18th March 2019 – Lauren Callender, Queen Mary University of London

Lauren CallenderHi everyone! I’m Lauren Callender (@LozCallender_) and I’m a PhD researcher working in London. Before moving to London I completed a BSc in Biology and an MSc in Molecular Medicine at the University of Leeds. After this I decide to make the move to London and began working as a research assistant at the Institute of Child Health, UCL. Following the brief 9-month stint as a research assistant I was then awarded a 4-year MRes/PhD scholarship with the British Heat Foundation at the William Harvey Research Institute, QMUL. I’ve been there for 3 and a half years, so the finish line is now in sight (wish me luck!).

My PhD research is focused on understanding how ageing and age-related diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease affect the human immune system. I’m particularly interested in a type of immune cell known as a T cell, which is involved in the adaptive immune system. My aim is to understand how and why T cells change with age/disease, and more importantly I want to figure out how to prevent or reverse the changes with the hope to increase longevity.

In addition to my research I love sharing my passion for science through my Instagram and Twitter accounts (@LozCallender_) and my YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/sciencescribbles). Throughout my time as a PhD researcher I have dedicated a lot of time to teaching in underprivileged state schools around London. I created ScienceScribbles as a way to turn the topics I was teaching in schools into fun and interactive tutorials that could be accessed by a wider audience.

I’m really looking forward to taking over the @Biotweeps twitter account. I hope you all enjoy the content I’ll be sharing with you.

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14th January 2019 – Kimberleigh Tommy, Centre of Excellence in Palaeosciences

k tommyHi everyone! My name is Kimberleigh Tommy and I have just began my PhD in Biological Anthropology and Palaeoanthropology at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. I have recently spent a year as the Science Communication Officer for the Centre of Excellence in Palaeosciences as I decided on a project for my PhD.

I grew up in the bustling metropolis of Johannesburg, South Africa, only 15 minutes away from the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Cradle of Humankind. This site is home to a number of hominin species and is important for our understanding of the evolution of our species. I didn’t actually know this while I was growing up and only discovered the fossil richness of my homeland later on in life and that’s why I have made it my mission to bridge the gap between communities and science! I hope that through science communication, we ensure that all South African children experience the wonders of our country including our fauna, flora, geology and fossil record.

I went to the University of the Witwatersrand and completed my undergraduate degree in Zoology, Ecology and Conservation in 2014. It was during an undergraduate project that I fell in love with primate and more specifically primate movement.

I had spent time observing a Spider Monkey (Ateles geoffroy) at the Hartebeespoort Monkey Sanctuary and was fascinated at how effortlessly she navigated through the trees. Later, I combined my love of the old with my love of movement and pursued my Honours and Masters degrees in the evolution and development of bipedalism in our species. In order to do this, I examine the internal or trabecular structure of bones in the pelvis, legs and feet of living primates (including us) and extinct fossils from The Cradle of Humankind. I study the internal bone structure because it gives us information on how a bone was loaded during life. Our bone acts like a diary and keeps a record of our activities so scientists can better understand how our movement (or lack thereof) affects our bones.

I am passionate about science communication, especially in science accessibility and representation. I work with amazing researchers and journalists in order to bring science to communities in languages other than English and to make sure that more people are aware of the importance of South Africa in the global context of human evolution.

I am so excited to be here with you this week and will be discussing all things primate, fossil, locomotion and scicomm!

24th September 2018 – Aileen Baird, University of Birmingham, Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (funded by NERC through DREAM CDT)

Aileen BairdHi Biotweeps! I’m Aileen, and I’m just entering the 2nd year of my PhD at the University of Birmingham funded under the NERC DREAM CDT. Prior to my PhD, I studied for an MSci in Human Biology, also at the University of Birmingham. During my degree, I realised that microbiology was my real passion, and actually, I was more interested in environmental microbes than microbes in humans! My interest is primarily in fungi: notoriously under-loved and under-studied. So prepare yourselves for a week of me waxing lyrical about the wonderful world of fungi…

My research is on temperate forest fungi and how these fungi are affected by increasing carbon dioxide concentrations in the air. Due to climate change, we can expect that carbon dioxide concentrations in the air will continue to rise for a number of years, and it is really important to understand how forests will response to this changing planet.

I work at the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR) Free Air Carbon Enrichment (FACE) experiment. At our Mill Haft site in Staffordshire we have a unique set up, with 30m high towers forming rings around areas of the forest. These towers spray out extra carbon dioxide into areas of the forest, mimicking what carbon dioxide concentrations we will have in the air in about 2070.

This is an amazing experiment which offers a large number of researchers (including me!) an incredible resource to study how forest ecosystems are affected by climate change. Fungi are really important in forest ecosystems in particular, playing roles in: decomposition, as pathogens (diseases) on plants and in humans, and even on plant roots delivering extra nutrients to plants. Fungi can have a significant impact on the forest ecosystem, so in order to understand how the forest as a whole responds to carbon dioxide, we need to understand how the fungi respond.

Outside of my mushroom-bothering day job, I love to cycle and explore the wonderful countryside we have in the West Midlands! I also work part-time for the Brilliant Club, an organisation which places doctoral researchers and post-docs in schools to deliver university-style tutorials to students from ages 8-18. The aim is to not give the students an experience of studying in university style, on a subject outside of the curriculum- with the end goal of increasing entry of students from under-represented backgrounds into top universities.

I look forward to chatting to you on Twitter this week!

Aileen

Twitter: @alienbaird

5th March 2018 – Laura Treible, University of North Carolina Wilmington

Laura TreibleLaura is a 4th year PhD candidate in marine biology at UNC Wilmington. She obtained her BS in Environmental Science from the University of Delaware in 2010, and then an MS in Marine and Atmospheric Science from Stony Brook University in 2013. Her MS thesis work focused on ctenophores (comb jellies) in Long Island Sound, NY. This project involved quantifying the abundance and biomass of ctenophores and determining the relative importance of ctenophores to nutrient cycling within the estuary.

For her PhD, Laura is currently working on understanding drivers of global jellyfish populations and examining the response of early life stages of scyphozoan jellyfish (polyps and ephyrae) to various environmental conditions. Jellyfish are often claimed to be robust to environmental change, specifically factors such as such as temperature, hypoxia, and coastal acidification. The complex life cycle and short generation time of scyphozoans leads to the ability to answer questions regarding environmental stress and change. In general, Laura is interested in understanding how anthropogenic impacts and climate change interact and affect organisms and ecosystems at various temporal and spatial scales.

Laura can be found on Twitter @aqua_belle, tweeting about #jellyfish, #climatechange, #womeninSTEM, #scicomm, and trying to #pomodoro through the last year of her dissertation. While Laura is usually based in Wilmington, NC, she will be taking over @Biotweeps from KAUST (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology) in Saudi Arabia, where she is visiting to work with a coauthor.

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.