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!


10th December 2018 – Katherine O’Reilly, University of Notre Dame and National Sea Grant College Program

Katherine O'ReillyI’m Katherine (AKA Katie AKA @DrKatfish), and I’m a Ph.D. candidate studying aquatic ecology at the University of Notre Dame and currently a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Sea Grant Knauss Marine Policy Fellow in Washington, D.C., USA.

My research (in three words): fish, freshwater, and food webs. My research (in slightly more than three words): I look at how fish connect aquatic habitats in the North American Great Lakes. I use a variety of techniques such as stable isotope analysis and otolith chemistry to understand what kinds of habitats fishes use and when they are using them. Understanding freshwater ecosystems such as lakes and rivers, the animals that live there, and effects of humans is incredibly important in a world where freshwater is increasingly at a premium. We’ll be diving into a lot more on this topic during my week on BioTweeps!

Besides catching fish and hanging out on boats around the Great Lakes, you can find me this year in the halls of NOAA HQ as I complete my fellowship with NOAA’s National Sea Grant College program. I serve as Sea Grant’s Science Communications Specialist, which has been an amazing opportunity for me to get experience in doing #scicomm professionally. No matter where my future career path takes me after finishing up my Ph.D. (whether academia, government, or something else), the skills I’m learning during my fellowship year are going to serve me well.

Speaking of #scicomm, I’m so excited to be hosting BioTweeps during the best time of the year: #25DaysofFishmas! What is #25DaysofFishmas, you may ask? For the past two years, I’ve been sharing fish facts each day during December (along with terrible, terrible puns). It’s been an awesome way to connect people from all backgrounds, spread fishy holiday cheer, and maybe even teach people a little about science. While my #25DaysofFishmas started out focusing on Great Lakes fish species, the idea has caught on and now others are sharing fishes from around the world. I can’t wait to introduce BioTweeps to all the fishy fun this year!

26th November 2018 – Cecilia O’Leary, Stony Brook University

Cecilia OLearyI’m a quantitative ecologist and oceanographer. In general, I study marine animal size and age structures (what sizes and ages make up a population) & how environmental and biological processes drive this. We often call this field population dynamics. Lately, I’ve focused on the temporal population dynamics of fish and how climate influences those dynamics (i.e., how do fish numbers change over time?). I think about why we’re observing the number of fishes we see in the ocean, and if large-scale regional climate patterns can describe those changes in abundance. I’ve also studied marine mammals in the past.  I always try and tie my work back to the application of these findings. Often, that means how will a populations response to climate influence the effectiveness of our fisheries management. I enjoy studying both fisheries and marine mammals because of their direct ties to management and importance to the sociology and economy of many coastal places. I love field work and have been lucky enough to participate in fieldwork in the Florida Keys, Mojave Desert, Antarctica, and the Missouri River. The majority of my day to day work now is programming, primarily in #rstats. I’m also all about social change & inclusion in STEM, humanizing the Ph.D. process and the igniting open discussions about the struggles we face as students, and promoting women in STEM. Finally, I absolutely love to talk to students, especially young woman, about what life is actually like as a scientist, so feel free to contact me about speaking to your classroom! You can read more about me, my science work, and life as a woman in STEM here: https://rapidecology.com/2018/03/15/ecologist-spotlight-cecilia-oleary/

19th November 2018 – Elizabeth Franklin, University of Guelph

Liz FranklinMy name is Liz Franklin and I am an behavioural ecologist and entomologist. My passions are wide spreading but I generally come back to the behaviour of individuals and groups, particularly in the social insects (that’s ants bees and wasps). I studied ant behaviour for my PhD and now I study bumble bees again like in my undergraduate. I am originally from the UK but right now I am working at the University of Guelph in Canada as a post doctoral fellow working on a range of projects to understand how bumble bees use landscapes.

Next to doing science my next favourite thing is talking about it! I am a massive advocate of science communication and engage both in outreach for my work but also as a volunteer. Hopefully I can give some advice to those who are interested in this area.

Along with sci comms I hope to talk about the social insects, highlight some of the cool research going on out there, particularly in the realms of behaviour. I will give a shout out to bee diversity, test the waters of your bee knowledge and hopefully answer your burning social insect questions.

Look forward to speaking with you all!

12th November 2018 – Landon Getz, Dalhousie University

Landon GetzI am a Ph.D. Candidate at Dalhousie University (Halifax, NS, Canada), and am studying Vibrio spp. environmental survival and host-pathogen interactions. Specifically, much of my work has focused on Vibrio parahaemolyticus and its interaction with human cells and the environment via a protein secretion system called the Type III Secretion System (T3SS). This bacterial protein secretion apparatus is particularly interesting because it acts as a tiny needle, injecting proteins directly into host cells. This allows many bacterial pathogens to subvert and take over the host’s cellular environment to their own benefit. This work has been supported by my supervisor Dr. Nikhil Thomas (@nikthomas5 on twitter).

I also explore the world of gene-editing technologies and the ethics surrounding them. Importantly, I believe we must recognize both the benefits and the harms that can arise from these new technologies and ensure they are used safely and effectively. Further, I work as a lecturer for Dalhousie’s Chemistry department, am the external coordinator for the Dalhousie Urban Garden Society, am a mentor for Dalhousie’s international Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) team, actively advocate for LGBTQ+ rights (I identify as a gay man), and am an occasional bread baker. My personal website is over at http://www.landongetz.com, and I usually tweet over at @landongetz.

5th November 2018 – Sujatha Jagannathan, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

Sujatha Jagannathan.jpgSuja Jagannathan is a new Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. She leads a team of scientists to study how cells detect and degrade aberrant RNAs.

Throughout her scientific career, Suja has been interested in a biomolecule called the messenger RNA (mRNA). mRNA acts as a disposable copy of the genetic information in the cell and serves as a template for the production of protein molecules that carry out most cellular functions. When the cell produces an erroneous mRNA, it needs to find it and degrade it promptly. Suja’s lab is interested in understanding how the cell manages this process, termed “RNA quality control”, and what happens when it fails to do so. Her lab uses a variety of techniques to track cellular RNA quality control including RNA biochemistry, cell biology, genome engineering, and functional genomics. More information about her work can be found at: www.jagannathan-lab.org

Before starting her own lab at the University of Colorado at the beginning of this year, Suja was a postdoctoral fellow at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle (2013 – 2017) and a graduate student at Duke University in Durham, NC (2006 – 2013).

29th October 2018 – Luis Pedro Coelho, Fudan University

Luis Pedro CoelhoLuis Pedro Coelho is a Young Principal Investigator at Fudan University.  He works on the analysis of microbial communities in different environments, such as the marine environment or the human gut using computational methods, namely metagenomic analysis and fluorescence microscopy analysis.
In particular, he is interested in comparing and contrasting the microbial communities in different environments such as the guts of different mammals and assessing how much they share in terms of genes and species and how exactly they differ. Luis also works on computational method development (bioinformatics) with a focus on enabling reproducible research and best practices with minimal user intervention. In this facet of his work, he is the lead on several scientific software projects for image analysis, metagenomics, and data science.
Before moving to Fudan in 2018, he was a postdoctoral researcher in Peer Bork’s group at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL). He has a PhD from Carnegie Mellon University where he worked under the supervision of Prof. Bob Murphy and a MSc from Instituto Superior Técnico in Lisbon.
Luis can be found at http://luispedro.org/ and his lab website is http://big-data-biology.org/ His usual twitter handle is @luispedrocoelho