1st April 2019 – Jenny Howard, Wake Forest University

Jenny HowardHi everyone! I’m Jenny Howard, and I’m a 5th year PhD student at Wake Forest University in Winston Salem, North Carolina. My path to grad school wasn’t exactly linear; after graduating from my undergraduate institution, Kenyon College, I explored a variety of science fields by doing seasonal field work for the government, academia, and non-profit organizations. I bounded through wetlands in Ohio and Colorado, forests in Guam and South Carolina, and remote seabird islands in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Ultimately, I found a driving passion for seabirds, these incredible long-lived species who inhabit both terrestrial and marine environments. I decided to pursue graduate school because I wanted to dive deeper into a focused project and data for a longer period. This led me to study seabirds in Galápagos as a PhD student at Wake Forest University.

My first exposure to the Galápagos Islands occurred when I studied abroad in Ecuador in 2008 and I was immediately enchanted with the islands. In 2011, I jumped at the opportunity to volunteer as a field assistant working with Dr. David Anderson’s long-term project studying Nazca boobies on Isla Española in Galápagos. Now, I work in this same system to study how individual (like age or sex of a bird) and environmental variables (like sea surface temperature) affect the foraging behavior of these long-lived seabirds. We study the birds using GPS units and accelerometers, similar to technology found in a smartphone or activity tracker that counts steps walked. Wearing these small tags, the bird can fly freely and give us a window into each bird’s life. Once we download data from the biologgers, we can see where a bird traveled and then can add in satellite data to figure out how a bird was deciding to forage in a specific area.

Recently, I have become very passionate about using effective science communication to bridge the gap between what we do as scientists with non-scientists, particularly in this polarized political climate. Producing evidence-based articles that invite non-scientists to learn and engage in science research is critical for our future. I started writing for Massive Science, an online consortium that trains scientists to translate science for non-scientists, and am continuing to write when I have time.

Spending so much time on remote islands, I got into photography and birds in the Galápagos make easy subjects! Check out my website to see photos from different places I’ve worked or visited, links to my science communication, or more information about my research.

In my free time, I’m all about being outdoors. Also, I’ve found that it is really important to have some way to de-stress and chill-out during grad school — it improves overall mental health. My favorite ways to de-stress have been running and baking!

This week, get excited for all things seabird and foraging-related, science communication, and managing overall health during grad school!

Twitter: @jenny_howard9
Instagram: @wfuandersonlab
Website: https://www.jenniferlynnhoward.com/

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23rd April 2018 – Nina O’Hanlon – University of the Highlands and Islands

Nina O'HanlonI am a seabird ecologist with particular interests in foraging ecology, movement behaviour, zoology and anthropogenic impacts on species and habitats. However, I am fascinated by all aspects of ornithology and conservation.

Currently, I am a post-doc at the Environmental Research Institute working on two NPA projects: Circular Ocean and APP4SEA.  For Circular Ocean, I was recently involved in a review to provide a baseline assessment of current knowledge concerning the impact of marine plastic on seabirds in northern Europe and the Arctic region; and I am now focusing on how we can improve our knowledge of nest incorporation of plastic by seabirds. As part of APP4SEA I am working on a package focused on the ecological impact of oil spills on seabirds.

My first move into the seabird world was during my Masters where I got to spend the summer on the beautiful Calf of Man, helping to investigate the impact of rats on the island’s seabirds as part of a planned rat eradication. That led to my PhD at the University of Glasgow investigating spatial variation in Herring Gull traits across south-west Scotland and Northern Ireland, focusing on the gulls’ eggs, resource use and foraging behaviours – carrying out fieldwork on several islands and coastal colonies.

As a birder and bird ringer, most of my spare time is spent outdoors, especially along the stunning Caithness coast of north Scotland. My love of birds and science has also led me to be involved with the BOU‘s Engagement Committee as a Social Media Support Officer and with British Birds as a director focusing on communication and social media.

January 26th, 2015 – Viola Ross-Smith, British Trust for Ornithology

Viola Ross-SmithI’m a post-doctoral ecologist with a passion for seabirds. I studied Zoology at Cambridge before completing my PhD on gulls at Cardiff, during which I spent several months each year on the small Welsh island of Flat Holm and fell in love with island life. Since this time, I’ve become a bit of an island bagger and been lucky enough to work on several remote and spectacular British islands.

I joined the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) in late 2010, as a research ecologist in the Wetland and Marine Team. My most exciting work has involved tracking seabirds, primarily Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and looking at how they interact with wind farms. My colleagues and I have deployed state-of-the-art GPS tags to unpick the fine details of where and when these birds travel and how they use their environment. You can see a summary of some of this work in this feature I recorded for the BBC.

I also love communicating science and now work almost half-time as science communications officer at BTO. I regularly do radio and TV interviews and write up features for our website and popular publications. I am a licensed bird ringer and this sometimes comes in handy when combining my two roles as you can see from this piece featuring the now famous Tesco Pied Wagtail! Most of my communications time is spent managing our social media accounts (including @_BTO) where I focus on finding great bird and wildlife-related science stories, but I also get a lot out of engaging with our really active Twitter community of 35,000+ followers. I am also a committee member of, and manage social media for, the Seabird group (@TheSeabirdGroup), a registered charity founded in 1966 to promote and help coordinate the study and conservation of seabirds. When I’m not working or tweeting, I might well be found listening to BBC 6 Music with my nose buried in a novel. You can find me @viola_rs.

November 16th 2014 – Holly Kirk, Oxford University

Holly KirkHolly is studying seabird migration and behavioural ecology. She has spent the last four years working with UK seabirds as part of her DPhil in the Department of Zoology, Oxford University. This combines traditional ornithological field work techniques with new spatial and behavioural logging technology.

The research has mainly taken place on Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire, but Holly has also worked on a range of other islands on the west coast of the UK. She uses a range of biologging methods (GPS, geolocation and TDR) to track the movement and behaviour of several seabird species, including puffins, razorbills, guillemots and kittiwakes.

Holly’s current work is on the migration behaviour of the Manx shearwater, Puffinus puffinus. The focus of her study is on how the timing and outcome of different parts of the annual cycle influence behaviour in subsequent years.

For more information about her current work go to http://oxnav.zoo.ox.ac.uk/hollykirk