29th July 2019 – Minnesota Invasive Terrestrial Plants & Pests Center, University of Minnesota

Entomology -- InsectsThe Minnesota Invasive Terrestrial Plants & Pests Center (MITPPC) is a University of Minnesota research center generating practical, science-based solutions to protect prairies, forests, wetlands and agricultural resources from harm by invasive species. The Center grants funding to faculty working on prioritized invasive insects, weeds and pathogens in the region.

The MITPPC works with experts in agronomy, forestry, robotics engineering, veterinary epidemiology and many other areas. We encourage innovation and interdisciplinary study by drawing from the diverse talents of the entire University of Minnesota system. Our researchers also form community and research partnerships to bring new developments into management use.

MITPPC was officially established by the Minnesota State Legislature in 2014, and its mission is funded by the state’s Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative and Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources.

You can learn more about the MITPPC, terrestrial invasive species, and over 20 research projects online at https://mitppc.umn.edu/

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!



17th of October 2016 – Corey Krabbenhoft, Wayne State University

corey-krabbenhoftGreetings! I am originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico. I got started in biology right out of high school when I worked at the Albuquerque zoo with the dromedary camels. I found out I loved being outside and working with animals and so when I started at the University of New Mexico I decided to study biology. While there, I took an Ichthyology class and absolutely fell in love with the study of fish. I’ve been working with them ever since.

I received my B.S. and M.S. from the University of New Mexico. My master’s thesis was on the role of young-of-year fish in dryland river food webs. Not much is known about the specific role of larval and juvenile fishes in aquatic food webs, especially in arid rivers. I used gut contents, stable isotopes, and aquatic invertebrate communities to describe their contribution to trophic dynamics. Although I’ve moved out of the desert since then, I still have a soft spot in my heart for desert rivers. After a brief stint as a technician at Texas A&M, I am now in the third year of my PhD at Wayne State University in Detroit. My dissertation work is on the invasive round goby in the tributaries of the Great Lakes. The focus of my work is on the impact goby have on native fish communities and how to predict their invasion based on environmental variables. Beside my ‘formal’ education, I have had the opportunity to study and conduct research in various places across the globe including Costa Rica, Panama, Mongolia, and most recently, Puerto Rico. But more on that later.

When I am not wrapped up in grad school, you can find me entertaining my spoiled yellow lab, Lucy. My partner and I spend a lot of time at the dog park and the lake getting her the exercise she likes. She lets us think we are in charge sometimes, but we all know who the head of household is. Other than that, we spend a lot of our time collecting and processing wild foods from our yard or surrounding area which so far include walnuts and walnut syrup; raspberry jam, wine, and tea; sumac for za’atar and sumac-ade; dandelion wine; and various types of beer (though most of those ingredients are purchased). Biology has also translated into a great hobby for the both of us (he is in biology as well) as we integrate conservation and sustainability into our daily lives.

I look forward to contributing to BioTweeps and hope to have some great discussions. If you’re interested in keeping up with me, find me @ckrabb.

15th of August 2016 -Erin Spencer, Ocean Conservancy, National Geographic

Erin SpencerErin Spencer is a science communicator and National Geographic Explorer who uses photography and writing to share stories of community-based invasive species management around the world. A two-time National Geographic Young Explorer Grantee, Erin’s work primarily focuses on innovative responses to invasive lionfish in the Western Atlantic and Caribbean.

In 2014, Erin launched the Invasive Species Initiative, a website that uses digital storytelling to share grassroots approaches to invasive species management. The project aims to educate followers about the impacts of invasive species and provide them with tangible tools they can use to combat invasives in their own communities. Since the project’s launch, a number of organizations have used and/or funded her work, including NBC Universal, The New York Times, National Geographic, and CBS Sunday Morning. Her travels have taken her from Florida to Fiji, including a cross-country train trip with the Millennial Trains Project looking at invasive species management throughout the American south.

Erin graduated with honors from the College of William and Mary in 2014 with a major in Applied Ecology and a minor in Marine Science. She is currently based in Washington, D.C. and is a Digital Outreach Coordinator for the Ocean Conservancy. Erin tries to spend the majority of her “free time” writing and speaking about invasives, mentoring young women in STEM, and daydreaming about her next project. Follow along on Twitter and Instagram @etspencer, or on www.invasivespeciesinitiative.com.

Have a cool story about invasive species management? Contact the Invasive Species Initiative at etspencer14@gmail.com!

30th May 2016 – Sally Faulkner, Queen Mary University

Sally FaulknerI spent most of my twenties, running round the world, testing my parents sanity to the brink with harebrained hippy ideas and avoiding any sort of responsibilities. All of a sudden reality hit home – I don’t remember the impact – all I knew I was suddenly applying for university, aged 30 3/4. I haven’t actually left university since. I did my undergraduate degree in Zoology, a masters in Primatology, and I am currently in my 2nd (maybe…they all seem to merge into one when you don’t have a summer holiday) year of my 4 year PhD. I have been on a steep learning curve over the last 6 years. I had never really used computers before, let alone opened an excel spread sheet and now I spend my days coding spatial models and actually understanding it – mostly. I was very lucky to be able to spend three seasons (May to August) living and working in the Indonesian tropics – mostly chasing small, elusive, nocturnal primates and trying to avoid reticulated pythons and bird eating spiders. It was my first real scientist job, and I got a thrill every time I was introduced to the students as the tarsier scientist.  But thats all behind me now, I am now a computer scientist and people send me data that they have collected whilst avoiding near death experiences in dangerous places. I use a method called geographic profiling. It is a technique commonly used in criminology to locate serial killers, arsonists and rapists. We are applying this technique to biological data sets – sources of invasive species,  disease outbreaks, animal roosts (for example: small, elusive nocturnal primates) to name a few. It has also been used to locate and identify Banksy from the location of his art.

Follow me @Tarsiussallius

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.

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/