5th February 2018 – Morgan Jackson, University of Guelph

Morgan JacksonHi! I’m Morgan Jackson (@bioinfocus), and I’ll be your BioTweeps host for the week. To poorly paraphrase a classic Steve Miller Band song,

I’m an entomologist, I’m a taxonomist
I’m an educator, and I’m a science communicator
I do my research in a museum
I’m a PhD Candidate, I’m a father
I’m a terrible songwriter
and I want to share it all with you (woooooo woooooo).

I work in the University of Guelph Insect Collection on the taxonomy and systematics of flies. I’m fascinated by biodiversity, and have spent the last decade trying to figure out the identity, names, and relationships of species of stilt-legged flies (family Micropezidae) from around the world by spending most of my time either in front of a computer (aligning and analyzing DNA data) or in front of a microscope (aligning and analyzing morphological data). The species that I primarily work on are found throughout Central and South America, where they’ve gone largely unnoticed and unstudied. By giving them names and placing them onto the larger Tree of Life I hope to raise their profile (even just teeny, tiny bit) and allow other scientists and naturalists to observe, identify, and make new discoveries about their natural history, behaviour, and biology.

Most of my research is dependent on specimens archived and cared for in natural history museums around the world, and I’ve been lucky enough to visit dozens of collections to explore the hidden treasures they keep safe. Museums and natural history collections are my happy place, and I’m just as likely to geek out over cabinets and cases as I am the incredible biodiversity contained within them. Needless to say, I’m a big advocate for museums and natural history collections, and love reading about and sharing collections-based research.

So what are we going to talk about this week? All things entomological. Got a bug you want to know more about, or a photo of something you’ve seen but didn’t know what it was? Send it along and we’ll figure it out. Curious whether there are still species left to discover (spoiler: yes, plenty), or why taxonomists are constantly changing the names of species just as you’ve learned them? We’ll talk about all those things, plus how social media & smart phones are opening up new opportunities for natural history research. And seeing as I’m currently teaching the very university course that got me hooked on insects, expect to learn alongside my students as I prepare my lectures, and I’ll share my experiences as an early career scientist learning what it takes to plan, prepare, and teach a course that covers 50% of Earth’s known biodiversity.

Strap in and get those insect questions read; it’s gonna be a buggy ride!

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15th January 2018 – Meaghan Pimsler, University of Alabama

Meaghan Pimsler2Meaghan L. Pimsler is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Alabama working with Dr. Jeff Lozier to integrate physiological, morphological, population genetic, and transcriptomic approaches to study the factors shaping adaptation in native pollinators.  She earned her PhD from in the Department of Entomology at Texas A&M University, where she used de novo transcriptomics to investigate sexual dimorphism and behavioral ecology in an invasive blow fly with a unique and poorly understood sex determination mechanism. She received her BS in entomology from Cornell University in 2007, and subsequently spent three years in Okinawa, Japan working at two high schools as an English teacher.

After recuperating sufficiently from the rigors of her undergraduate education, she began her postgraduate journey with Dr. Jeffery K. Tomberlin and Dr. Aaron M. Tarone in 2010. Meaghan has had a deep and abiding love of arthropods her entire life, and determined at the age of four that she would be an entomologist. She helped found entomology clubs in both high school and college, and has helped organize many entomology themed outreach and enrichment events, including working with the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History on their BugFest, and with Cornell University’s Entomology Department on their Open House.

Meaghan is particularly experienced in the field of forensic entomology, and this has led to a certification in Crime Scene Investigation with Texas Engineering and Extension Services; teaching at workshops for federal, state, and local law enforcement groups; several national and international trips to give invited seminar talks; the opportunity to coordinate symposia at the 2013 and 2014 Entomological Society of America annual meetings as well as the 2016 International Congress of Entomology; and her election to Treasurer of the North American Forensic Entomology Association. Meaghan’s current passion, outside of her research, is science policy. After joining the organizing committee for the March for Science- Birmingham, AL, she was selected as an Entomological Society of America Science Policy Fellow in the Class of 2017. She looks forward to talking with you about entomology, bumble bees, bioinformatics, statistics, science policy, and anything else you might be interested in.

27th November 2017 – Patrice Jones, University of Newcastle

Patrice JonesHi Biotweeps,

I’m Patrice Jones (@patricerubyj) – a current PhD candidate at the University of Newcastle (Australia) with a research interest in environment-gene interactions in nutrition. My PhD focuses on UV-sensitive vitamins, and aims to examine the potential influences our UV-environment and genes may have in modifying the role of vitamins in health and disease. This involves studying how exposure to UV may stimulate both the production and degradation of important vitamins, and how genetics may influence how we respond to these vitamins in our diet (nutrigenetics). This research is interdisciplinary and allows me to regularly collaborate with researchers in other fields such as biomedical sciences, chemistry, physics and anthropology.

I completed a bachelor’s degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Newcastle in 2015 and this background has shaped me into the ultimate ‘foodie’ – studying now as a nutrition scientist but still putting my food science knowledge into being an enthusiastic baker in my free time. Food is a central part of all our lives (everyone eats!) so part of the excitement of studying nutrition is that anyone can grasp aspects of my research. However nutrition can be an area of great confusion, with a flood of information available. The expression “make your science digestible” is hilariously relevant when you’re nutrition scientist, but part of being in this area for me has increasingly become about helping people navigate this space by communicating the science!

But I am not only about communicating the science within my field! I am a growing advocate for science outreach that promotes and inspires others in all STEMM paths. Being a first year PhD candidate, my list of #scicomm contributions is small but increasing! This year I have had the opportunity to write a science-based article for Lateral Magazine, be a key organiser of local Pint of Science Newcastle 2017 and act as a mentor at my university for students considering study in STEMM.

During my week hosting Biotweeps, I will also be attending the 10th Asia Pacific Conference of Clinical Nutrition in Adelaide (Australia), so expect lots of discussion on emerging research, as well as discussions into my current research area and a lot of nutrition/food myth busting.

20th November 2017 – Brit Garner, University of Montana; SciShow Psych

Brit GarnerBrit Garner holds a B.S. in zoology from the University of Florida with a minor in wildlife ecology and conservation and M.S. in marine biology from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Projects during her undergraduate and graduate degrees included phylogeography of brown darters and an endemic West Virginia snail, invasive herpetology in the Everglades, shark attack risk assessments in Volusia County, Florida, and ancient DNA analysis of seals and sea lions from Alaska. After spending a semester as an adjunct professor in North Carolina teaching both biology and human anatomy & physiology, she moved to Montana in 2013 and spent a year in the MFA program for science and natural history filmmaking at Montana State University. Despite enjoying creating videos and video content, Brit found herself missing the applied sciences, and transferred to the University of Montana in the spring of 2015, where she is currently a PhD student in wildlife biology. Though Brit has an academic background in conservation genetics and marine biology, she has recently expanded her research to include Big Data analytics for conserving global biodiversity. Some examples of these applications include using machine learning algorithms and text mining to find patterns in IUCN Red List decisions and using data visualizations to provide managers with prioritization schemata. While at MSU, Brit solidified her passion for using video as a medium for science communication, and found a professional outlet for this passion in Missoula through the Complexly family of content on YouTube, where she now hosts SciShow Psych. In her free time, Brit enjoys performing in musical theatre, tutoring, teaching, and engaging in other science communication efforts via avenues like Letters to a Pre-Scientist, Skype a Scientist, We Are Montana in the Classroom Role Models program, and a local non-profit she founded in 2017- the Missoula Interdisciplinary Science League (MISL).

13th November 2017 – Brittany N. Lasseigne, HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology

Brittany LasseigneBrittany Lasseigne, PhD, is a Senior Scientist in the lab of Dr. Richard Myers at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology and a 2016-2017 Prevent Cancer Foundation Fellow. Dr. Lasseigne received a BS in Biological Engineering from the James Worth Bagley College of Engineering at Mississippi State University and a PhD in Biotechnology Science and Engineering from The University of Alabama in Huntsville. As a graduate student, she studied the role of DNA methylation and copy number variation in cancer, identifying novel diagnostic biomarkers and prognostic signatures associated with kidney cancer. In her current position, Dr. Lasseigne’s research focus is the application of genetics and genomics to complex human diseases. Her recent work includes the identification of gene variants linked to ALS, characterization of gene expression patterns in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and development of non-invasive biomarker assays. Dr. Lasseigne is currently focused on integrating genomic data, functional annotations, and patient information with machine learning across complex diseases to discover novel mechanisms in disease etiology and progression, identify therapeutic targets, and understand genomic changes associated with patient survival. Based upon those analyses, she is building tools to share with the scientific community. She is also passionate about science education and community outreach.

30th October 2017 – Emilie Novaczek, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Emilie NovaczekEmilie is a PhD candidate with Memorial University’s Marine Geomatics Research Lab in St. John’s, Newfoundland. She studies marine biogeography and seafloor mapping to inform conservation planning. To date, there has been little data available to study the interactions between climate change, seafloor habitat, and marine species distributions. For example, we still have better maps of the surface of the moon, Mars, and Venus than the vast majority of the Earth’s seafloor. Emilie’s research brings together many data sources, like navigational depth soundings from fishing vessels, to build better maps of Newfoundland’s seafloor geomorphology, sediment types, and associated habitats. She uses this information to investigate changes in marine species distribution on the Newfoundland Shelf since 1995, and to predict future shifts based on potential seafloor habitat and climate change projection.

As a conservation biologist, Emilie is very interested in environmental policy, and her research is often linked to management; recent projects include habitat mapping within a Marine Protected Area to assess capacity to meet conservation objectives, and mapping nearshore habitat of Atlantic Wolffish, one of few marine fish listed by the Canadian Species at Risk Act.  Outside of the GIS lab, Emilie is a scientific diver with experience ranging from Carribean coral reef restoration to specimen collection for biodiversity and fisheries studies in the Canadian Arctic. Emilie volunteers as a diver and interpreter for the Petty Harbour Mini Aquarium, a non-profit catch-and-release aquarium focused on hands-on ocean education for all ages, and as a research mentor for the Oceans Learning Partnership.

9th October 2017 – Nafisa Jadavji, Carleton University

Nafisa JadavjiDr. Nafisa M. Jadavji is a Neuroscientist. Currently, she is postdoctoral fellow researcher and instructor at Carleton University and the University of Ottawa, in Ottawa, Canada. She completed her doctoral training at McGill University in Montréal, Canada and postdoctoral training at the Charité Medical University in Berlin, Germany.  Her post-doctoral research focuses on understanding how dietary and genetic deficiencies in one carbon metabolism, specifically, folate metabolism, affects neurological function over the lifespan using a mouse model. Her research has been published in Behavioural Brain Research, Biochemical Journal, Neuroendocrinology, Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, Human Molecular Genetics, European Journal of Neuroscience, Journal of Pediatric Reviews, Neural Regeneration Research, Environmental Epigenetics, Neurobiology of disease, and Neuroscience. Dr. Jadavji has been funded by the Federation of European Neuroscience Society (Europe), NeuroWIND (Germany), Canadian Association for Neuroscience, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, National Science & Engineering Research Council (Canada), International Brain Research Organization, Parkinson’s disease Foundation (US), Burroughs Wellcome Fund (US) and Fonds de la recherché en santé Québec (Canada). She is a regular reviewer for the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism, Neurotoxicity Research, Journal of Molecular Medicine and Neuroscience. Currently, Dr. Jadavji is an Editorial member for Updates in Nutritional Disorders and Therapy and JSM Nutritional Disorders Journals. She is also the Chair of the Board of Directors for the Journal of Young Investigators (JYI) and a board member of the Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences.