11th March 2019 – Hannah Brazeau, University of New Brunswick

Hannah Brazeau_2019I am a MSc student at the University of New Brunswick (Fredericton, NB, Canada) studying the effects of interspecific competition on pollinator-mediated selection of floral traits. More specifically, my thesis project uses fireweed to look at how floral traits associated with attraction of pollinators (such as floral scent) can change when an unrelated, highly attractiveplant species is growing nearby. This project allows me to combine concepts and methods used in plant community ecology, plant-pollinator interactions, and floral evolutionary biology, with a dash of chemistry thrown in for good measure.

Before starting my masters in Dr. Amy Parachnowitsch’s lab (@EvoEcoAmy on twitter), I completed my BSc in Biology at Algoma University (Sault Ste. Marie, ON, Canada). While at Algoma University, I completed an honours thesis on co-occurrence patterns and temporal stability in an old-field plant community under the supervision of Dr. Brandon Schamp (who now co-supervises my masters project). Prior to my BSc, I completed a three-year diploma in biotechnology at St. Lawrence College (Kingston, ON, Canada).

I’m a first generation student and particularly passionate about improving learning and research experiences for undergraduates, as well as communicating science through art. This will be my second time hosting Biotweeps, (previously hosted as @moietymouse) and I’m looking forward to talking to you all again!


22nd October 2018 – Katherine Raines, Univeristy of Stirling

Katherine RainesI have recently finished my PhD at the University of Stirling. My PhD investigated the effects of low dose chronic ionising radiation to bumblebees as part of the NERC Radioactivity and the Environment (RATE) programme.

My fieldwork involves visits to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and laboratory-based experiments to gain understanding as to what has happened to the wildlife over 30 years post-accident. The focus of my research has been at looking at life history endpoints in bumblebees such as reproduction and lifespan to understand if radiation dose rates found at Chernobyl cause damage to invertebrates. A development during my research resulted in a focus on the interactions between parasite infection and radiation dose rate both in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and in the laboratory.

Presently, I am preparing for my PhD viva and trying to put together a meta-analysis of the data on effects of radiation from research that we have undertaken during the programme on a range of different species.

I am just about to start a NERC knowledge exchange fellowship for the RATE programme. Pulling together all the research from across the wide-ranging programme and making it available for users such as regulators and governments. This research ranges from the physics and geology relating to the planning of the Geological Disposal Facility for high-level radioactive waste which has been proposed for the UK, the chemistry of how radionuclides move in the environment and in particular into human food chains and the biology of effects of radiation to wildlife.

Outside of academia, I love gardening, dressmaking and keeping two stepchildren off the Xbox by running around in the Scottish outdoors.

September 22nd 2014 – Lauren Sumner-Rooney, Queen’s University Belfast

Lauren Sumner RooneyI’m a final-year PhD student at Queen’s University Belfast studying invertebrate nervous systems. My thesis centres on sensory systems in marine invertebrates, but my research interests extend to all aspects of neurobiology, behaviour and their evolution across the Tree of Life. I like to use a multi-disciplinary approach to study sensory systems, incorporating techniques from anatomical, behavioural and physiological fields of biology. Given how complex these systems can be, I think this is the best way to examine their structure and function in their full biological context. My PhD has  focussed on sensory organs in deep sea molluscs (chitons, snails and scaphopods) and echinoderms (sea urchins and brittle stars), particularly photoreception and vision. This has included histology, electron microscopy, digital reconstructions, electrophysiology and behavioural experiments and I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Canada, Germany, Portugal and (soon) Panama for my research. I have also studied whole nervous systems and the evolutionary importance of their architecture, recently co-authoring a book chapter on this topic in the so-called minor classes of mollusc. Another important area of interest is the evolution of sensory and nervous systems, and their adaptation to new environments and challenges (think weird tubular fish-eyes and blind cave salamanders). During my Biotweeps week, I’ll be tweeting about weird and wonderful neurobiological and behavioural adaptations, as well as anything interesting that takes my fancy! Please feel free to ask me any questions, and I’ll do my best to answer them!