22nd October 2018 – Katherine Raines, Univeristy of Stirling

Katherine RainesI have recently finished my PhD at the University of Stirling. My PhD investigated the effects of low dose chronic ionising radiation to bumblebees as part of the NERC Radioactivity and the Environment (RATE) programme.

My fieldwork involves visits to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and laboratory-based experiments to gain understanding as to what has happened to the wildlife over 30 years post-accident. The focus of my research has been at looking at life history endpoints in bumblebees such as reproduction and lifespan to understand if radiation dose rates found at Chernobyl cause damage to invertebrates. A development during my research resulted in a focus on the interactions between parasite infection and radiation dose rate both in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and in the laboratory.

Presently, I am preparing for my PhD viva and trying to put together a meta-analysis of the data on effects of radiation from research that we have undertaken during the programme on a range of different species.

I am just about to start a NERC knowledge exchange fellowship for the RATE programme. Pulling together all the research from across the wide-ranging programme and making it available for users such as regulators and governments. This research ranges from the physics and geology relating to the planning of the Geological Disposal Facility for high-level radioactive waste which has been proposed for the UK, the chemistry of how radionuclides move in the environment and in particular into human food chains and the biology of effects of radiation to wildlife.

Outside of academia, I love gardening, dressmaking and keeping two stepchildren off the Xbox by running around in the Scottish outdoors.


16th July 2018 – Eleanor Senior, University of Liverpool

Eleanor Senior 2Hi I’m Eleanor, I am currently a 2nd Year PhD student at the Institute of Infection and Global Health at the University of Liverpool.  My PhD is in Veterinary Parasitology, looking at the bovine parasite Tritrichomonas foetus which causes the disease bovine trichomoniasis.  This parasite is sexually transmitted between cows and bulls and can cause infertility and spontaneous abortions, which is pretty rough on the poor cows. My PhD is aiming to find vaccine candidates for this parasite so that one day we can have a long lasting working vaccine for this parasite.

Before I started my PhD I studied Biological Sciences at the University of Birmingham, where I was essentially jack of all trades looking at a range of things, such as ecology, plant biology, and microbiology.  I knew I wanted to study something microbiology related and when this PhD came up I had to do it.

My PhD is different to many in that it contains both lab based and computer based parts so I spend 50% of my time looking at parasites in the lab and 50% analysing data and doing bioinformatics and coding in the office.  I’m interested in all aspects of parasitology, microbiology and animal welfare and am keen to explore all these areas.

23rd May 2016 – Sarah Knutie, University of South Florida

Sarah KnutieMy research spans both basic and applied ideas in conservation ecology, particularly with host-parasite systems.  My PhD dissertation was on the effect of an introduced parasitic nest fly on birds in the Galapagos and how birds defend themselves against this novel parasite.  I also established a method (‘self-fumigation’) for controlling the fly in bird nests. I am currently a post-doc in Jason Rohr’s lab at the University of South Florida where I am exploring the importance of the frog gut microbiota in the development of the immune system and subsequent parasite susceptibility.  Specifically, I am determining how the host microbiota mediates the effect of environmental stressors, such as pollution, on disease risk.  I am also working at Itasca Biological Station in northern Minnesota where I am exploring fundamental questions on the evolution of bird defenses against their parasites using a box-nesting bird-parasitic fly system.

June 22nd 2015 – Tuomas Aivelo, University of Helsinki

Tuomas AiveloI am a PhD student in Institute of Biotechnology, University of Helsinki. Nevertheless, I consider myself foremost as evolutionary biology and my scientific work in mainly in parasitology and biology education.

For my PhD, I have been studying rufous mouse lemurs (Microcebus rufus) and their intestinal parasite dynamics. The nematodes are the most prevalent helminths they have, so I have been concentrating my efforts to identifying groups of nematodes and how they occur in mouse lemurs. Hopefully I can defend the thesis before the end of this year.

We have over a hundred microchipped mouse lemurs which we have been following for years in the wild in Ranomafana National Park, South-Eastern Madagascar.  As mouse lemurs are small, long-living and more or less territorial, we can follow the same individuals for many years. Thus, when we get fecal samples, we can follow the succession in intestinal nematode communities. This is not easy, though, put we have been using metabarcoding as our method of choice. In recent year, I have also expanded to microbiome studies.

I’m a qualified biology and philosophy teacher and also feel quite strongly about teaching. As a side project, I have been running a project on how Finnish upper secondary school students understand genetics. I have been analyzing textbooks and how done some surveys, but now I’m about to start interviewing teachers and students on how they understand gene and gene function.

For my twitter week, I plan to discuss all these themes and any other current issues coming up. I’ll also might dip into other interesting research going around at our research group, which is mostly about evo-devo and teeth.

For Finnish-speaking audience, I keep blog in Finnish popular science magazine Tiede: http://www.tiede.fi/alue/kaiken_takana_on_loinen
You can follow me in twitter @aivelo: https://twitter.com/aivelo
and can find me in Google Scholar http://scholar.google.ca/citations?user=KpjWh_0AAAAJ&hl=en
and ResearchGate  https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Tuomas_Aivelo