31st July 2017 – Katrin Lohrengel, Sea Watch Foundation

Katrin LohrengelHi Biotweeps,

I’m the Monitoring Officer for the cetacean research charity, Sea Watch, based in New Quay, Wales. I run the Cardigan Bay Monitoring project which focusses on the local semi-resident bottlenose dolphin population that inhabits the two Special Areas of Conservation in Cardigan Bay. In practice this means that I spend less time than I’d like balanced on the bow of a boat with expensive camera equipment laughing – and cursing profusely- while trying to photograph dolphins and a lot of time in my office shouting at my computer. Despite the occasional frustrations of field work and the everyday computer niggles, I consider myself extremely lucky to be working in this position and am very proud to be part of a charity that has achieved so much on such a comparatively diminutive budget. Sea Watch has been monitoring cetaceans for over 20 years and was instrumental in the designation of Special Areas of Conservation in Cardigan Bay. Currently the Cardigan Bay Monitoring Projects provides annual reports and recommendations to Natural Resources Wales to report on abundance trends, habitat use, population structure and anthropogenic impact using a combination of vessel and land based surveys.

I have been working with Sea Watch for six years in various capacities, starting as a voluntary Research Assistant in 2011. I knew I wanted to return to Wales eventually but spent some time in my adopted home on the Wirral as Regional Coordinator where I set up a local network of volunteers to carry out land based cetacean observations as well as acquiring funding to run our first photo-identification survey of Liverpool Bay which confirmed the presence of Cardigan Bay bottlenose dolphins in the North West! Citizen science is a very important aspect of Sea Watch’s work, our sightings network relies on local volunteers to set up watches and report sightings and I was delighted when I had the opportunity to return to Wales as Wales Development Officer in 2013 with the aim to further and grow our local groups, liaise with boat operators and raise awareness of the fantastic marine wildlife that can be seen in Welsh seas.

I’m also a full time fantasy nerd (there’s been a distinct trend in dolphin names in the last few years…), devoted cat lady, travel enthusiast, least flexible yoga student in existence, one of those annoying, unembarrassed feminists and finally back in the saddle (in the literal sense) after a 15 year break!

My week at Biotweeps coincides with Sea Watch’s annual National Whale and Dolphin Watch so as well as telling you about the bottlenose dolphins of Cardigan Bay I will be encouraging you to go out there and get involved in some citizen science!

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25th July 2016 – Sam Urmy, Stony Brook University

Sam UrmyI am a PhD candidate in Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University.  Broadly speaking, I’m interested in how marine animals move through and inhabit their environment–which is often unpredictable, patchy, and turbulent–and how the decisions of individuals lead to the distribution of populations.  To get at these questions, I use a mixture of remote sensing, modeling, and ecological theory.

My dissertation research is on the movement behaviors of common terns at Great Gull Island, NY, as they forage for  fish in the surrounding waters.  I use a scanning radar to track the terns, which lets me observe hundreds to thousands of birds at once without tagging them.  I also use active acoustics (i.e., scientific fishfinders) to map the distribution of the small fish the birds eat.  I have worked on other topics too, including zooplankton in mountain lakes, the distribution of juvenile pollock in the Bering Sea, and deep scattering layers in Monterey Bay.

Before coming to Stony Brook, I got a master’s degree in Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington, and a BS in Earth Systems at Stanford University.  I grew up in Brookline, MA, just outside of Boston.  When I’m not sciencing, I like cooking and eating food, reading, nature watching, and people watching.

You can read my blog, Oceanographer’s Choice, here, and follow me on Twitter @ElOceanografo.  If you would like to give me a job, my professional website is at http://www.ssurmy.net.

6th June 2016 – Olivia Spencer, Plymouth University

Olivia SpencerI’m an MSc student at Plymouth University (UK) studying marine science. This represents something of a sea change in my career plans; my undergraduate degree was in Zoology and focused on terrestrial species, communities and their biology. Like many others who graduated in the recession I found it was a tough and overcrowded job market, and after several volunteering stints I decided to change tack and go back to university – a decision I’ve never regretted! My academic background has led to diverse research interests both terrestrial and marine, and I’m currently studying the effects membership of the European Union has had on marine environmental quality and policy in its member states for my dissertation project. I’m also very interested in marine climate change and will hopefully be joining a research training transect studying this topic in November.

This week I’m hoping to spark some discussions. I’ll talk a little about current marine environmental issues, employability, and career paths. I tweet about all things marine over at @netofwonder if you would like to follow me after the week.

December 15th, 2014 – Victoria Metcalf, Lincoln University

Victoria MetcalfI’m a marine biologist/geneticist living in New Zealand and mad keen on studying fish and shellfish. I have a particular love of cold places and most of my research is on Antarctic marine life. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to the Antarctic seven times. I’m passionate about doing meaningful research that will help our planet. 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. This is why I have my own blog Parenting by Instinct (http://parentingbyinstinct.wordpress.com/) to help parents take on board good quality science which they can use to empower themselves in their own parenting decisions.

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 and my science blog at http://sciblogs.co.nz/icedoctor/

September 29th 2014 – Natalie Hicks, Scottish Association for Marine Science

Natalie HicksDespite being born in a landlocked country (Zimbabwe), I discovered a love for marine science during my Zoology degree at Aberdeen University, which was followed up by a marine benthic PhD at St Andrews. I now work at the Scottish Association for Marine Science as a researcher in benthic biogeochemistry, with a bit of teaching thrown in for good measure.

Under the broad title of ‘marine scientist’, I work mainly in soft sediment coastal habitats (sand and mud). I have a strong interest in environmental change, loosely termed climate change, and much of my work experimentally manipulates temperature and CO2 levels to mimic potential future scenarios. I am interested in how these systems are likely to respond to these predicted changes, caused by human activity, and what this means for the animals that live in these habitats.

Marine sediments not only provide a habitat for many species, they play a vital role in global nutrient cycling, such as carbon, nitrogen and oxygen. Primary producers (such as microphytobenthos) in these habitats contribute to a significant proportion of carbon production. Climate driven changes in these systems is likely to result in shifts within the food web, affecting the ecosystem services that these habitats provide to many species, including humans. By identifying how these systems may respond, and the different species interactions within them, we can use this knowledge to help mitigate environmental change and minimise anthropogenic impacts on coastal marine ecosystems

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!

August 18th 2014 – Gavan Cooke, Bangor University

Gavan CookeI first fell in love with zoological sciences after quickly devouring Charles Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection’ whilst serving on the modern (and presently last) incarnation of the HMS Beagle. I then studied zoology at the University of Leeds and after a short stint in a marine biology taxonomy lab at Hull University I moved to Bangor University to complete a PhD on the behavioural ecology of cichlid fish, focusing on aggressive behaviour by males and females. Due to a long (20 years) standing interest in fishkeeping I then took up managing a large marine (75k litre) and freshwater (25k litre) research aquaria at the School of Biological Sciences, Bangor University. This facility was recently featured in a UK fish keeping magazine (Practical fishkeeping). I also carry out cuttlefish welfare and personality research, along with welfare research for other aquatic organisms, which have been sadly neglected so far. I lecture on animal welfare, cephalopod biology and other marine beasties, and I also run practicals for undergraduates. Feel free to ask me questions on fish/cephalopod behaviour and I will do my best to provide useful answers!