1st April 2019 – Jenny Howard, Wake Forest University

Jenny HowardHi everyone! I’m Jenny Howard, and I’m a 5th year PhD student at Wake Forest University in Winston Salem, North Carolina. My path to grad school wasn’t exactly linear; after graduating from my undergraduate institution, Kenyon College, I explored a variety of science fields by doing seasonal field work for the government, academia, and non-profit organizations. I bounded through wetlands in Ohio and Colorado, forests in Guam and South Carolina, and remote seabird islands in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Ultimately, I found a driving passion for seabirds, these incredible long-lived species who inhabit both terrestrial and marine environments. I decided to pursue graduate school because I wanted to dive deeper into a focused project and data for a longer period. This led me to study seabirds in Galápagos as a PhD student at Wake Forest University.

My first exposure to the Galápagos Islands occurred when I studied abroad in Ecuador in 2008 and I was immediately enchanted with the islands. In 2011, I jumped at the opportunity to volunteer as a field assistant working with Dr. David Anderson’s long-term project studying Nazca boobies on Isla Española in Galápagos. Now, I work in this same system to study how individual (like age or sex of a bird) and environmental variables (like sea surface temperature) affect the foraging behavior of these long-lived seabirds. We study the birds using GPS units and accelerometers, similar to technology found in a smartphone or activity tracker that counts steps walked. Wearing these small tags, the bird can fly freely and give us a window into each bird’s life. Once we download data from the biologgers, we can see where a bird traveled and then can add in satellite data to figure out how a bird was deciding to forage in a specific area.

Recently, I have become very passionate about using effective science communication to bridge the gap between what we do as scientists with non-scientists, particularly in this polarized political climate. Producing evidence-based articles that invite non-scientists to learn and engage in science research is critical for our future. I started writing for Massive Science, an online consortium that trains scientists to translate science for non-scientists, and am continuing to write when I have time.

Spending so much time on remote islands, I got into photography and birds in the Galápagos make easy subjects! Check out my website to see photos from different places I’ve worked or visited, links to my science communication, or more information about my research.

In my free time, I’m all about being outdoors. Also, I’ve found that it is really important to have some way to de-stress and chill-out during grad school — it improves overall mental health. My favorite ways to de-stress have been running and baking!

This week, get excited for all things seabird and foraging-related, science communication, and managing overall health during grad school!

Twitter: @jenny_howard9
Instagram: @wfuandersonlab
Website: https://www.jenniferlynnhoward.com/

Advertisements

30th April 2018 – Auriel Fournier, Mississippi State University

Auriel Fournier_18Dr. Auriel Fournier is a postdoctoral researcher at Mississippi State University where she works as a part of the Gulf of Mexico Avian Monitoring Network (gomamn.org) using structured decision making to inform conservation decision making in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Auriel received her PhD from the Arkansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Arkansas in 2017 where she completed her dissertation studying the autumn migration ecology of rails. She is passionate about wetlands, birds and trying to understand their migration while making the conservation and scientific communities more diverse.

23rd April 2018 – Nina O’Hanlon – University of the Highlands and Islands

Nina O'HanlonI am a seabird ecologist with particular interests in foraging ecology, movement behaviour, zoology and anthropogenic impacts on species and habitats. However, I am fascinated by all aspects of ornithology and conservation.

Currently, I am a post-doc at the Environmental Research Institute working on two NPA projects: Circular Ocean and APP4SEA.  For Circular Ocean, I was recently involved in a review to provide a baseline assessment of current knowledge concerning the impact of marine plastic on seabirds in northern Europe and the Arctic region; and I am now focusing on how we can improve our knowledge of nest incorporation of plastic by seabirds. As part of APP4SEA I am working on a package focused on the ecological impact of oil spills on seabirds.

My first move into the seabird world was during my Masters where I got to spend the summer on the beautiful Calf of Man, helping to investigate the impact of rats on the island’s seabirds as part of a planned rat eradication. That led to my PhD at the University of Glasgow investigating spatial variation in Herring Gull traits across south-west Scotland and Northern Ireland, focusing on the gulls’ eggs, resource use and foraging behaviours – carrying out fieldwork on several islands and coastal colonies.

As a birder and bird ringer, most of my spare time is spent outdoors, especially along the stunning Caithness coast of north Scotland. My love of birds and science has also led me to be involved with the BOU‘s Engagement Committee as a Social Media Support Officer and with British Birds as a director focusing on communication and social media.

16th October 2017 – Liz Martin-Silverstone, University of Southampton and University of Bristol

Liz Martin-Silverstone.pngHi all! I’m Liz Martin-Silverstone, and I recently completed my PhD in palaeontology at the University of Southampton (but also associated with the University of Bristol) in the UK. My research is based on biomechanics and mass estimation in pterosaurs, the extinct flying reptiles that lived alongside dinosaurs (but are not actually dinosaurs!). I’m currently looking for post-doc positions, and working as a research assistant on a project involving zebrafish for a few months in the meantime.

I completed my BSc in palaeontology at home at the University of Alberta in Canada, where I became fascinated with pterosaurs, and got my first bit of research experience. I then decided to move to the UK and pursue grad school, doing my MSc in Palaeobiology at the University of Bristol, where I began working on pterosaur bone mass. Fortunately, my MSc project led into a PhD project, and I moved to Southampton to continue this work. I’m currently more interested in the evolution of the air sac system in birds and pterosaurs, and would like to work on this in the future. I’m a big scicomm fan (otherwise I wouldn’t be doing this!), and currently help produce a podcast called Palaeocast, and also volunteer with a Canadian science blogging community called Science Borealis.

My week at Biotweeps is going to focus a bit on my own research, palaeontology in general (I’ll try to dispel some of those common palaeo myths), and a bit about what I’m doing now both in terms of research and scicomm. I’d also like to talk a bit about some of the issues I had to overcome as a PhD student, such as funding and university-related issues, and how these things can affect students.

25th September 2017 – Alex Thornton & Meagan Dewar, International Penguin Early Career Scientists (IPECS)

Meagan & AlexInternational Penguin Early Career Scientists (IPEC; ) is an international network dedicated to providing career development, networking, and other educational opportunities and support to early career penguin professionals in academia, NGOs, private industry, and beyond. You can learn more at .

Alex Thornton () is a marine ecologist based in Alaska, USA, and is interested in how polar seabirds and marine mammals respond to environmental change. He’s a life-long penguin nerd and co-founded IPECS with Meagan Dewar. You can learn more about him at .

Dr Meagan Dewar is a lecturer in Environmental Science from . Meagan’s research focuses on the microbial composition of marine wildlife and understanding what factors influence the microbial composition and its importance. Meagan is the co-founder of IPECS with

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 .