19th February 2018 – Meghan Barrett – Drexel University

Meghan BarrettMeghan Barrett is a PhD student at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. She studies arthropod neuroanatomy (a.k.a. bug brains), human and environmentally friendly pesticides, and bee diversity. Meghan is just getting started with her thesis work where she hopes to focus on the dimorphic males of the desert species Centris pallida (a beautiful, pale, fuzzy bee with huge ‘chaps’ on the legs).

Meghan is also earning her Masters in Undergraduate STEM Education through the Drexel PROFESS program, studying evidence-based techniques for teaching biology. In her ‘spare’ time, she enjoys pairing her love of science with her love of writing – she earned her B.S. in Biology and English/Creative Writing at SUNY Geneseo in New York. Meghan’s ecological poetry can be found on her website, meghan-barrett.com, right next to blog posts, a podcast interview, science articles, a bioethics play, and an interactive high-fantasy gamebook app.

The last of her time is spent kayaking/hiking/rock climbing with her fiancé, Alex, watching League of Legends eSports (her current favorite team in the world is Gigabyte Marines but TSM is obviously the best in the NALCS), playing with her cross-eyed cat, Nyx, and writing, then burying, her fiction novels.

Meghan is excited to talk about science in drama, insects, writing, and undergraduate STEM education on Biotweeps, and can’t wait to converse about all her favorite topics!

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12th February 2018 – Adam Marcus, Emory University

Adam MarcusAdam Marcus, PhD is an Associate Professor in the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. Dr. Marcus’ laboratory (marcuslab.com) studies how cancers invade and metastasize, with the goal of developing treatments that target cancer metastasis. Dr. Marcus’ research has been funded by the National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society, the Winship Cancer Institute, private foundations, and through philanthropy. Dr. Marcus is a former Georgia Cancer Coalition Scholar, has over 75 scientific publications, and has received national and local awards for his research and teaching.  He has given numerous seminars on his research to both scientists and the general public. He was a recent TEDx speaker (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgntY0dOf_c) and part of the Atlanta Innovative Index and Atlanta 40under40. Dr. Marcus serves as the Director of the Emory Integrated Cellular Imaging Core (ici.emory.edu), which provides cutting-edge imaging technologies to scientific investigators, as well as Director of Graduate Studies for the Cancer Biology PhD program.

Dr. Marcus also leads a science education outreach program, Citizen Science HD (citizensciencehd.com). The goals of this program are to use STEM-based initiatives in K-12 classrooms to stimulate critical thinking, diversity, and enthusiasm for the sciences. This program has visited over 35 schools, 150 classrooms, and 3000 students. In this role, he serves as the Director of the Center for Advancing Health and Diversity through Citizen Science, which is funded through the NIH. Dr. Marcus has received institutional, regional, and national awards for his teaching, outreach, and research. He also is on Twitter and can be found at @notmadscientist

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!

22nd January 2018 – Stephen Heard, University of New Brunswick

Stephen Heard2

Hello everyone!  My name is Steve Heard, and I’m an evolutionary ecologist at the University of New Brunswick, in Fredericton, NB, Canada.

As a researcher, I’m mostly interested in the evolution of insect diet.  Among herbivorous insects, why do some species feed on just a single host plant and reject everything else, while others eat (nearly) everything they encounter?  When an insect adopts a new host plant, how often is the result the evolution of a new specialist species, and how often, instead, just a generalist species with one more host?  And when we answer questions like these, can it help us with economically important issues like the vulnerability of crops to insect pests or the spread and impact of invasive species?  I address questions like these in a model system (insects attacking goldenrods) and also in an applied context (insect pests of coniferous trees, a major issue in forestry).

I’ve been around a while and have done a few different things.  For my PhD, completed way back in 1993, I studied interactions among the insect inhabitants of pitcher-plant leaves.  As a postdoc I worked on coexistence in mushroom-breeding flies – but with a sideline in the shapes of evolutionary trees and what those shapes can tell us about the evolution of new biodiversity.  I began my first faculty job, at the University of Iowa, as a stream ecologist, but by the time I moved to New Brunswick in 2002, I’d moved on to my insect-diet work.  I guess you could say I have broad interests, or if you prefer, a short attention span!

Like every scientist, I’m about more than my own research. Among other things: I’ve written a book on scientific writing (The Scientist’s Guide to Writing); I teach courses in ecology, entomology, and writing; I do my best to mentor my grad students; I’m an editor for a couple of journals; and this year, I’m Chair of my academic department.  I’ll tweet about all of these roles, how I balance them, and how I see them fitting together.  Of course, I also have a life outside of science, in which I’m a husband and father, a (bad) curler, a (somewhat better) cook, and a voracious reader.

When I’m not on @Biotweeps, you can find me on Twitter as @StephenBHeard, and I also blog at ScientistSeesSquirrel.wordpress.com.

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.

8th January 2018 – Ann-Sophie Warkentin, Bangor University

Ann-Sophie WarkentinAnn-Sophie is currently in her 3rd year of Zoology with Animal Behaviour (BSc) at Bangor University, Wales. Originally from Germany, she decided to move to the UK for her degree as it was much more specific than what she could have done at a German University. Her main interests lie in behavioural ecology, specifically in larger carnivores and predator/prey relationships as well as anthropologic disturbances.

Her dissertation looks into using modified camera traps to identify and research small mammals, for which she has done a four-week camera trapping period in her native Schleswig-Holstein, North Germany. Hopefully, this research will provide an overview over habitat preference of small mammals and occupancy, as well as bringing the idea of modifying camera traps specifically for small mammals to a wider audience. This last point was also Ann-Sophie’s incentive to apply for Biotweeps.

In her free time, Ann-Sophie likes to be outdoors and enjoy the Welsh countryside, as well as practising archery and bouldering. Travelling is another passion, having taken her as far as New Zealand and the United States, where she especially appreciates hiking in the various National Parks.

She hopes to continue at Bangor University for a MSc degree in September 2018, to then potentially pursue a PhD within behavioural ecology.