12th June 2017 – Angela Watkins, Welsh Government

Angela WatkinsHi Biotweeps!

I’m currently a civil servant with the Welsh Government, working as Biodiversity Policy Officer in our Land, Nature and Forestry team. I’ve been a civil servant for the last nearly 3 years after having completed my PhD at the University of Southampton in 2014. My role mainly involves developing and delivering biodiversity and nature policy and evidence across Wales and supporting others to do the same.  I’ll hopefully be able to share a bit of insight into what this means during my week ‘(wo)manning’ the Biotweeps account.

A bit of background about me: My PhD was in the field of computational ecology, but I actually completed an integrated PhD as part of the Institute of Complex Systems Simulation, so I don’t have an easy answer when people ask me what my PhD is in! Normally depending on the questioner I’ll either say ecology, or complexity and ecology. In a nutshell, my research involved using complex systems theory to develop a model(s) that could test questions about the relationship between landscape ecology (i.e. connectivity) and species persistence and movement in that landscape. To make this sound cooler, I essentially studied the way that jaguars moved around a fragmented habitat in central Belize. I’ll explain a bit more about this too if you are interested!

My main research interests lie in landscape ecology and resilience, (but will broaden to agent-based modelling, conservation, population ecology) but I am keen to link this with real, direct, on the ground policy decisions and implementation. How can we use our theoretical knowledge to deliver real change in terms of conserving and enhancing our biodiversity?

I’m also a wife and mother of two young girls aged (almost) 5 and 15 months, a passionate feminist and promoter of #womeninscience, naturally. Normally I can be found on twitter @ecologywatkins.

8th May 2017 – Vicki Tough, Sylvana Alta Ltd

Vicki ToughForest canopies provide some of the highest levels of biodiversity on the planet. They offer huge potential for research and exploration; however, accessing the high canopy continues to be an obstacle for scientists and researchers wishing to work in these areas. For the last nine years I have worked as a professional climber and abseiler, organising, leading and participating in research expeditions around the world. My focus is on canopy science and the technical methods required to reach high into the treetops.

My increasing interest in the these environments and their flora and fauna was first sparked during the remote rainforest research I undertook in the Ecuadorian Amazon during my Zoology degree at The University of Glasgow. Once graduated, I began work as a tree climbing instructor and industrial abseiler, switching between the botanical and concrete jungles of the world; learning how ropes and rigging can be used to experience, work and explore places at height. Working in these contrasting environments has given me an appreciation and understanding of a range of technical rigging solutions, as well as the importance of teamwork in often challenging conditions.

My current interests lie predominantly within forests, working to develop canopy research projects and assisting scientists in working at height in the tree tops. Advancements in equipment and technical knowledge over the past fifty years have opened up opportunities not only to access, but also to work safely and efficiently in these environments. I aim to bridge the gap between scientific research and working at height by combining these disciplines to develop successful climbing practices for research in forests around the world.

During my curatorial week I will be sharing tales of tree climbing expeditions whilst detailing the highs and lows of practical fieldwork in the treetops. For more information about the work I’m involved in, please take a look at my website www.sylvanaalta.com.  I look forward to talking with you all!

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.

30th January 2017 – Naima Montacer Hill, EnviroAdventures.com

naima-jeannetteNaima Jeannette is a passionate conservationist at heart. She currently teaches Environmental Biology at a community college in Dallas, Texas and freelance writes for various newspapers, magazines and online outlets. Naima has a Master of Science degree in Biology, with a focus on Wildlife, and completed a research thesis project on ringtails in Palo Duro Canyon State Park, located in the panhandle of Texas. Throughout her career she has been in the field as a scientist and environmental educator, and now focuses on being the communicative bridge between scientists and the general public. 

Here’s the real deal:

I grew up with a sense of wonder for the outdoors, so much so my first word was, “outside.” I never lost my enthusiasm for wildlife and wild spaces and grew my career following my passion. I’ve worked as a zookeeper, wildlife field research leader, teacher naturalist, environmental educator and in all of these roles I wanted to increase my knowledge and help others understand our connection to the natural world. It wasn’t until I started a blog that I found an outlet where I could reach people through written words. This inspired me to look toward science communication as an outlet to educate people about science and encourage everyone to practice conservation in their every day lives. My writing gives me the opportunity to meet and discuss conservation issues with scientists, private land owners, government employees, elected officials, and various community members. It is exciting to discover knew knowledge and translate often complicated science into easy to understand content every one can understand. 

I love everything outdoors from kayaking to hiking and am always up for a travel adventure with my two pups and husband. Let’s chat on Twitter, follow me @naimajeannette

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!

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

24th of October 2016 – Zarah Pattison, University of Stirling

zarah-pattisonHi! I am a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Stirling working on the effects of connectivity on the abundance and presence of E.coli in freshwater lochs/lakes across the UK. This work forms part of the Hydroscape project led by Stirling University and has a great variety of scientist working on all things freshwater. I have just submitted my PhD thesis which focused on the effect of changing environmental conditions on invasive alien plants and how this may impact native vegetation communities. Now I nervously await my PhD viva in December.

My academic life is a total contrast to my previous 10 year career as a make-artist. Whilst working full-time I studied through the Open University to get the qualifications I needed to start an undergraduate degree at Royal Holloway, University of London. It was here that I changed from Zoology to Ecology and fell in love with plants and microbes. I also completed a research masters degree at Royal Holloway, assessing the role of plant-soil feedbacks in the invasive alien plant, Impatiens glandulifera (Himalayan balsam).

It is safe to say that I am now hooked on research, fieldwork and plant ID (“weeds” preferentially). As a south African woman, fuelled by coffee, I try and get involved as much as possible in STEM outreach and hope that somewhere in the near future we can encourage more young girls (and boys) to enjoy science as much as we all do!

https://zarahsinthefield.wordpress.com/

https://hydroscapeblog.wordpress.com/about/