23rd October 2017 – Alyson Brokaw, Texas A&M University

Alyson BrokawI am a third year PhD student in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Doctoral Degree Program at Texas A&M University. Broadly, I am interested in sensory ecology and animal communication, with a focus on bats. As a diverse group with over 1300 species, bats are a great system to investigate a range of ecological and evolutionary questions. It doesn’t hurt that they are also cute (#TeamBat)!

 I work in the Smotherman lab, where we study the ecology and neurobiology of bats (www.smothermanbatlab.com). Recent work in the lab has focused on singing and communication signals in Mexican free-tailed bats, networking strategies in groups of bats, neurological and muscular control of bat ecology, and territoriality and singing behavior in African bats. For my dissertation I am exploring how bats use olfaction for foraging, communication and navigation. I plan to address these topics using a combination of neurophysiology, histology, lab and field based behavioral experiments.

 I got my start in field ecology research as an undergraduate student at Cornell University, working with tree swallows in the Winkler lab. I also have a Master’s degree from Humboldt State University, where I studied the communication signals in Yuma myotis (a common small brown bat found in the western United States). I have been involved in field work on swallows in Argentina, cuckoos in Arizona, coyote and kit fox in Utah, migratory tree bats in California and leaf-nosed bats in Mexico.

 As a bonus, I am hosting Biotweeps at the same time as Bat Week (batweek.org), so expect lots of discussions about bat ecology, evolution and conservation, with as well as a mix of personal experience, outreach, #scicomm and #phdlife.

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20th February 2017 – Shelby Bohn, University of Regina

shelby-bohnI’m a MSc. student at the University of Regina, in Saskatchewan, Canada. The research I’m doing for my thesis explores habitat selection priorities of female silver-haired bats during the breeding season. These bats have a huge energy investment (raising pups) over a relatively short period of time, so the habitat they choose not only reflects a decision made on an energetic budget, but also gives us a hint at the type of habitat we might conserve for this species. During my fieldwork, I mist netted, radio tracked, and recorded characteristics of roost trees where bats chose to spend their days. I’m writing my thesis right now, and planning to start a PhD in 2018!

Before U of R, I did my undergraduate degree and honours thesis at the University of Winnipeg, in Manitoba, Canada. I studied how little brown bats with White Nose Syndrome differ in their behaviour from healthy little brown bats. I analyzed video from bat hibernation in captivity and noticed that infected individuals were less likely to groom or drink water, which is characteristic of a “sickness behaviour” response to illness.

Since starting research, I’ve gotten really excited about science communication (#SciComm). I love giving talks to public groups about my research, and bats in general. When I’m not writing or talking to strangers about bats (often) I’m making art while listening to feminist pop culture podcasts or dreaming about petting dogs. This week, I’m looking forward to talking about small mammal behaviour and physiology, my fieldwork, and my life as a human and scientist so far. For more info, you can check out my website www.shelbybohn.com, or my personal twitter @shelbybohn.

7th March 2016 -Luis Verde Arregoitia, Natural History Museum Bern

Luis Darcy Verde ArregoitiaI’m interested in mammal diversity – past, and present. Through my research I aim to identify the mechanisms that generate spatial and taxonomic patterns of diversity, and the processes that threaten it. My broader interests include ecomorphology, mammalian evolution, biogeography, and phylogenetic comparative methods. I’m currently a postdoc at the Natural History Museum Bern in Switzerland, and my ongoing project involves relating ecology, morphology and phylogeny in rodents using museum collections and molecular phylogenies.

I am a mammalogist by training. For my PhD (University of Queensland: 2010-2014), I investigated the relationship between phylogeny and extinction risk in mammals. This research explored how the evolutionary age of a lineage relates to its current extinction risk (it doesn’t) and the effects of extinctions on phylogenetic diversity and tree topologies. Before that, I studied the ecology of bat migration for my BSc research thesis as part of a biology degree at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM; 2004-2009). I will be talking about museum collections, natural history, bats and rodents, and my experiences in mammal research.

October 26th 2015 – James Common, University of Cumbria

James CommonI am a 22 year old naturalist, conservationist and birder with a degree in BSc Conservation Science courtesy of the University of Cumbria. Growing up in rural Northumberland, wildlife has formed a huge part of my life since a very early age and at present I am working to turn my passion into a sustainable career. To date I have gained experience in both conservation and ecology and have developed a skill set ranging from ecological surveying to public engagement and practical habitat management, though who knows what the future might hold! In addition I possess a monumental interest in wildlife writing and to date have contributed to the blogs of many organisations, as well as local newspapers and have long kept a fairly popular natural history blog. Elsewhere my other interests include public and youth engagement, biological recording, photography (all be it at an amateur level) and of course, the perpetual learning curve that is ecology.

Being a naturalist is all about learning and at present I am learning something new and exciting on a daily basis. During my week on Biotweeps I will aim showcase these discoveries alongside interesting encounters that take place that week. I will also touch up on certain aspects of my academic career, my dissertation focussing on Otter diet, birding, my motivations looking towards a career in conservation and my thoughts on everything from the “youth conservation movement” to the stereotyping of nature lovers in our schools.

You can find me on Twitter at @CommonByNature and located my personal blog at www.commonbynature.co.uk. I also regularly contribute to Wildlife Articles.co.uk and can be found on LinkedIN.

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

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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.
Anthony

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/

July 13th 2015 – Phil Cox, University of York

Philip CoxI am a lecturer at the University of York where I am member of both the Hull York Medical School and the Department of Archaeology (although really I’m a zoologist!). From my PhD onwards, I’ve worked on a wide variety of mammals spanning most of the mammalian family tree, but recently my research has focused down to one group that I find particularly fascinating – the rodents. To me, rodents are especially worthy of study because of their huge success in evolutionary terms (they are the largest group of mammals by a long chalk) and because of their highly derived and specialised feeding system.

Much of my research has concentrated on understanding the biomechanics of feeding in different rodents, extant and extinct. This is an exciting area of research at the boundary of biology and physics. As a dyed-in-the-wool life scientist, I never imagined my research would include physics, but it’s a fascinating field of research to be in. I use complex bioengineering techniques to virtually model rodent skulls and understand how they perform during feeding. This has allowed me to see how living rodent species are specialised for different activities, and to make predictions about the ecology of extinct rodents.

I have also been involved in the development of contrast-enhanced microCT – a scanning technique that uses iodine staining to enable the visualisation of soft tissues with microCT. I have used contrast-enhanced scans to describe the chewing muscles of rodents and reconstruct them in 3D. This technique is gathering quite a community of users now and we’re hoping it will become a standard methodology in morphological sciences.

During my week on biotweeps, I will be tweeting about rodents – why they are so successful as a group and why they are so interesting from a research perspective. I will also tweet about the computer modelling and contrast-enhanced scanning that I am currently doing, with lots of exciting images and reconstructions. If you want to know more about my research, visit my website www.drphilcox.com or follow me at @drphilcox .

April 6th 2015 – Alex Thornton, Co-founder of IPECS, Founder of APECS US SW, PhD hunting

Alex ThorntonI am an early career marine ecologist studying environmental resource management at the intersection of science and policy in the Antarctic – and seeking funded PhD or career opportunities. I am the co-founder of International Penguin Early Career Scientists (http://ipecs.org) and the southwest representative for the U.S. Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (http://usapecs.wix.com/usapecs). Named a “Future Professor Penguin,” I am also passionate about science communication and excited for the chance to curate Biotweeps.

My interdisciplinary research in ecosystem-based management looks at behavioral or life history changes of seabirds (like penguins) and marine mammals (like seals) across time and space, paying attention to how they respond to variations within their dynamic ocean environment (e.g. shifting oceanographic conditions, increased competition from fisheries, impacts from an oil spill). I then analyze these findings to evaluate how well conservation policies are working or if best-available science suggests we need to negotiate new treaties.

I completed my Master’s in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation (’14) at UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography (USA) in collaboration with a NOAA researcher on dolphin mating systems. Prior to that, I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Field Ecology & Conservation Biology from The Evergreen State College (USA). I am currently employed as a Marine Mammal Observer at a US Naval Base. Additionally, I am passionate about political ecology, ethics in research, and applied animal welfare.

I am based out of San Diego, CA, USA, where I live in a RV with my rescue dog. Please feel free to get in touch with any questions or opportunities! You can e-mail me at alex@ipecs.org, follow me on Twitter (@AntarcticWaters), or learn more about me at my webpage: http://ipecs.org/alex-thornton.html.