7th August 2017 – Shandiya Balasubramaniam, Museums Victoria

Shandiya BalasubramaniamHi Biotweeps!

I’m an evolutionary ecologist working on avian systems. In a nutshell, I like to know what birds do, and why, where, and how they do it.

I completed a PhD at the University of Melbourne on the evolution and ecology of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes in south-eastern Australian passerines (songbirds). MHC genes are a vital component of the vertebrate immune system, and I wanted to know more about the evolutionary processes underpinning variation in these genes. I was also interested in how MHC variation was influenced by ecological variables, such as dispersal behaviour and habitat configuration. To answer these questions, I mist-netted over a thousand birds across two years, resulting in a love/hate relationship with early mornings. Somewhere along the winding PhD journey I developed an interest in wildlife disease, and ended up doing a survey of avian malaria in woodland birds as well.

I’m currently a research fellow at Museums Victoria in Australia, where I’m working on a few different projects. My main focus at the moment is on the ecological ramifications of beak and feather disease virus (BFDV) on threatened parrots. BFDV is thought to be infectious to all parrots, but can it also infect other birds? And if so, what does that mean for the transmission of BFDV across species? If you’re interested in knowing more about any of my research, get in contact!

When I’m not science-ing, I’m either baking bread or accumulating cats. I can be found on Twitter @ShandiyaB.

10th July 2017 – Robyn Womack, University of Glasgow

Robyn WomackHi BioTweeps! My name is Robyn and I am a twenty-something pint-sized zoology fanatic from the Isle of Wight, UK.

Currently, I am in my second year as a PhD student at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, investigating biological rhythms of wild birds (or otherwise, how birds “tick”). I spend a good portion of my time during the spring field season out in the wild forests near Loch Lomond working within a nest box system, and the other half in the lab doing genetic analyses. My research questions span a wide range of topics, from disease ecology and avian health to urban ecology and chronobiology (clock biology) – with the overarching theme of environmental factors influencing clocks in the wild.

Although my research focus is on birds, I have a broad interest in all things zoology. Back in 2014, I finished my BSc Zoology at Aberystwyth University in Wales, and since then I have experienced a variety of zoological roles such as research field assistant positions, zoo-keeping and volunteering in conservation. I’ve also experienced some non-zoological roles, such as working in cell culture and being part of an Athena SWAN self-assessment team promoting women in STEM subjects – something I feel passionate about!

I am super excited to be taking on BioTweeps this month as I am a strong believer that science, particularly biology, is awesome. And as biologists, we definitely ought to shout about it some more.

You can find more about me on my personal website http://www.robynwomack.com , or over on Twitter @robynjwomack .

24th April 2017 – Danielle Gilroy, Operation Wallacea

Danielle GilroyI am a terrestrial research and operations officer at Operation Wallacea, based in the UK with offices worldwide, and carrying out conservation research in 15 different countries. I oversee of all the forest-based research and am also the Senior Scientist for our largest forest site, Cusuco National Park in Honduras. My main research interests are centred in evolutionary biology and using a combination of molecular and ecological tools to investigate how evolution shapes diversity in populations. I have always strived to carry out research with real conservation applications and I am helping Operation Wallacea’s sister charity, the Operation Wallacea Trust, to make use of our large spatial and temporal datasets from sites around the world to lever funds to best establish conservation practice and work towards protecting particularly vulnerable and highly biodiverse ecosystems.

My PhD at the University of East Anglia focussed on a particular conservation success story, the Seychelles warbler (Acrocephalus sechellensis). This endemic island passerine was once down to just 25 individuals on a single island in the Seychelles archipelago in the 1980s, but has since recovered due to a combination of science research integrated with effective island management. There are now over 3000 birds across five islands, 115 times what it was over three decades ago and importantly, we have learnt a lot by using this species as a model of evolutionary study. My thesis looked at the causes and consequences of functional variation within the bottlenecked source population of Seychelles warbler. I investigated how variation at genes critical in innate immune defence could influence individual fitness and a bird’s ability to fight disease, mainly avian malaria, and considered the long-term viability of the species by assessing its genetic health and predicting future changes under natural selection.

During my week, I will focus on our work at Operation Wallacea and present to you our ongoing conservation research across our many terrestrial and marine sites. I will also talk about the importance of molecular ecology as a relatively new and quickly-growing field and as an ornithologist, will no doubt mention birds at every opportunity I can. On a similar note, I will no doubt mention my rescue staffy dog Tia who often accompanies me on my birding adventures.

20th March 2017 – Jez Smith, Cardiff University, Eco-explore CIC

Jez SmithHi all! I’m Jez, a 2nd year PhD student at Cardiff University with a NERC GW4+ funded project. My academic passion is studying a small long distance migrant bird, the Pied Flycatcher which is currently in a steep population decline, hence my twitter handle @PiedflyWales. Using novel statistical techniques called Integral Projection Models (IPMs) I hope to try to understand the effect size that various factors have on population trends and which areas management and policy should be focussed on to reverse their fate. I have had the pleasure to study the Pied Flycatcher in Wales, Portugal and Ghana and am interested in all aspects of avian behaviour and migration. Some of my tweets will therefore be focussed around the topics of climate change, birds and animal behaviour.

Other tweets will revolve around different International days this week such as the International day of the forests and world water day. I want to share some of the amazing work that is being done on these topics both academic and non-academic.

One issue that I feel strongly about is the work life balance issue and so will therefore also be wanting to hear from people about their passions outside of work even if it relates to work (i.e. bird ringing). For me, besides my academic research I spend my time competing on the university Latin and Ballroom dance circuit, with a distinct preference for Jive.

Prior to the PhD I worked as a data analyst, expedition leader and ornithologist with experience having participated in and lead expeditions in Europe, Africa and Central America. I have co-lead a Senegalese research expedition with Dr. Rob Thomas identifying causes of decline in Reed and Sedge warblers, contributing to Dr James Vafidis’ PhD. All of the above are co-directors, with Dr Alexandra Pollard, of Eco-Explore (http://www.eco-explore.co.uk).

I’m looking forward to sharing some of my research with everyone and hearing others opinions on their work and the work of others.

Cheers
Jez

10th of October 2016 – British Ornithologists’ Union

bouFollowing our successful week in January 2016, Biotweeps are letting the BOU (@IBIS_journal) curate a second week of #ornithology topics. Join us from 10 October as our great volunteer line-up tweet on some great ornithology topics. The week overlaps the BOU one-day conference on ‘avian tracking and remote sensing: advances in methods and applications and tracking’ and several of our days will link to this theme.

This week’s ornithology line-up is:

Monday, 10 October | RSPB tracking projects | Malcolm Burgess (@piedflynet)| RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, UK

Malcolm is a senior conservation scientist at the RSPB Centre for Conservation Science interested in the ecology of declining birds, the factors that cause declines and applying techniques to reverse them, with a particular passion for woodland birds.

Tuesday, 11 October | Predation pressures | Becky Thomas (@BeckyMicrocebus) | Royal Holloway University of London and University of Reading, UK

Becky is an ecologist at Royal Holloway University of London (royalholloway.ac.uk) and is interested in the challenges that birds face when living in urban environments. She’ll be tweeting about predation pressures (especially from pet cats), the difficulties faced when trying to feed and breed and how you can improve your garden for birds and other wildlife.

Wednesday, 12 October | Connectivity | Tom Finch (@tomfinch89)  | RSPB Centre for Conservation Science & University of Cambridge, UK

Tom recently completed his PhD at the University of East Anglia, where he studied the conservation ecology of the European Roller. He is interested in avian population ecology, land-use, migration and conservation. He now works for the RSPB / University of Cambridge, exploring the trade-off between agricultural production and bird numbers in the UK.

Thursday, 13 October | Woodcock tracking | Christopher Heward (@CJHeward) | GWCT & University of Nottingham, UK

Christopher Heward works as a research assistant for the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust and is a PhD student at the University of Nottingham. His current research covers a broad range of different topics but is focussed upon a single species: the Eurasian Woodcock.

Friday, 14 October | Land bird tracking | Rob Thomas (@RobThomas14) | Cardiff University, UK

Rob is a Senior Lecturer at the Cardiff School of Biosciences. His research group studies animal behaviour in changing environments. The environmental changes that they study range from long-term climate changes, through seasonal and daily changes, to the sudden appearance of a potential predator or an unfamiliar type of food.

Saturday, 15 October | Seabird tracking | Renata Medeiros | Cardiff University, UK

Renata is a Lecturer at the Cardiff School of Biosciences and part of Rob Thomas’s research group studying animal behaviour in changing environments. Her main research interests are related to seabird ecology and climate change.

For more information about each of our tweeters and the topics they’ll be covering, please see the BOU website at http://www.bou.org.uk/about-the-bou/biotweeps-2/

November 16th 2014 – 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. This combines traditional ornithological field work techniques with new spatial and behavioural logging technology.

The research has mainly taken place on Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire, but Holly has also worked on a range of other islands on the west coast of the UK. 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 to http://oxnav.zoo.ox.ac.uk/hollykirk