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!

 

Our Most Kempt-looking Curator: Thanks and Farewell to Zen Faulkes

The brilliant Zen Faulkes tweeted for @RealScientists for the week of the 27th July. If you’d like to know more about Zen’s background and his answers to our insightful intro post questions, try this link here.

 

If you would like to recap the amazingness that was Zen’s week at the helm of RS, you can see his collection of tweets at this link.

In continuing good form, Zen answered our outro questions with style and grace.

How did you find your week as a curator?

Extremely enjoyable. It’s a very responsive group of followers. Even things I tossed off in passing, which I expected to vanish into the void, got a lot of favourites and retweets. It definitely made me want to up my game: be funnier, be more active, use more photographs.

Were there any lowlights?

On Thursday, I tried to document a collecting trip to South Padre Island for animals. That didn’t work as well as I wanted, because the sun was so bright that it was hard to see my smartphone screen. Somehow, I hit the wrong place on my phone and I tweeted a lot of stuff to the wrong account. Ooops. I posted the pictures later, but it wasn’t the same. I wanted to capture some of the flow.

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

It never got unmanageable. I almost wonder if it should have gotten unmanageable if I’d done a better job as curator in sparking more conversations.

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

I had thought about discussing Hispanics in science. I am at a university, The University of Texas-Pan American, with about 85% Hispanic students. Further, that university is being abolished and replaced with University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Politicians keep talking about that institution attracting Hispanics and Latinos from South and Central America, so I thought I might discuss that. But didn’t get to it.

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

Just generic advice: pay attention.

We really want RS curators to show people a rounded view of life as a scientist. Other than yourself of course, are there any other people/accounts that people should follow if they liked you and what you covered?

There are not a lot of invertebrate neuro people on Twitter, although Erin McKiernan (@emckiernan13) and Björn Brembs (@brembs) talk a bit about that, but more about scientific publishing and open access (which I am also interested in). Some fellow invertebrate fans are Lindsay Waldrop (@InverteNerd), Miss Mola Mola (@MissMolaMola), and Rebecca Helm (@RebeccaRHelm).

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

Legend of Korra and Doctor Who came up a few times during my curation, and I love them both. But I think more people should watch Person of Interest. No other show is more in tune with the times, and making such smart comments on the “surveillance society”. And it has a wicked dry sense of humour.

Thank you, Zen! We loved having you curate RS. If you’d like to follow Zen, he tweets @DoctorZen.

PS. Best socks, ever! 

Science Journalism from Indonesia: Thanks and farewell to Dyna Rochmyaningsih

We’d like to thank Dyna Rochmyaningsih for tweeting for us for the week of the 20th July! As you can see we’re running a bit behind on the farewell posts at the moment – but we’ve been trialing a new system for information/feedback gathering, and hope it’ll streamline things in future.

Dyna is a Science Journalist from Indonesia, and if you’re interested you can pop back and read her intro post here.

Dyna quite fearlessly jumped into the deep end with regards touchy topics in science during her week tweeting for @RealScientists – the religion and science discussion, for example. If you want to recap her week of tweets, hit this link here for a time-stamped search of her stellar efforts.

As part of our new outro process, Dyna answered some more questions for us. (The constant desire for data collection – it’s the scientists’ curse!)

How did you find your week as a curator?

It was great. Curating for RS is a good way to find out how scientists think in their perspective. I love to share my love for science such as cooking science (this one was really fun) and the clash between science and religion (this one was sensitive, controversial, but many people were so engaged!). And the best thing is, everyone seems listening to you because you are RS. That’s what I felt. Hehe

Were there any lowlights?

I was a bit discouraged when someone said that my tweet sounds like a rubbish. It was controversial science though, I was trying to explain the situation but perhaps he thought I supported that controversial science (electricity cancer therapy). But I think it’s minor.

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

Yes, people were still discussing on vaccine or GM, while I was trying to make a new thread. I couldn’t RT all the tweets

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

I wanna engage more with science journalism and get more connection with international science journalists.

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

Share what you really love about science. That could be fun!

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

Cosmos definitely.

Thank you so much, Dyna! We really enjoyed having you with us. If you want to follow Dyna, she continues to tweet @dynablossoms!