out research with real conservation applications and I am helping Operation Wallacea’s sister charity, the Operation Wallacea Trust, to make use of our large spatial and temporal datasets from sites around the world to lever funds to best establish conservation practice and work towards protecting particularly vulnerable and highly biodiverse ecosystems.

My PhD at the University of East Anglia focussed on a particular conservation success story, the Seychelles warbler (Acrocephalus sechellensis). This endemic island passerine was once down to just 25 individuals on a single island in the Seychelles archipelago in the 1980s, but has since recovered due to a combination of science research integrated with effective island management. There are now over 3000 birds across five islands, 115 times what it was over three decades ago and importantly, we have learnt a lot by using this species as a model of evolutionary study. My thesis looked at the causes and consequences of functional variation within the bottlenecked source population of Seychelles warbler. I investigated how variation at genes critical in innate immune defence could influence individual fitness and a bird’s ability to fight disease, mainly avian malaria, and considered the long-term viability of the species by assessing its genetic health and predicting future changes under natural selection.

During my week, I will focus on our work at Operation Wallacea and present to you our ongoing conservation research across our many terrestrial and marine sites. I will also talk about the importance of molecular ecology as a relatively new and quickly-growing field and as an ornithologist, will no doubt mention birds at every opportunity I can. On a similar note, I will no doubt mention my rescue staffy dog Tia who often accompanies me on my birding adventures.

7th November 2016 – Julia Koricheva, Royal Holloway University of London

julia-korichevaHi everyone! I am a Professor of Ecology at Royal Holloway University of London, UK. I have started my scientific career in Russia (when it was still part of the Soviet Union) with BSc in Zoology/Entomology from St Petersburg State University. I did my PhD in Finland, at University of Turku in Prof. Erkki Haukioja’s research group. My PhD project was on effects of air pollution on interactions between birch trees and insect herbivores feeding on them.

My first postdoc was at University of Zurich in Switzerland in EU Project BIODEPTH which studied effects of grassland diversity on ecosystem functioning. Involvement in this project made me interested in biodiversity-ecosystem functioning research, and, after returning back to Finland, I have established a large-scale long-term Satakunta forest diversity experiment. It was one of the first forest diversity experiments initiated specifically to study effects of tree species and genetic diversity on forest ecosystem services and processes, and I still return to Finland every summer to conduct field work there.

My second postdoc at Swedish Agricultural University with Prof. Stig Larsson introduced me to meta-analysis and research synthesis. I became a big fan of meta-analytic approach and has been using it ever since to combine results of studies on various research topics in basic and applied ecology. I have also been teaching courses on meta-analysis in ecology for early career researchers around the world from Finland to Mexico, Brazil and Tasmania.

For the last 12 years I have been working at Royal Holloway where my research is focussing on three main areas: research synthesis and meta-analysis in ecology, forest diversity and ecosystem functioning, and plant-herbivore interactions. I am also involved in teaching a variety of field- and lab- based ecology courses at RHUL.

You can follow me on Twitter @KorichevaLab

Our forest diversity project website: www.sataforestdiversity.org

My website: https://pure.royalholloway.ac.uk/portal/en/persons/julia-koricheva(ab83b389-7258-48fd-8560-0c8de7b6c94a).html

19th September 2016 – Auriel Fournier, Arkansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, University of Arkansas

Auriel Fournier 2.jpgAuriel Fournier is a PhD Candidate with the Arkansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Arkansas. She got her start in birds and rails while growing up in northwest Ohio working with Black Swamp Bird Observatory. From there she received her B.S. in Wildlife Ecology and Management from Michigan Technological University in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and has been working on migratory bird questions ever since. She is passionate about wetlands, birds and trying to understand their migration while making the conservation and scientific communities studying them more diverse.



5th of August 2016 – Claire Asher, Freelance science communicator / Innovation officer for the London NERC DTP

Claire AsherI am a science communicator with a background in biology, ecology and evolution. I did my undergraduate degree at the University of Sussex, where I discovered a passion for evolutionary biology and animal behaviour. This led me to study for my masters in Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology at the University of Exeter before beginning my PhD at the University of Leeds in 2009. There I spent a fascinating, exciting and testing four years studying the behaviour and genetics of the giant Brazillian ant, Dinoponera quadriceps, also known as dinosaur ants. This project took me out to remote field sites in Brazil, and also into the lab and the incredibly fast-paced world of gene expression and sequencing.

During my PhD I discovered another passion – for communicating science. By getting involved in public engagement events, writing my own science blog (Curious Meerkat), and working on the BBC4 documentary, ‘Planet Ant’, I realised my real vocation in life is sharing the scientific world with others. I think my interests are too broad to work as a professional scientist, which requires you to focus so intensely on one small area. After my thesis was finally printed and bound, with nearly 5 years of blogging and unpaid writing experience, I felt ready to dive into the world of freelance science communication.

Or, wade in as far as the waist, at least. Since completing my PhD I’ve been splitting my time between freelance science writing, and a part-time job at University College London – first as Knowledge Transfer Officer for the Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research (CBER), and now as Innovation and Impact Officer for the London NERC DTP. These roles involve communicating science to a broad range of audiences, from the public to business, industry and policy-makers. Working closely with the PhD students of the DTP has been a particularly rewarding experience.

Although I spent years training to be a scientist, I’ve found that I’m much happier being ‘science adjacent’ – working as a science communicator allows me to learn about a huge variety of different topics, speak to lots of interesting people, and feed my insatiable curiosity about the natural world.

25th July 2016 – Sam Urmy, Stony Brook University

Sam UrmyI am a PhD candidate in Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University.  Broadly speaking, I’m interested in how marine animals move through and inhabit their environment–which is often unpredictable, patchy, and turbulent–and how the decisions of individuals lead to the distribution of populations.  To get at these questions, I use a mixture of remote sensing, modeling, and ecological theory.

My dissertation research is on the movement behaviors of common terns at Great Gull Island, NY, as they forage for  fish in the surrounding waters.  I use a scanning radar to track the terns, which lets me observe hundreds to thousands of birds at once without tagging them.  I also use active acoustics (i.e., scientific fishfinders) to map the distribution of the small fish the birds eat.  I have worked on other topics too, including zooplankton in mountain lakes, the distribution of juvenile pollock in the Bering Sea, and deep scattering layers in Monterey Bay.

Before coming to Stony Brook, I got a master’s degree in Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington, and a BS in Earth Systems at Stanford University.  I grew up in Brookline, MA, just outside of Boston.  When I’m not sciencing, I like cooking and eating food, reading, nature watching, and people watching.

You can read my blog, Oceanographer’s Choice, here, and follow me on Twitter @ElOceanografo.  If you would like to give me a job, my professional website is at http://www.ssurmy.net.

11th July 2016 – Dan Sankey, Swansea University

Daniel SankeySo I applied to take over the @Biotweeps twitter feed and they said yes! I’m completely stoked, so I’ve been getting inspired about some new ideas for a direction to take the feed in… Here is the biog I gave them:

As a keen early career researcher, fascinated by consensus decision making in animal groups, I thought it appropriate (and good fun) to create polls on the BIG questions in the Biosciences: a consensus from the experts! To rally enthusiasm, and to get a killer set of questions prepared, I have started sending out question requests to my followers, and this goes for you now too J. I am requesting questions of general interest and importance, to encourage discussion about critical topics in the biosciences.

For example, would the poll for the question: “How should money be distributed on conservation resources?” reflect the actual proportions in place? What can or should be done differently? I look forward to some healthy debate while I’m in the hot-seat.

To keep this side of my time on @Biotweeps relatively profound, I think one BIG question per day (with authors handle attached) should suffice, and hopefully get people thinking about their own core values, ethics and good science!

For the rest (95%) of my time I should be out in Chamois; France, tagging cattle to help @Richwithtea on his research project (in the name of movement ecology), and paying tribute to the cows too (by eating their tasty cheese! ). So expect loads of lush mountain views, and posts about interesting new science in behavioural ecology and beyond!