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!


29/01/18 Robin Hayward (University of Stirling)

Robin HaywardHello Biotweeps! I’m Robin, a first year PhD student in the department of Biological and Environmental Sciences at the University Of Stirling. My research focusses on the impacts of selective logging on rainforest flora in South East Asia and I am particularly interested in the way that tree communities regenerate following human disturbance. Because of this, I’ll be spending a lot of my time over the next few years either furiously reading journal articles or staring intently at saplings and seedlings in the Danum Valley Conservation Area in Malaysia. To follow along with that (there’s amazingly some wifi in rainforests now!) you can check out my everyday twitter account: @CanopyRobin.

Before starting this PhD I was based at the University of York for four years, where I studied for my Masters degree in Environmental Science. As you might imagine from the subject title, this was a pretty broad course but I quickly realised my passion lay in forests and was soon doing everything I could to pick all the forestry and ecology modules available. At the end of my first year, I also discovered the immense joy that is roped tree climbing and that (brilliantly!) this was a skill that could be used to conduct great research in an exciting environment high above the forest floor. Over the following year I got trained in canopy access, found a supervisor, planned a project, and conducted two months of epiphyte research in Indonesia, which eventually culminated in a Masters thesis and my first academic journal publication. I have been in love with the canopy ever since.

This week I want to chat with you all about these awesome subjects and the techniques involved in studying them but it would be great if we could also have some conversations about the slightly less academic side of academia. I want to talk about identity and inspiration within science and, having had the privilege of working with several school groups in the field, I’m also interested in discussing some of the difficulties and rewards of engaging with young people in settings well outside their usual comfort zone.

Hopefully we’ll all get to know each other a bit better as the week goes on so I’ll leave my bio at that. I can’t wait to get this conversation started!

15th January 2018 – Meaghan Pimsler, University of Alabama

Meaghan Pimsler2Meaghan L. Pimsler is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Alabama working with Dr. Jeff Lozier to integrate physiological, morphological, population genetic, and transcriptomic approaches to study the factors shaping adaptation in native pollinators.  She earned her PhD from in the Department of Entomology at Texas A&M University, where she used de novo transcriptomics to investigate sexual dimorphism and behavioral ecology in an invasive blow fly with a unique and poorly understood sex determination mechanism. She received her BS in entomology from Cornell University in 2007, and subsequently spent three years in Okinawa, Japan working at two high schools as an English teacher.

After recuperating sufficiently from the rigors of her undergraduate education, she began her postgraduate journey with Dr. Jeffery K. Tomberlin and Dr. Aaron M. Tarone in 2010. Meaghan has had a deep and abiding love of arthropods her entire life, and determined at the age of four that she would be an entomologist. She helped found entomology clubs in both high school and college, and has helped organize many entomology themed outreach and enrichment events, including working with the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History on their BugFest, and with Cornell University’s Entomology Department on their Open House.

Meaghan is particularly experienced in the field of forensic entomology, and this has led to a certification in Crime Scene Investigation with Texas Engineering and Extension Services; teaching at workshops for federal, state, and local law enforcement groups; several national and international trips to give invited seminar talks; the opportunity to coordinate symposia at the 2013 and 2014 Entomological Society of America annual meetings as well as the 2016 International Congress of Entomology; and her election to Treasurer of the North American Forensic Entomology Association. Meaghan’s current passion, outside of her research, is science policy. After joining the organizing committee for the March for Science- Birmingham, AL, she was selected as an Entomological Society of America Science Policy Fellow in the Class of 2017. She looks forward to talking with you about entomology, bumble bees, bioinformatics, statistics, science policy, and anything else you might be interested in.

27th November 2017 – Patrice Jones, University of Newcastle

Patrice JonesHi Biotweeps,

I’m Patrice Jones (@patricerubyj) – a current PhD candidate at the University of Newcastle (Australia) with a research interest in environment-gene interactions in nutrition. My PhD focuses on UV-sensitive vitamins, and aims to examine the potential influences our UV-environment and genes may have in modifying the role of vitamins in health and disease. This involves studying how exposure to UV may stimulate both the production and degradation of important vitamins, and how genetics may influence how we respond to these vitamins in our diet (nutrigenetics). This research is interdisciplinary and allows me to regularly collaborate with researchers in other fields such as biomedical sciences, chemistry, physics and anthropology.

I completed a bachelor’s degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Newcastle in 2015 and this background has shaped me into the ultimate ‘foodie’ – studying now as a nutrition scientist but still putting my food science knowledge into being an enthusiastic baker in my free time. Food is a central part of all our lives (everyone eats!) so part of the excitement of studying nutrition is that anyone can grasp aspects of my research. However nutrition can be an area of great confusion, with a flood of information available. The expression “make your science digestible” is hilariously relevant when you’re nutrition scientist, but part of being in this area for me has increasingly become about helping people navigate this space by communicating the science!

But I am not only about communicating the science within my field! I am a growing advocate for science outreach that promotes and inspires others in all STEMM paths. Being a first year PhD candidate, my list of #scicomm contributions is small but increasing! This year I have had the opportunity to write a science-based article for Lateral Magazine, be a key organiser of local Pint of Science Newcastle 2017 and act as a mentor at my university for students considering study in STEMM.

During my week hosting Biotweeps, I will also be attending the 10th Asia Pacific Conference of Clinical Nutrition in Adelaide (Australia), so expect lots of discussion on emerging research, as well as discussions into my current research area and a lot of nutrition/food myth busting.

23rd October 2017 – Alyson Brokaw, Texas A&M University

Alyson BrokawI am a third year PhD student in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Doctoral Degree Program at Texas A&M University. Broadly, I am interested in sensory ecology and animal communication, with a focus on bats. As a diverse group with over 1300 species, bats are a great system to investigate a range of ecological and evolutionary questions. It doesn’t hurt that they are also cute (#TeamBat)!

 I work in the Smotherman lab, where we study the ecology and neurobiology of bats (www.smothermanbatlab.com). Recent work in the lab has focused on singing and communication signals in Mexican free-tailed bats, networking strategies in groups of bats, neurological and muscular control of bat ecology, and territoriality and singing behavior in African bats. For my dissertation I am exploring how bats use olfaction for foraging, communication and navigation. I plan to address these topics using a combination of neurophysiology, histology, lab and field based behavioral experiments.

 I got my start in field ecology research as an undergraduate student at Cornell University, working with tree swallows in the Winkler lab. I also have a Master’s degree from Humboldt State University, where I studied the communication signals in Yuma myotis (a common small brown bat found in the western United States). I have been involved in field work on swallows in Argentina, cuckoos in Arizona, coyote and kit fox in Utah, migratory tree bats in California and leaf-nosed bats in Mexico.

 As a bonus, I am hosting Biotweeps at the same time as Bat Week (batweek.org), so expect lots of discussions about bat ecology, evolution and conservation, with as well as a mix of personal experience, outreach, #scicomm and #phdlife.

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.

14th August 2017 – Inés Dawson, University of Oxford

Ines DawsonInés is a final year interdisciplinary DPhil student at the University of Oxford. Her research, with a strong background in biological sciences, involves studying the biomechanics of insect flight, specifically how an insect’s flapping wing and body kinematics translate into the complex aerial manoeuvres performed during free flight. This combination of biology and engineering is aimed at inspiring the next generation of bio-inspired MAVs.

Apart from her research, Inés is also an award-winning science communicator in English and Spanish and runs two YouTube channels, Draw Curiosity and Inés-table, in order to make science stories interesting and internationally accessible. She is an enthusiastic and engaging educational speaker who enjoys informing and entertaining audiences of all ages and nationalities about different aspects of science.

In addition to her personal science communication work, she has also collaborated with BBC World Service, Discovery, Merck and Naukas to help put a human face on scientific research.

http://youtube.com/DrawCuriosity and http://youtube.com/Inestable and http://drawcuriosity.com