5th February 2018 – Morgan Jackson, University of Guelph

Morgan JacksonHi! I’m Morgan Jackson (@bioinfocus), and I’ll be your BioTweeps host for the week. To poorly paraphrase a classic Steve Miller Band song,

I’m an entomologist, I’m a taxonomist
I’m an educator, and I’m a science communicator
I do my research in a museum
I’m a PhD Candidate, I’m a father
I’m a terrible songwriter
and I want to share it all with you (woooooo woooooo).

I work in the University of Guelph Insect Collection on the taxonomy and systematics of flies. I’m fascinated by biodiversity, and have spent the last decade trying to figure out the identity, names, and relationships of species of stilt-legged flies (family Micropezidae) from around the world by spending most of my time either in front of a computer (aligning and analyzing DNA data) or in front of a microscope (aligning and analyzing morphological data). The species that I primarily work on are found throughout Central and South America, where they’ve gone largely unnoticed and unstudied. By giving them names and placing them onto the larger Tree of Life I hope to raise their profile (even just teeny, tiny bit) and allow other scientists and naturalists to observe, identify, and make new discoveries about their natural history, behaviour, and biology.

Most of my research is dependent on specimens archived and cared for in natural history museums around the world, and I’ve been lucky enough to visit dozens of collections to explore the hidden treasures they keep safe. Museums and natural history collections are my happy place, and I’m just as likely to geek out over cabinets and cases as I am the incredible biodiversity contained within them. Needless to say, I’m a big advocate for museums and natural history collections, and love reading about and sharing collections-based research.

So what are we going to talk about this week? All things entomological. Got a bug you want to know more about, or a photo of something you’ve seen but didn’t know what it was? Send it along and we’ll figure it out. Curious whether there are still species left to discover (spoiler: yes, plenty), or why taxonomists are constantly changing the names of species just as you’ve learned them? We’ll talk about all those things, plus how social media & smart phones are opening up new opportunities for natural history research. And seeing as I’m currently teaching the very university course that got me hooked on insects, expect to learn alongside my students as I prepare my lectures, and I’ll share my experiences as an early career scientist learning what it takes to plan, prepare, and teach a course that covers 50% of Earth’s known biodiversity.

Strap in and get those insect questions read; it’s gonna be a buggy ride!


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.

August 11th 2014 – Mike Dickison, Whanganui Regional Museum

MikeDickisonI’m Curator of Natural History at the (Whanganui Regional Museum) in New Zealand. This is a small museum with a 19th-century natural history collection, and a very large collection of moa bones, mostly from a nearby swamp. Moa, New Zealand’s giant extinct flightless bird, are my main research interest—I did my PhD at Duke on the evolution of body size in giant flightlessness birds. I’m also interested in rather old-fashioned anatomy and biogeography; old-fashioned at least compared to the amazing ancient DNA research currently being done on extinct birds. Before I went back to school to study biology I working in museum exhibition development and science communication, and ended up teaching design and typography. Visual communication of science and the design of data graphics is still one of my enthusiasms. I’ve also just started a community (Wikipedia group), I think, is something museum curators and researchers need to take much more seriously.

I tweet as @adzebill and my personal site is www.giantflightlessbirds.com.