Bursting with Mitochondrial Energy, Sophia Frentz Joins RealScientists!

IMG_0191This week we’re diverging from the norm, with a PhD student taking over the reins of RealScientists. Sophia Frentz is doing her grad studies at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI), through the University of Melbourne, and normally tweets @sofaf.

Spoiler: she has cool hobbies!

Sophia answered the normal intro questions:

Why/How did you end up in science?

I’ve always been interested in how the world works, in whatever form! I was more of a rarity in my undergrad in that I don’t come from a scientific background, but my parents always encouraged curiosity and that led me to science.

Why did you choose your current field/what keeps you there?

I’m in genetics, and the idea of learning about the building blocks of life are what initially drew me here. As it turns out, genetics is not that simple, but the broad understanding of a range of fields my undergrad gave me definitely kept my over-active mind working hard.

I’m doing my PhD in clinical genetics and it’s really the ability to make a difference in someone’s life, as well as solving a mystery, that keeps me here.

Tell us about your work?

I’m investigating mitochondrial complex I deficiencies in mice and human cell lines, with a view to comparing/contrasting model systems and investigating the effects of some different drugs.

Motivation: why should the lay public care about your research/work?

No drugs to treat mitochondrial dysfunction exist yet, and with an incidence rate of 1 in 5000 live births it’d be pretty awesome if we could actually undertake curative or mitigative measures rather than just palliative care. (complex I deficiency, what I’m working on, is the most common cause of mitochondrial dysfunction).

Do you have any interesting external/extracurricular obligations?

Debating eats up my life – and this week is a pretty debating-heavy week for me, so you’ll be hearing a lot about the interplay between the communication skills I learn/have to use at debating and how that helps/hinders everything I try to do in science.

IMG_0129Any interesting hobbies you’d like to share?

Mostly just debating! I’m a lapsed poet, and attended Haiku North America last year to talk about Science and Haiku, as well as a lapsed musician, and a budding chocolatier. I’m currently trying to learn how to sew, but actually playing a lot more of Kim Kardashian Hollywood than I really should.


How would you describe your ideal day off?

Sightseeing, Queen Victoria Markets, more sightseeing, and debating in the evening. Must come with opportunities for coffee, cake, and icecream.

With a hope for science-themed chocolate (and photos-of), Everyone, please welcome Sophia to RealScientists!

Thanks to James Murray for a week of lessons in sharing astrophysics

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James’ view from his observatory

Last week (17-23rd August) we all were treated to the wonderful curation of @RealScientists by James Murray. You can read a great run down of his background in James’ introduction post.

During his week we got to hear about outreach to the next generation of budding astrophysicists, tips for supporting citizen science and a run down of what telescopes to buy.

You can read all of James’ tweets here or you can see all the photos he posted here. If you enjoyed James’ week on the @RealScientists account please don’t forget to go follow his regular twitter account @JamesTeach.

Finally i’ll leave James to tell you about his week via our post-curation Q&A.

How did you find your week as a curator?

It was amazing. The conversations took off in some very interesting directions. I very much liked that people expressed some very different points of view very passionately without any rancour. And some great ideas popped out!

It can be a shock talking to 13,000. Did you find the sudden rush of interactions (good and bad) daunting?

I thought I would but it didn’t take long at all. It was a little addictive at times (especially as one tweet got picked up and retweeted nearly a 1000 times over two days). I just hope I answered everybody and interacted with all those that took the time to participate

Were there any lowlights?

I might have barred one tweeter who had dropped a few obscenities, otherwise the only lowliest were when I couldn’t tweet through work duties!

Is there anything you wanted to get out of / do on the RS account that you didn’t manage to fit in?

I think a week is the perfect amount of time. I was all tweeted out after seven days. I’d do something similar at the drop of a hat.

Do you have any tips or advice for future RS curators?

Be yourself… show the good and the bad parts of the life. People respond to the that

Other than yourself of course, are there any other people/accounts that people should follow if they liked you and what you covered?

@chris_bloke: administrator of one of the world’s fastest computers. Used by life scientists to solve all sorts of medical mysteries. in his spare time he is a photographer (I have shown several of his images) and archer.

What TV show do you think everyone should go watch right now?

ED – He didn’t answer this one so I’m going to make up an answer and go with: BraveStar, it’s got star right there in the name so it seems like a good fit

A huge thank you from the RS team and our myriad of followers, James! Farewell!

A Retro Thanks and Farewell to Erik Klemetti

Back at the beginning of the month, we had the privilege of hosting Erik Klemetti as curator of RealScientists. You all will remember him as the one who tweeted about awesome, sweet Volcanoes. Erik’s round up of tweets for that week can be found here, and if you want to pop back and recap, his introductory blog post is here. Erik continues to tweet @eruptionsblog, and blog at Eruptions (I see what you did there) for Wired, if you want to keep following him and his awesome science.

Some highlights included his awesome lab:

And some myth debunking:

Erik was also a good sport and answered our out-going curator questions, even with my hassling him mercilessly right at the beginning of a new semester (apologies, Erik!)

How did you find your week as a curator?

It was exciting! This was doubly so thanks to me and my students being in the lab, collecting data. I was able to delve into a lot of interesting topics in the realms of volcanism, science education and science in the media — and keep a constant conversation blowing.

Were there any lowlights?

Not that I can remember. It was smooth sailing with lots of fruitful discussions.

It can be a shock talking to 12,000. Did you find the sudden rush of interactions (good and bad) daunting?

Actually, I have to admit I’m used to it on Twitter! It was interesting to get so many people from such varied backgrounds asking questions.

Is there anything you wanted to get out of / do on the RS account that you didn’t manage to fit in?

No, but the week flew by, I’ll tell you that much.

Do you have any tips or advice for future RS curators?

Be ready for any and all questions … and try not to have a plan. Go with what’s interesting to you at the time.

Other than yourself of course, are there any other people/accounts that people should follow if they liked you and what you covered?

I tried to list a pile at the end of my run, but some names that spring to mind: @subglacial, @BGSvolcanology, @aguvgp, @NASA_EO and @thevolcanofiles, @allochthonous, @highlyanne

What TV show do you think everyone should go watch right now?

Well, everyone already watches Doctor Who, so even though it has nothing to do with science, I’d say Night Court. Honestly, you won’t regret it.

A huge thank you from the RS team and our almighty followers, Erik! Farewell!

With a Conservationists Wild Yell, David Steen Joins RealScientists!

This week we have the pleasure of introducing David Steen to the RealScientists curator pool. David tweets @AlongsideWild, and keeps a blog, called ‘Living Alongside Wildlife’, here. He’s done a fantastic job answering our normal incoming curator questions, so I’ll let him introduce himself.David Steen 1

Why/How did you end up in science?

For as long as I can remember I have been looking under rocks, rolling logs, and wading through streams to look for interesting creatures and trying to figure out what they were up to. Somewhere along the way I started to get paid for it.

Why did you choose your current field/what keeps you there?

Aldo Leopold said, “There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot.” I am one of the latter. As a wildlife ecologist and conservation biologist, my goals are to generate a better understanding of how wildlife populations use and persist on landscapes as well as recommendations regarding how we can develop, farm, restore, and live on these landscapes while accommodating wildlife and natural ecological processes.

Tell us about your work?

As our landscapes change, we must identify conflicts with the needs of wild things and generate innovative solutions that allow us to live alongside them in perpetuity. Natural history and ecology are the foundations of my research; all research is grounded in the understanding that I am studying living and breathing wild creatures that persist in the landscape by escaping predation, catching prey, finding mates and successfully reproducing.

I strive to conduct research relevant to current conservation issues while generating information that will aid in the formulation of effective multi-species conservation planning. My research program is largely applied and integrative in the sense that I am interested in both population and assemblage-level studies as well as those that investigate spatial ecology and resource use; these studies occur within the context of landscape and restoration ecology, wildlife management, and conservation biology. In addition to natural history and applied studies, I maintain an interest in how interspecific interactions, such as predation and competition, influence population persistence and assemblage structure.

Finally, studies within applied fields such as wildlife management, restoration ecology, and conservation biology are implicitly goal-laden pursuits. For these studies to be objective and scientific, they must be grounded in a solid philosophical framework. Because of large-scale and ongoing environmental change, we must continuously reevaluate how we perceive the effects of this change and how we, as conservation biologists, should respond. I have recently developed an interest in building some of these frameworks.

Some of my ongoing projects include monitoring the Indigo Snakes that have been reintroduced into Conecuh National Forest, Alabama (they were extirpated from the state sometime around the 1960’s) and figuring out how their reappearance is affecting the ecosystem. I’m also studying how the Argentine Tegu, an invasive species in Florida, behaves in more temperate climates (i.e., Auburn, Alabama) and determining whether they can successfully reproduce this far north.

Past projects have researched how road mortality is changing freshwater turtle populations, how snake species interact with each other and how that influences their habitat use, whether we can restore bird and reptile assemblages in degraded longleaf pine forests, the prevalence of ingested fish hooks in freshwater turtles, as well as numerous studies on how different species, from salamanders to rattlesnakes, use natural landscapes. A full list of my publications can be found here.

Motivation: why should the lay public care about your research/work?David Steen 2

Losing biodiversity because of how we use the land is a tragedy that would should all avoid because we are all losers when a species disappears from our landscapes. A sustainable vision for our future doesn’t consist solely of just cities and protected areas, but rather landscapes that include both wildlife and our homes, farms, and our businesses. We need research to figure out how we can create and maintain that balance.

Do you have any interesting external/extracurricular obligations?

I conduct a lot of online outreach, in addition to Twitter (@AlongsideWild) I maintain a blog,  that receives over 2,000 views a day. I also serve as an editor for three scientific journals.

Any interesting hobbies you’d like to share?

I’m a novice homebrewer, cook, and wildlife photographer. I also enjoy experiencing the nature and culture (particularly the food) of different areas.

How would you describe your ideal day off?

Sitting in a rocking chair on the porch in the morning, with nothing to do other than eat egg sandwiches and have too much coffee. Then, taking off in the afternoon for a kayaking/camping trip with close friends, my partner @farmsforests, and plenty of good suds and grub.

I’m super excited about David tweeting this week – for a kiwi girl, I have an unnatural love of snakes, so I’m looking forward to hearing more about his Indigo Snake reintroduction project. So, without further ado – everyone please welcome David Steen to RealScientists!

Sharing wild food : A week with Olivia Sylvester

Last week (10th of August) RealScientists twitter account was handed over to the fantastic ethnobotany researcher Olivia Sylvester. You can read more about Olivia’s background and current work in our intro post.

During her week on @RealScientists Olivia showed us some great insights into wild food, #womeninscience and life as a field researcher. You can catch up on all of Olivia’s tweets at this link, and you can see a collection of all her amazing photos here.

Finally, I’ll leave it to Olivia to sum up her week in our post-curation Q&A. If you enjoyed her tweets last week then please go follower her at @farmsforests

How did you find your week as a curator?

It was a great week. The RS followers are a supportive and engaged crowd that kept me on my toes with numerous excellent questions. It was exciting to see people making the important connections among social and natural sciences that are central to my field.

It can be a shock talking to 12,000. Did you find the sudden rush of interactions (good and bad) daunting?

My first day tweeting was definately a change of pace from my prior twitter experiences. I’m glad my first day was on a Sunday so I had the time and mental energy to adjust. The increased engagement was overall very positive. It felt great to have so many people interested in the work I’ve dedicate a large part of my life to.

Were there any lowlights?

One day there was a disrespectful, gender-related tweet; but, overall the experience was very positive!

Is there anything you wanted to get out of / do on the RS account that you didn’t manage to fit in?

I planned to talk about common misconceptions about ethnobotany; althought I didn’t specifically address this theme, it came out in a few interesting discussions which was a welcome surprise!

Do you have any tips or advice for future RS curators?

My advice is to remember that even the most obvious details about your work might be new to others; so, don’t be afraid to share what you do. And, remember with so many followers at RS you can get a lot of questions; so, rest up to avoid tweeting burn out!

Other than yourself of course, are there any other people/accounts that people should follow if they liked you and what you covered?

The ethnobotany community on twitter is very small; here are few people to watch out for: @salalberrywoman, @NCSUethnobotany, @kirbykatO. And, I encourage other ethnobotanists to join!

What TV show do you think everyone should go watch right now?

Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown

With Stars in His Eyes, James Murray Joins RealScientists!

menewThis week our curator hails from Mount Burnett Observatory where he is an Outreach Officer. Dr James Murray works in finance by day, and amongst the stars and planets by night.  He tweets @JamesTeach, and answered our introductory questions with an intergalactic glimmer.

Why/How did you end up in science?

I always wanted to understand why things were and how they went together. As an undergraduate I studied physics, mathematics, electrical engineering, materials science and French. My PhD thesis topic was “SPH simulations of accretion disks in cataclysmic variables” which was a complex way of saying I was studying gas flows between two stars that orbit one another very closely. During my first postdoc extrasolar planets were discovered and my interests slowly evolved into understanding how these formed.

Why did you choose your current field/what keeps you there?

I studied astronomy well before I had a particular love for it. My curiosity was very broad and right up until I picked up my first paper as a PhD student I had no idea, I had no sense I was going to be an astronomer. It was only after I started teaching undergraduates and doing outreach that I properly fell in love with the subject. What keeps me doing astronomy? The joy of sharing the excitement of seeing a planet for the first time and then describing how many planets there are out there.

Tell us about your work?painting an eclipse

I run the outreach program at Mount Burnett Observatory, a volunteer run observatory in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne. My remit is to introduce as many people to astronomy in as many different ways as possible. From running programs for visiting scout groups to exploring the meeting of science and art with university students I and my team are always looking for new ways to excite an interest in the night sky.

Motivation: why should the lay public care about your research/work?

Because astronomy is a field of knowledge that provides us with context. We live on a small planet in a galaxy of hundreds of billions of stars amongst possibly billions of other planets, and yet we are so far away from any of them we may as well be alone. It makes you pause to think doesn’t it!

Do you have any interesting external/extracurricular obligations?

Outside of my science I work in finance having left professional astrophysics eight years ago. I found that the training and skills an astrophysicist gets are also very useful for a career in banking.

Any interesting hobbies you’d like to share?

There will be zumba. That’s all I am saying!

How would you describe your ideal day off?

I am very lucky as science IS my day off! I do it because I enjoy it…. but away from astronomy you will find me with my five kids. My ideal day off would be trawling through a museum or National Trust site somewhere, crawling into a priest hole in a Tudor mansion or learning the intricacies of Morris dancing.

Everybody please welcome James Murray to RealScientists!

Plants, humans and culture – Olivia Sylvester joins Real Scientists

Two descendants of wild grasses have profoundly influenced the course of human history: wheat and rice. They  are some of the most important cereal grains on the planet. Different cultures have grown up around them, different civilisations. They’ve been bred, genetically modified in the modern age and play an important part of our everyday lives. The way that plants are used by people is the area of interest for our next curator, Olivia Sylvester, an ethnobotanist at the University of Manitoba, Canada. We’re delighted to welcome Olivia (@farmsforests) as curator this week, particularly as Indigenous Day falls this week.  We asked Olivia our usual questions to better understand her work, and we’re delighted to be having a scientist at the intersection of science and culture.

 

Olivia Sylvester

 

Why/How did you end up in science?

As a young girl, I was fascinated by science and everything it had to offer; when my friends were reading about Nancy Drew, I was reading Scientific American. I was interested in scientific inquiry because of the cool factor but also because science generated information that can help humans live in harmony with the beings we share the planet with. I started out my career working in Western science (botany) because of its potential to help protect biodiversity and promote sustainability. In addition to working in Western science, I have since learned the importance of using Indigenous science and other forms of knowledge to work toward our world’s sustainability goals.

 

Why did you choose your current field/what keeps you there?

 

I chose to specialize in ethnobotany after I moved to Costa Rica (I lived in the country from 2006 to 2010); the field originally appealed to me because it allowed me to add in a social dimension to my scientific work. Costa Rica stimulated my interest in this field because there are so many people that live in rural areas and make use of a diversity of tropical plants for food and medicines. After I became hooked to this fascinating field, I learned that this work has many important implications that have sustained my interest. For example, I have spent most of my PhD working with the human rights aspects of ethnobotany; in other words I try to understand what plants Indigenous peoples use. I hope to use these data to support peoples’ human rights to access these plants for their food and medicine systems.

 

Tell us about your work?

I am an ethnobotanist who specializes in people’s use of plants in tropical rainforests; more specifically, I am interested in how people use wild edible plants and how these people can retain access to these plants in forests that are often not managed for food use.

For more information on my PhD research, check out my 3 Minute Thesis: 

Motivation: why should the lay public care about your research/work?

I like to remind people that my work is also important because it links culture to our scientific understanding of plants. I work with so many people who have strong cultural histories associated with plant use; my work highlights the diversity of plants they use but also the key cultural connections. In a world where many of us have become disconnected with nature and where the market economy drives people to leave rural areas and dwell in cities, it is key to give attention to those people who carry important knowledge about our world’s wild plants. My work not only highlights these historical and cultural relationships with plants, my work can be used to ensure people retain their rights to use these plants into the future.

Do you have any interesting external/extracurricular obligations?

I am a beginner salsa dance instructor.

Any interesting hobbies you’d like to share?

I am especially interested in music; I play guitar and I also do Latin dance. My other hobbies include learning languages, swimming, running, hiking, camping, tennis, reading poetry, and cooking.

How would you describe your ideal day off? (Scientists are people too!)

My ideal day off would involve exploring a new area of the world; the exploring wouldn’t be too strenuous, just walking the streets and learning about new cultures, new foods, and histories of a place. I enjoy visiting Latin American destinations but I often just take time exploring towns and sites in my neck of the woods.

Please welcome Olivia to Real Scientists!