22nd May 2017 – Seth Barribeau, University of Liverpool

I’m an evolutionary ecologist who largely works on understanding how insects are able to do complicated things with what is generally considered a ‘simple’ immune system. Spoiler: it’s not that simple. I am fond of most animals, with the noticeable exceptions of ostriches (they have cruel, dead, eyes) and locusts (a childhood incident). I started out studying the what predisposes tadpoles to infection as a graduate student in New Zealand, and after a brief stint catching snakes, teaching English, and proof reading medical articles in Japan, moved on to studying aphids and fungus-growing ants at Emory University, and then bumblebees at the ETH in Zürich. After studying and postdoc-ing in several countries I recently started a position as the lecturer for eco-immunology at the Institute of Integrative Biology at the University of Liverpool.
My recent research has explored why aphids have a pretty rubbish immune system, why the costs of mounting an immune response differ among individuals, how diet influences the expression of immunity, how bumblebees respond differently to different genotypes of a common parasite, what makes immune memory, what does sociality do to the evolution of the immune system, and, most importantly, was Marvin Gaye right? Is there such a thing as sexual healing?

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

1st August 2016 – Martin Johnsson, Linköping University, Sweden

Martin JohnssonI am a postdoctoral researcher at Linköping University in Sweden. I am interested in the genetic basis of quantitative traits, in applying genomic tools to quantitative genetics, and in chicken domestication. That is, I use computers and pipettes to figure out what genes and genetic variants make domestic chickens different from wild chickens, and feral chickens different from both of them. I am also involved a bit with fruit fly and dog genetics.

Domestic animals have changed a lot from to their wild cousins. Just compare a domestic layer, broiler or fancy breed chicken to the Red Junglefowl, or a pug to a wolf. These evolutionary changes happened during the last 10 000 years — a few thousand less for the chicken, and a few more for the dog. Thus, domestic animals are great for studying genetic differences in traits. Populations and breeds are genetically different from each other, and from wild populations. Also, Red Junglefowl are still here, and can interbreed with domestic chickens, so that we can make crosses between them.

In our group, we work with a intercross of layer chickens and Red Junglefowl. Each individual carries a different mixture of domestic and Red Junglefowl variants. We then measure all kinds of traits that vary in the intercross population. For instance, we record body mass, reactions in different behavioural tests, gene expression in different tissues, and so on. Then we type them for a set of genetic markers, and find the markers that are associated with differences in traits. Thus, we build up a map of the genetic basis of chicken domestication.

During this week I will tweet about all of this. There will also be notes from the everyday business of research. At the time of writing this bio, I am not sure what I will be working on during the week, but laboratory selfies and an inordinate fondness for chicken combs is to be expected. See you on Twitter!

20th June 2016 – Luke Tilley, Royal Entomological Society

Luke TilleyLuke Tilley did his undergraduate biology degree at the University of Sheffield within the Animal and Plant Sciences Department. At Sheffield, Luke mainly focussed on whole-organism ecology and zoology, and he developed a devotion to insects and entomological research. He went on to do a PhD in entomology at the University of York, working on parasitic wasps as biocontrol agents for horticultural pests. During his time at York, his enthusiasm for insects continued to grow and he became the UK postgraduate representative for the Royal Entomological Society and organised student entomology conferences and public events, including the first Insect Festival in York which he continues to organise to this day.

After his PhD, Luke worked for several years as a research manager at Stockbridge Technology Centre (STC), North Yorkshire. At STC, he managed projects on invertebrate biodiversity, and horticultural and agricultural entomology. He also worked on educational projects and campaigns around Yorkshire. Whilst working at STC, Luke was elected a Fellow of The Royal Entomological Society and appointed National Insect Week (NIW) Coordinator. NIW is a biennial campaign, organised by the RES, the aim of the week is to remind everyone of the importance of insects and entomology in their everyday lives, achieved through a national programme of events and activities. Still at STC, Luke began to work as technical editor and editorial support for the scientific journal Ecological Entomology.

Since 2012, Luke has been the Director of Outreach and Development for the Royal Entomological Society. This role involves overseeing the external affairs of the RES to help achieve its principal aim of “the improvement and diffusion of entomological science”. Most of his time is spent organising events and campaigns, managing publications and outreach programmes, and giving talks. He also coordinates the educational and media activities of the Society. The next National Insect Week is 20 -26 June 2016, when the country will be encouraged to celebrate the “little things that run the world”.

November 16th 2015 – Sarah Paul, University of Exeter

Sarah PaulI am just finishing up my PhD at CEC Exeter. In final few months at the mo.


I am interested in the way that maternal effects mediate reproductive responses not only to natural environmental fluctuations but also to the myriad of anthropogenically driven environmental changes such as invasive species, pollution, pesticide use, and climate change.

I am currently investigating how reproduction, including maternal effects, in the aposematic UK native ladybird Adalia bipunctata is influenced by the invasive Harmonia axyridis and native Coccinella septempunctata ladybirds. I focus on alterations in per offspring maternal investment in chemical defence and signalling honesty, both of which influence offspring survival. The main aim of my research is to understand the intrinsic and extrinsic factors that affect the levels of toxins in individuals, and the costs and benefits associated with being toxic, and being exposed to toxins in the diet within an intraguild predation system.

Research page:

Other science stuff:

I’ve been involved in a heap of outreach events, mostly in my first and second years. I started my PhD after a 4 yr undergrad at Cardiff with a NERC funded placement year at Silwood Park and then two years of various paid research assistant jobs. Interested in pure and applied science.

September 7th 2015 – Megan Shersby, Naturalist

Megan ShersbyUnlike many of the contributors to Biotweeps, I’m not in academia though I read BSc(Hons) Animal Science at Aberystwyth University and have considered doing a Masters in the future.  Instead, I work in environmental education and community engagement – namely talking to people about nature.

I am a naturalist. Not an expert (yet!), but an enthusiast who is  inspired by the natural world around me and trying to learn as much as possible, about as much as possible. Unlike many of my contempories, I somehow skipped being a birder and gone straight to insects. That isn’t to say I do not like birds, on the contrary, I love them! But if I attempt to go birdwatching, I inevitably get distracted by insects! Moths are a particular favourite of mine, as they are underappreciated by many but are endlessly fascinating.

I am of the firm believer that we all started out as naturalists, children are inevitably curious about the world around them, and it is only as we grow older that (some of) us lose that curiousity and interest. Sometimes it is due to other distractions, sometimes it is due to peer pressure. However, that spark of joy can be rediscovered within ourselves. Whether it is listening to birdsong, watching a caterpillar eating or viewing the change across seasons, we can reconnect with nature and welcome back our young naturalists into our hearts.

I’ll mainly be tweeting about the following topics, which are close to my heart, but I may also venture into other areas of discussion:

  • wildlife, particularly the moths of course
  • the difficult path to getting a career in conservation
  • young people and nature
  • the benefits of connecting with nature

You can find me on Twitter: @MeganShersby, WordPress: mshersby.wordpress.com and YouTube.

August 3rd 2015 – Biotweeps first birthday! Featuring Anthony Caravaggi, Holly Kirk, Lauren Sakowski, Adam Hayward, and Vic Metcalfe


An awesome microscope cake by Doughking.

Has it really been one year already? Apparently so.

If I’m entirely honest, when I decided to create Biotweeps, though I had ambitions for it to become a long-running science communication project, I had considerable doubts about whether it would get off the ground. I had put in a decent amount of groundwork with regards to promotion and contacting potential contributors, but I was still sceptical. Then people started signing up. The first few months were full within no time, and, as the schedule filled, I became more optimistic that it might – just might – reach its first birthday. It turns out that we made it, and comfortably at that.

The first year hasn’t been perfect, of course. There are numerous things that I, personally, could probably have done better. Fortunately, the feedback from contributors and followers has been overwhelmingly positive so perhaps I’m being too hard on myself. That said, expanding the international audience and getting contributors from other countries are high on my ‘to-do’ list (if you’d like to help out in this regard, please do get in touch), along with possibly starting one or two associated projects. But more on those in the fullness of time.

It behooves me, then, to thank all the contributors for taking the time to talk about their science and interests, and our followers, who grow in number on a daily basis. The project was conceived for you, and I’m so glad that you’re all making the most of it. Specific thanks to @CarinaDSLR for her support early-on, and @MCeeP and @smiffy for their contributions.

To celebrate our first birthday, we’re having a slightly different week, here on Biotweeps. Instead of one contributor, we have 5, one on each week day. You can read more about this weeks Biotweeps, below.

Thanks again for your support.

Monday – Anthony Caravaggi, Queen’s University Belfast

Anthony Caravaggi 1I am a third-year PhD candidate at Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland, where I’m studying hares; more specifically, the invasive European hare (Lepus europaeus) and its potential impacts on the endemic Irish hare (L. timidus hibernicus). You can view the QUB project page here, or the project Facebook page, here. You can follow/contact me on Twitter at @thonoir, or via other social media which are linked on my website.

My research interests include invasive species ecology, population ecology, biodiversity conservation, community ecology, animal communication and behavioural ecology. I am a keen supporter of science communication and as such I am a UK STEM ambassador, founded the curated Twitter account Biotweeps, and took part in the outreach project I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here in 2013.

Tuesday – Holly Kirk, Oxford University

Holly KirkHolly is studying seabird migration and behavioural ecology. She has spent the last four years working with UK seabirds as part of her DPhil in the Department of Zoology, Oxford University. She uses a range of biologging methods (GPS, geolocation and TDR) to track the movement and behaviour of several seabird species, including puffins, razorbills, guillemots and kittiwakes.

Holly’s current work is on the migration behaviour of the Manx shearwater,Puffinus puffinus. The focus of her study is on how the timing and outcome of different parts of the annual cycle influence behaviour in subsequent years. For more information about her current work go tohttp://oxnav.zoo.ox.ac.uk/hollykirk

Wednesday – Lauren Sakowski, freelance writer (formerly of Nemours Biomedical Reasearch)

Lauren Sakowski

I attended Mount St. Mary’s University and University of Delaware and have a background in molecular biology and neuroscience. I began freelancing in the summer of 2014 and have been freelancing full time since the spring of 2015. My main area of interest is inflammation in the central nervous system and how it ties into neurological disorders (neurodegenerative diseases and depression/anxiety).

Thursday – Adam Hayward, University of Edinburgh

Adam HaywardI’m interested in understanding why animals of the same species seem to vary so much. Why are some bigger than others? Why do some live longer? Why are some so susceptible to infections? Is this variation due to genetic differences or variation in the environment? Animals have limited energy which they must divide between growing, reproducing, rearing offspring and immunity to parasites. These characteristics all affect the number of offspring they produce, and through natural selection, genetic variation in such characteristics leads to evolution. In wild populations, animals vary hugely in how  many parasites they harbour. I’m an evolutionary ecologist by training, and have spent time doing fieldwork on sheep on a remote Scottish island, and on elephants in the Burmese jungle. I find the struggle between parasites and their hosts absolutely fascinating, and the diversity of life-cycles that parasites have evolved truly  staggering. I’m looking forward to talking about how hosts and parasites are continually evolving to get on top and how studies in the wild can help us to understand these interactions better.

Friday – Vic Metcalf, Lincoln University

Victoria MetcalfI’m a marine biologist/geneticist living in New Zealand and mad keen on studying fish and shellfish. I am researching the effects of increases in temperature, ocean acidification and pollution because the effects of climate change are something we should all worry about. I’m also fascinated by epigenetics and the role of the microbiome. I work part-time, mum full-time and am also incredibly interested in the science of parenting.

I’m a very committed science communicator in the form of community and school/teacher presentations, social media, blogging, media articles and involvement in science festivals. I really want to excite the public about science, especially from a young age. You can find me on Twitter at @VicMetcalf_NZ, my parenting blog, Parenting by Instinct, and my science blog athttp://sciblogs.co.nz/icedoctor/