I’m Lewis – a PhD researcher at University of Exeter, and a visiting researcher at University of California Berkeley. I’m also in collaboration with the University of Georgia (USA), Emory University (USA), and Heriot-Watt University (UK).
My work is currently focussed on better understanding the ecology and evolution of infectious diseases, current declines of both domestic and wild bees, and the relationships between the two. I’m a huge bee enthusiast – and teach / certify beekeepers as part of my work. Speaking with beekeepers is a big part of what I do – and necessitates a different understanding of science communication compared to public outreach. Prior to bees and diseases, I worked on ice-age extinctions, habitat fragmentation, and arguably the world’s most ambitious ecological simulation. My research dips into a massive variety of techniques – from the field to the lab to statistics to differential equation modelling.
Doing research and holding positions in two different continents has given me a two-point perspective on the lives of PhD researchers, and the differences are pretty profound. There’s things to be learnt from all systems.
As far as non-research academic activities go, I count teaching and learning as a big part of my interests – both at the school and University levels. Comparing approaches to university teaching between Britain and the US has been an eye-opening experience. In particular, teaching quantitative skills & programming is a devotion of mine (for better or for worse!).
Understanding access, diversity, and inclusion in ecology is also a topic close to my heart (as both a first-generation, working class university graduate and a ragingly flamboyant gay man). Seeing again how these issues differ between the UK and the US is remarkable in approaches and nuance.
Expect hot-takes on bees, on diseases, on outreach, teaching, and moving around as part of academic ecology in this week’s Biotweeps coverage – probably punctuated with makeup, nail polish, and countless examples of how bees and other insects influence art & fashion.
Karen recently finished her PhD in Natural Sciences in Friedrich-Schiller-Universitatet-Jena in Germany. Her thesis was focused on understanding how unicellular microalgae called diatoms respond to food and sex pheromones. Previously, she worked with chemical defenses of sea cucumbers for her MSc thesis in University of the Philippines. She also helped developed a passive sampling device for detecting marine toxins from harmful algal blooms. Due to her penchant for learning, she has a tendency to be drawn to interdisciplinary studies and has changed research topics from time to time.
Currently, she is the science head of a science communication initiative in the Philippines developed by Filipino scientists called Aghamazing! (a fusion of the Tagalog word agham which means science and the English word amazing). You can follow Aghamazing! at facebook.com/aghamazing.ph/
On her free time, she does travel photography and international culture-related outreaches. You can find her tweeting about science in @pureblissofsun.
I am a senior lecturer at Cardiff University, and co-director of Eco-explore (www.eco-explore.co.uk); a scientific research and engagement enterprise. My research interests in zoology, ecology and conservation stem from my origins as a birdwatcher in mid-Wales. My research group studies animal behaviour in changing environments, investigating the effects of climate on individuals, populations and ecological processes – particularly how such effects may be mediated by the behaviour of individual animals. The environmental changes that we study range from habitat destruction, long-term climate changes, through seasonal and daily changes, to the sudden appearance of a potential predator or an unfamiliar type of food. This work falls under four main headings, though there is plenty of overlap between these topics.
Climate change biology
Focusing on several major study systems that use migratory birds as sensitive bio-indicators of climate-driven changes in trophic relationships.
- The European Storm Petrel –the smallest Atlantic seabird
- The Northern Wheatear –which has the most extreme trans-oceanic migration of any songbird
- Reed-bed warblers (Reed Warblers and Sedge Warblers) –a pair of congeneric migrants with contrasting migration strategies
- Pied Flycatchers and Barn Swallows –two model species in the study of climate impacts on migratory birds.
Sensory constraints on behaviour
- Eye design in birds and visual constraints on behaviour
- Impacts of light and noise pollution on wildlife
Dietary wariness and foraging ecology
- Novel-food wariness in birds and fish, and its evolutionary consequences
- Strategic regulation of energy reserves in wild birds
Impacts of human activities on wild animals
- Impacts of capture and handling on birds and other animals
- Practical conservation of populations, habitats and biodiversity hotspots in a changing world
- Ecological impacts of eco-tourism
Scientific engagement work
My role in Eco-explore involves a range of scientific engagement work with schools, universities and NGOs. One of my special interests is the teaching of data analysis in a non-intimidating way, to empower amateur and professional researchers to explore the full potential of the data that they collect. I also run regular citizen-science expeditions and field courses in Portugal, Senegal and in the UK.
To find out more about my work at Cardiff University and Eco-explore, follow these links: