2nd April 2018 – Kevin Burgio, University of Connecticut

Kevin BurgioKevin R. Burgio is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Connecticut. He is currently collaborating with researchers from a variety of disciplines, including: ecology, journalism, education, and communications to create effective science communication training, as well as the tools needed to evaluate the effectiveness of training in an NSF-funded project.

When not working on science communication, he is an integrative ecologist and conservation biologist with a range of interests and received his PhD from the University of Connecticut in 2017. He is most interested in the mechanisms of species range limitations and how disturbance (climate change and habitat fragmentation) influences species distribution patterns and extinction processes. With a better understanding of how species adapt and move when responding disturbance, he hopes to help bridge the divide between ecological theory and on-the-ground conservation in order to make the best possible decisions not just for now, but for the future as well. Though he focuses on parrots, he has published on a wide variety of topics and taxonomic groups, ranging from bats, Tasmanian tigers, parasites, to the extinct Carolina parakeet.

In addition to research, he is a first-generation college student, a military veteran, a single father, and a member of the LGBT+ community. In his spare time, he listens to punk music (and created the #punkinSTEM hashtag), restores vintage furniture and cookware, plays with his cat, and has an exotic plant & orchid collection. You can visit his website kevinburgio.com and follow him on Twitter @KRBurgio. His CV can be found here: K.R. Burgio CV.

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29th May 2017 – Rutger Vos, Naturalis Biodiversity Center

Rutger VosMy name is Rutger Vos, and I am computational evolutionary biologist at the natural history museum of the Netherlands, Naturalis. My educational background is in evolutionary biology, most especially in phylogenetics, i.e. the field of biology that concerns itself with researching the Tree of Life. For my PhD research, it became clear that I needed to handle amounts of tree and alignment data that were unmanageable to do ‘by hand’ on a normal computer, so I taught myself programming and how to use high-performance computing systems.
One thing led to another and I ended up doing my postdocs as a contributor to various infrastructures having to do with phylogenetics, most notably the CIPRES (http://www.phylo.org) project and TreeBASE (http://www.treebase.org) – but also projects having to do with data standards and data sharing in biology. ‘Open Science’, basically.
Meanwhile, the high-throughput DNA sequencing (NGS) revolution was starting to spit out more and more genomes, with which I started to play around. So much so that by the time Naturalis started looking for a bioinformatician to contribute to the NGS projects that were going on over there I could plausibly apply for a position.
At Naturalis I’ve become involved in a lot of different projects, all of which have bioinformatics or computational biology in common but are otherwise very broad-ranging. I’ve had the good fortune to be able to work with many of the kinds of data, information and knowledge that circulate in a natural history museum. For example, apart from DNA I’m also analyzing image data from our specimen digitization efforts, scanned texts, and species traits and distributions.
On Twitter (@rvosa) I let out my interest in ‘unnatural history’. It’s a totally vague term that I’ve adopted to look at and talk about the cultural ways in which we interact with nature. I mean things like art about nature; the way we, biologists, do science about nature; how we as a species are colliding with biodiversity because of our actions. By the way, I later found out there’s also a book called ‘Unnatural History’. I haven’t read it but it looks neat and it looks like it’s partly about the same topic.