8th July 2019 – Vicky Vásquez, Pacific Shark Research Center

Vicky VasquezVicky Vásquez is a graduate student under the Pacific Shark Research Center (PSRC) where she studies ‘Lost Sharks’; a term used to described lesser known or undiscovered species of cartilaginous fishes. She also serves as the social media manager to the larger entity, Moss Landing Marine Labs. Vicky combines her outreach efforts with her research as a tool for engaging a broader audience. One such example includes the discovery of the first Lanternshark species off the Pacific coast of Central America. In an effort to excite school age children with the discovery, Vicky reached out to her younger cousins as well as a local San Francisco youth group for suggestions on the name of the new shark species. When the Ninja Lanternshark discovery was made public, the news went viral and was even featured in the comic, Sherman’s Lagoon. In addition, the scientific name, Etmopterus benchleyi, is a nod to Peter Benchley’s often unnoticed contributions towards ocean conservation. Another research highlight from Vicky’s work is being apart of first research team to ever tag a Goblin Shark (Mitzsukurina oswtoni). In some of her past sharky fieldwork, Vicky has worked with Great Whites, Soupfins, Sevengills, Hammerheads, Leopard Sharks, Bay Rays, and Thornback Rays. She uses her work with sharks as a lead into to broader issues affecting the world’s oceans such as plastic pollution and overfishing. Some of Vicky’s other science communication work includes several appearances on Discovery Channel’s Shark Week; co-host of the Ocean Science Radio podcast, freelance writer and public speaker. To follow Vicky’s work, check out her Facebook and Instagram pages with the handle @VickyShark or find her right here on Twitter @VickySharky


24th June 2019 – Lucy Taylor, Save the Elephants/ University of Oxford

Lucy TaylorHi everyone! My name is Dr Lucy Taylor (@LucyATaylor) and I am a Postdoctoral Researcher with Save the Elephants and the University of Oxford. My current research focuses on African savannah elephant behaviour and movement ecology. In particular, I use GPS tracking data from elephants in northern Kenya to investigate whether elephants change their movement patterns in relation to life history events, such as giving birth, and to humans.

Alongside my research, I am also passionate about student support and development, particularly of graduate students. My route through the education system was not exactly linear. After dropping out of A-levels (high school), I took a vocational qualification at an agricultural college, followed by BSc (hons) Animal Science and an MSc by Research. I then somehow got into the University of Oxford for a DPhil (PhD), which I completed in 2018. My thesis investigated the modulations in movement by homing pigeons and African savannah elephants. How are homing pigeons and elephants connected, you may ask. Well – I started my PhD studying pigeons, then I became allergic to them and had to switch subject. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to switch to studying elephants in collaboration with Save the Elephants. It was not the easiest journey, but I’ve learnt a huge amount in the process and I really enjoy both sharing the tips I have learned and supporting other students through the PhD process.

I’m excited to join you @biotweeps for the week and look forward to talking to you all about elephants, movement ecology, and the highs and lows of academic life!

17th June 2019 – Heather Slinn, University of Guelph

Heather SlinnI’m a PhD candidate in Integrative Biology at the University of Guelph in Guelph, Ontario. My PhD research is interdisciplinary and spans microbiology, bioinformatics (analyzing biological data, for e.g. DNA sequences, using computer science), ecology and chemistry – where I often work collaboratively with chemists. My specialty lies in how plants, fungi and insects interact with one another in tropical ecosystems. I ask questions like; how does plant chemistry affect other organisms in the community? And, what variables are important for determining which fungi colonize the interior of leaves (termed fungal endophytes)? More recently, I’m working on a project that looks at whether digestion of seeds by bats influence fungi the colonize seeds and improve seed germination. This fall, I’ll be going to Brazil to work with a chemist on how these fungal endophytes contribute to the chemistry in plants. You might be wondering, why are these questions important? My work aims to contribute to our understanding of how species interact with one another in a highly diverse and complex ecosystem. This is especially important because of the decline in species diversity in the tropics, due to factors such as deforestation and climate change. There are also potential applications for agriculture, through how plants may defend themselves against enemies and pharmacy by discovering new compounds which may have properties to combat human diseases.

Part of the fun of being a tropical ecologist, is getting to travel to different sites and comparing the answers to our research questions. During my PhD, I’ve conducted research in the lowland rainforests of Costa Rica and the cloud forests of the Andes in Ecuador. These research trips can last anywhere between 1 week to 4 months. I enjoy exploring new places, learning new languages, eating tasty food and drinking the local beers and wines. So, this type of work agrees with me. However, when in Guelph, you can find me tending to my balcony garden, meeting with the Guelph chapter of a women in STEM organization and running in the trails. I hope you enjoy my week on @biotweeps.

Find out more about me and my work here:

Scholar: https://scholar.google.ca/citations?user=slaTV_UAAAAJ&hl=en
Website: http://www.heatherslinn.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/h_slinn

10th June 2019 – Chelsea Little, Eawag (Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology)

Chelsea LittleHi there! I’m Chelsea Little. I just finished my PhD in Ecology at the University of Zurich, and during this time I was based at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology. I will start a postdoctoral research position at the University of British Columbia in the fall. My journey to where I am now included an REU project as an undergrad, a stint as a research technician, and an international Erasmus masters program in Europe, after a detour through semi-professional ski racing. There’s no one “right” path to becoming a scientist!

I have a hard time defining what kind of ecologist because I have worked in a lot of study systems and am interested in many different aspects of ecology and evolution. However, all of the research I do is related to community ecology. I use this and connect to ecosystem processing of carbon and nutrients, to evolutionary biology, and to applied topics like climate change and invasive species. My PhD work was with macroinvertebrate communities in the streams and rivers of Eastern Switzerland. Before that, I worked in plant communities in the subalpine zones of the Colorado Rockies and in northern Sweden, the oak savanna of the Pacific Northwestern U.S., the alpine zone of the Swiss Alps, and the tundra of Svalbard.  I’ve also worked with colleagues on experiments using protozoans in model communities, as well as gathering data from other researchers to use in meta-analyses and reviews. What aspects of ecology do you want to talk about? I’m excited to share my experience and to chat!

Outside of my working life, I am an avid runner, hiker, and cross-country skier – being outside is part of why I became an ecologist in the first place. I also love to travel, cook, and read lots of books. I’ll use part of my time as a host to discuss work-life balance, hobbies, outdoor adventures, grad school life, living outside your home country, and feminism in science.

3rd June 2019 – Maiko Kitaoka, University of California, Berkeley

Version 3Hi everyone! I’m Maiko Kitaoka, and I’m a PhD student in Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley (USA). I study mechanisms of chromosome mis-segregation using various species of Xenopus frogs and particularly chromosome loss in inviable Xenopus hybrids. My thesis project combines cell biological mechanisms and genomics in a unique evolutionary context, making it both interdisciplinary and exciting for this self-proclaimed cell cycle/cell division and microscopy nerd! Previously, I completed my undergraduate degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where my research focused on the cell biology of developmental cell cycle transitions in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster.

In addition to my research, I’m really passionate about improving academic science to make it more generous and accessible to all. Science is difficult enough at the bench, so every other aspect (career progression/trajectory, publishing, collaborations, communication, etc) should be as open and kind and positive as possible. To this end, I’ve recently become an eLife Ambassador where I hope to contribute to specific initiatives to aid in reproducibility, open-access publishing, and improving the daily “life of a scientist” (whatever that means to you). I also contribute regularly to preLights, an initiative by the Company of Biologists to highlight new and cool bioRxiv preprints in an effort to speed up the availability of scientific information and discovery.

Some fun facts about me: I was previously a pre-professional ballet dancer with American Ballet Theatre in NYC before discovering science at MIT, so you can often find me pirouetting around the bench doing my experiments these days (to my lab’s amusement). I know many Broadway musicals by heart (perhaps to my labmates’ annoyance), read voraciously, and believe that laughter and sunshine and love is the best medicine for anything. I dream about (in no particular order) writing my own book, starring in a Broadway production, owning a book café, and making it as a scientist and changing science for the better.

I’m really looking forward to taking over the @Biotweeps account for the week, and I hope you enjoy this peek into my life as a graduate student scientist! There will be frogs, mitotic spindles, sunshine, and more! Follow me on Twitter (@MaikoKitaoka) and Instagram (@maikokitaoka) for more insights into my life as a PhD student, frog wrangler, bookworm, and weird human being. Check out my website to learn more about me, my research, etc, and follow my blog for more of my personal thoughts about graduate school, #scicomm, and the state of science.

Website: https://maikokitaoka.wordpress.com/
Blog: https://maikokitaoka.wordpress.com/blog/
preLights: https://prelights.biologists.com/profiles/mkitaoka/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MaikoKitaoka
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/maikokitaoka/

20th May 2019 – Shiz Aoki, BioRender, National Geographic Magazine

FB_IMG_1558333146841Shiz Aoki is a medical Illustrator, Johns Hopkins school of medicine alum, former Lead Science Illustrator at National Geographic, and a multi-winner of the Best Infographics in America award. After having spent a decade creating bespoke science illistrations for high-profile projects, Shiz’s focus has now been to democratize visual science communication for all scientists.
Shiz is currently the CEO and Co-Founder of BioRender, a web program that empowers researchers to create professional science figures in minutes. BioRender works with renowned institutions such as Harvard, Stanford, Cell Press, and more.

13th May 2019 – Malcolm S Ramsay, University of Toronto

Malcolm RamsayHi! My name is Malcolm Ramsay (@MalcolmSRamsay) and I’m from Toronto, Canada, but I’m living in Hannover, Germany. I am a primatologist who wears different hats as a biologist, anthropologist, environmentalist, activist, and many more things without titles. I’m currently a PhD Candidate in Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of Toronto in Canada. I also did my MSc in Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of Toronto back in 2016 and my BA in Anthropology at the University of Waterloo in 2013. I work primarily in Madagascar on the unique and fascinating lemurs that inhabit the island. My PhD is examining how the smallest living primates (mouse lemurs) cope with increasing levels of habitat loss and fragmentation. While my work focuses on ecology and genomics, I am passionate about many other issues in biology and science more broadly. I look forward to talking to everyone on Biotweeps about primates, Madagascar, fieldwork, social justice, and whatever else comes up!