17th September 2018 – Ed Emmott, Northeastern University

Ed EmmottI’m Ed Emmott (twitter: @edemmott, web: edemmott.co.uk), a postdoc at Northeastern University in Boston MA. I moved to the US just under a year ago after a previous postdoc in the UK at the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London. My background is in studying viruses, how your body defends against them, and in particular how this changes the proteins your cells make in response to infection.

I’ve mostly worked on animal viruses. In some cases these are important in themselves, for example the economic impact of chicken viruses on the poultry industry. The virus I worked on during my PhD – Avian coronavirus, also known as infectious bronchitis virus is an example of this. In other cases, when there isn’t a good way to grow a human virus, a similar animal virus can be the best way we have to study this. In my last postdoc I worked on mouse norovirus which is not a major problem for any mice which get infected, but is similar to human norovirus which causes winter vomiting disease. Norovirus is best known for outbreaks on cruise ships and sporting events.

I’m also interested in how cells make proteins and how cells respond to infection. I’m working on this in my current postdoc, where I am studying how ribosomes are altered as part of the immune response. I do lots of the above with a method called mass spectrometry, which allows me to study thousands of proteins at once. You’ll be hearing a little bit on all this and on some of the places I’ve worked during my week!

Aside from the research, I’m a strong supporter of preprints, and reproducibility in science and try to contribute to these as an ASAPbio and eLife Ambassador. Away from the science I enjoy cooking, music, good restaurants, IPA, and am fueled by ~5 coffees/day.

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3rd September 2018 -Morgan Halane, POSTECH

Morgan HalaneWe all get sick 😦 While our immune system does a good job of fending off viruses, bacteria, and fungi, these tiny invaders sometimes thwart even the best defenses. Human diseases seem to get the most attention, but I am focused on the immune systems of plants. Although you have a lot in common with quinoa, there are some key differences between the immune systems of you and your favorite crop.

A little about me: I’m a D&D Wizard (formerly Druid), a first-generation #BlackAndSTEM PhD, currently conducting postdoctoral research in Dr. Kee Hoon Sohn’s lab (http://sohnlab.kr/) at POSTECH, South Korea. Originally from rural Missouri, I had no idea a decade ago that I would be doing the work that I’m doing, but every day is a new adventure and I’m loving living at the edge of the unknown, both as a scientist and as a foreigner living in Asia.

My PhD research was focused on proteins secreted from bacterial pathogens (effector proteins). My most recent paper identifies a previously uncharacterized functional domain of a well-studied effector protein (http://journals.plos.org/plospathogens/article?id=10.1371/journal.ppat.1006984).

My goal for this week in Biotweeps is to have a conversation- answer questions about plants and plant immunity, engage in the debate surrounding genetically modified crops, and to learn something new! I also want to discuss things outside of my research topic, such as relocating from the US to Korea for research and switching majors from undergrad to grad (I was a Lit major in Undergrad, where I was working in a science lab while writing essays on sci-fi adaptations).

27th August 2018 – Paul Julian, University of Florida

Paul JulianI’m Paul Julian (@SwampThingPaul), a recent PhD graduate from the University of Florida Soil and Water Sciences Department in Gainesville, FL. During my PhD studies, I was also working full-time (and continues to work post-PhD) at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) supporting Everglades Restoration efforts. In addition to working at FDEP I am also a Postdoctoral Associate in the Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience at University of Florida under Dr Todd Z Osborne.  My PhD research focused on understanding biogeochemical processes within the Everglades Stormwater Treatment Areas (wetlands) including nutrient spiraling, nutrient stoichiometry, aquatic productivity and carbon dynamics.  Generally, I have diverse and varied research interests (webpage link) all revolve around aquatic ecosystems biogeochemistry, ecology and management. My current research interests are split between marine and freshwater wetlands studying the effects of climate change, eutrophication, ecosystem management and restoration on ecosystem function. I like to say that my research spans the aquatic continuum from fresh to marine aquatic ecosystems.

My other academic achievements pre-PhD include obtaining a BSc of biochemistry from Benedictine College (Atchison, Kansas, USA) and MSc of Environmental Science from Florida Gulf Coast University (Fort Myers, Florida, USA). My masters work involved studying Florida Panther (Puma concolor coryi) habitat selection and home range dynamics in response to exotic plant removal and management within Big Cypress National Preserve (Florida, USA). Post-bachelor’s degree I immediately entered the work force studying coastal water quality, estuarine dissolved organic matter dynamics and harmful algae blooms in southwest Florida. After several years I decided it was time to purse an advanced degree and took a detour studying something outside of my existing background (wildlife ecology). I was a rather un-traditional student and while working full-time I pursed my master’s degree. After obtaining my master’s degree I moved onto studying seagrass ecology and later to Everglades restoration with a focus on water quality which led me to the wetland biogeochemistry lab at University of Florida where I (un-traditionally) achieved my PhD.

Outside of work and school I like to get lost in nature by going on long hikes through the bush, document my adventure with photography (Flickr), snorkel and scuba dive, cook vegan meals, exercise and be overall active.

13th August 2018 – Danny Haelewaters, University of South Bohemia

Danny HaelewatersFrom when I was able to utter my first few words as a baby I wanted to become a veterinary scientist, but you know how things go in life. So … I became an assistant-salesman, an all-rounder at a hotel and even the running manager of a bed and breakfast in the rural South of France. However, the science was never too far away – it’s in my blood – so meanwhile I became a biologist and earlier this year I graduated from Harvard University with a PhD in organismic and evolutionary biology. Speaking about some change!

These days I am a postdoctoral researcher, currently at the University of South Bohemia (Czech Republic) and starting November 2018 at Purdue University. I am a mycologist, with interest in phylogenetic relationships and associations with other organisms. My PhD research at Harvard University focused on Laboulbeniomycetes biotrophic fungi. I worked on resolving phylogenetic relationships and patterns of speciation. As a postdoc in the Czech Republic I continue my work with “labouls” but I also work on a project on parasitoid wasps that are natural enemies of ladybirds. At Purdue, I will characterize fungal microbes associated with romaine lettuce through a combination of experimental and next-generation sequencing techniques. A lot of diverse projects, and I haven’t even mentioned my interest in Leotiomycetes fungi.

I have a wife and daughter (Luna, almost 2) but I identify as bisexual. I have had relationships with guys and have no problem talking about this with LGBT+ or straight/gender-conforming people. I care about diversity a lot. We founded the Diversity and Inclusion Committee of the Mycological Society of America, which I chaired this past year. This Committee organized a symposium “Boosting Diversity in Mycology” at the International Mycological Congress in Puerto Rico, focusing on contemporary issues such as (lack of) diversity, LGBT+ in STEM fields, and unconscious bias

6th August 2018 – Alexander Georgiev & Ann-Sophie Warkentin, Bangor University

Jointly hosted by:

Alexander GeorgievDr Alexander Georgiev
Lecturer, School of Natural Sciences, Bangor University
Twitter: @alexvgeorgiev
Website: alexandergeorgiev.co.uk

I am a primatologist interested in behavioural ecology, physiology and conservation. I am particularly keen on understanding the great variation of reproductive strategies seen among primates, both within and between species. Two key questions I am beginning to address in my ongoing work are: (1) How anthropogenic disturbance affects the physiology and health of primates living in human-modified habitat; and (2) Whether that in turn influences their reproductive performance and, by implication, the long-term survival of their populations.

I have studied the energetics of male reproductive effort in chimpanzees in Uganda, and have also worked with wild bonobos in the DRC, free-ranging rhesus macaques in Puerto Rico and data on human life history and reproduction from Cebu, in the Philippines. I am now in the process of establishing a long-term field study of the endemic and endangered Zanzibar red colobus at Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park, Zanzibar. This week on Biotweeps my student (Ann-Sophie Warkentin) and I will be tweeting live from Jozani Forest and the surrounding agricultural fields about our work with these fascinating colobines! Join us to find out more about the challenges of starting a new study involving multiple groups of similar-looking individual monkeys. And more.

Ann-Sophie Warkentin_2Ann-Sophie Warkentin
MScRes student, School of Natural Sciences, Bangor University
Twitter: @ASWarkentin

I’m a MScRes student in Biological Sciences at Bangor University after having just completed my BSc in Zoology with Animal Behaviour also at Bangor. I’m interested in ecology, especially behavioural ecology and anthropogenic disturbance. My undergraduate dissertation examined the ecology of small mammals using camera traps. I’m originally from Germany and decided to study in the UK due to the more specialised degrees and modules offered there. Through one of these modules in third year, I got more interested in primatology and got in contact with my current supervisor to talk about potential MSc projects.

During my fieldwork this summer, I am collecting data on activity budgets and ranging behaviour of Zanzibar red colobus to investigate potential effects of tourism on the colobus at our study site. Because the monkeys at Jozani are very well habituated, they are frequently visited by tourist groups of different sizes and compositions and I am interested to see if the behaviour of these tourists affect the colobus’ behaviour and ranging patterns. This is my first real experience with fieldwork and I’m excited about the opportunities and experiences that come with it. During the week of co-hosting Biotweeps, I’m hoping to provide an insight into what fieldwork can look like at a pre-PhD level and I will talk about how I got to be here in the first place.

30th July 2018 – Aliza le Roux, University of the Free State-Qwaqwa

Aliza le RouxI’m an associate professor in Zoology on a tiny little rural campus in Qwaqwa, South Africa. I might be the only cognitive ecologist in South Africa – few African researchers appear to be curious about the workings of animal minds. Up till now, I’ve done research on a variety of species. For my PhD, I studied yellow mongoose communication and cognition in the Kalahari Desert (they’re the sexiest mongoose species!), and as postdoc I looked at gelada monkeys in the Ethiopian highlands. Primates are clever, but I’m quite drawn to secretive creatures like carnivores. I’ve chased around after bat-eared foxes, trying to unravel the drivers of the extensive paternal care you can see in this species, and now I’m quite caught up in events in my own backyard. I work up in the mountains near Lesotho, and this absolutely stunning location is driving my current research. My research group is looking at rodents’ and small carnivores’ responses to mountain living: we are a high-altitude grassland, experiencing regular fires, snow in winter, and of course the unique challenges of spatial navigation! On top of this, humans are impacting the ecosystem. So, I have my work cut out for me.

To my shock, I’m becoming a mid-career scientist, and I’m not quite ready for it. I probably have a lot of wisdom (from hindsight!) about starting a new research group on a shoestring… In the meantime, I have to say that few of my peers appear to be interested in #SciComm, and I hope that my Biotweeps week will swing a bit more attention in the direction of research done in Africa, by locals. If you want to see some of my publications, I maintain a ResearchGate profile here and I’m also on Google Scholar.

23rd of July 2018 – Stacey Felgate, National Oceanography Centre (NOCS) / University of Southampton

Stacey FelgateI am a 1st year PhD candidate in marine biogeochemistry at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOCS). At the age of 31 I obtained my BSc Hons in Marine Science from the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS-UHI) during which time I  won a Carnegie Trust Summer Research Bursary to study the impacts of a simulated Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) facility, sailed aboard RRS Discovery for a month sampling the Rockall Trough and Iceland Basin, then completed a fellowship at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) to study coastal carbon storage with the US Geological Survey. My undergraduate study focussed on the various ways in which the world’s oceans and coastal zones can help to mitigate climate change. My final year thesis focussed on the natural carbon storage capacity of saltmarshes, using a range of isotopic markers to understand whether a marsh was storing or releasing its historic carbon.

After graduating, I undertook an internship at the UK Environment Agency where she worked within the Marine Management and the Estuarine and Coastal Monitoring and Strategy chemicals teams before taking up graduate study at the University of Southampton. For my PhD, Stacey is currently working on understanding what happens to organic matter produced on land when it enters rivers and moves towards the open ocean. A large portion of this organic matter enters rivers, but very little is known about what happens to it in transit, and even less is known about where the ~50% of it that doesn’t make it to the ocean ends up. I’ll be taking over @Biotweeps fresh from 2 weeks in the North of Scotland, conducting an intensive study of the Halladale river catchment.

Aside from the science, I’m really interested in issues of equality and in how healthy the way the scientific community handles ‘different’ is. I also think we should never stop talking about what makes effective science communication and how we can all become better at it.