Converging on river dolphins

headimg This post written by my ex-MSci student Charlotte Page after the publication of her first paper, based on work she did here in my group at the NHM. Well done Charlotte! Read on for a summary of the paper, and some details on the enigmatic world of river dolphins…

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Careers outside academia - data science

headimg We all know academia is a bit of a pyramid scheme. Far more PhD students graduate each year than can possibly become professors. Students often ask for ideas of what they could do outside of academia. However, academics are often the worst people to ask, because we’re stuck inside the system. Recently, when I’ve asked people for ideas of what my students could do post graduation, they’ve said “data science”. But what is data science? And what kinds of things do people do in data science? In this blog post I’m going to try and summarise what I learnt about data science from attending the EARL - Enterprise Applications of the R Language conference last week in London.

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Organising conferences the easy way... or not

headimg Over the last couple of years I’ve organised a lot of meetings and conferences. In July 2017 I organised my biggest one yet, BES Macro 2017 (see Storify here) with over 150 attendees over three days at the Natural History Museum, London. It was great fun, but a lot of work! At the end of the meeting, it was suggested that we create some kind of hand over document for helping people to organise future BES Macro meetings. I thought some of this might make a good blog post, so below are some tips, advice and ideas. Of course lots of this can be done in multiple ways, and different people have different organisational styles. But hopefully some of it is useful.

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A Year at the Museum - 2016

headimg 2016 has been an awful year for many of us, especially if you care about science, the future of the planet, equality, facts etc. But it’s also been quite a fun one here at the Museum. As we enter the season of year end round up shows that remind us just how many of our favourite celebrities kicked the bucket in 2016, I thought I’d share some of my favourite moments of 2016.

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Science with powertools

headimg One of our projects in the cetacean collection involves taking bone and baleen samples to extract stable isotope data (see this post). Often you’ll see in the literature that “samples were taken” but you don’t always get a full sense of how this works. Hence a post about a computational biologist, a powertool, and some 90 year old whale dust!

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BES Macroecology ECR mentoring event

headimg In September the British Ecological Society Macroecology SIG ran an early career researcher (ECR) mentoring workshop at Charles Darwin House. We had four expert mentors (Prof. Yvonne Buckley, Prof. Rob Freckleton, Dr Rich Grenyer and Prof. Andy Purvis plus me facilitating) and had small group discussions on a range of topics including applying for postdocs, CV writing, fellowship applications, mental health and work-life balance. At the end of the meeting we asked the mentors for their top pieces of advice for ECRs. We also asked the attendees what they would take away from the day.

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Missing mammalian morphologies?

headimg This post was originally written by my ex-PhD student Thomas Guillerme after the publication of this paper. The accompanying paper has now been published here as part of Special Feature for Biology Letters on Putting Fossils In Trees: Combining Morphology, Time, and Molecules To Estimate Phylogenies and Divergence Times. I’m reposting this blog post in an effort to make sure each paper I publish has a blog post to go with it! See the Paper 2 section below for the update including analyses from the new paper.

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Formally informal conferences

headimg One of my favourite parts of working as a researcher during the summer (aside from quiet campuses with less students around) definitely has to be the “conference season”. Indeed, I don’t need to convince many people that conferences are one of the lively and exciting parts of doing science that rightly mix traveling, networking (and sometimes drinking) and learning about so many new things (and sometimes hangovers).

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A Whale of a Time 3 - baleen hunting in the collections

headimg In February 2016 we had our first day working in the collections on our British Ecological Society project “A Whale of A Time” (see our proposal). The plan for the day was for myself and my collaborators Andrew and Clive (plus Masters students Kate and Dan) to take a look at what was in the collection then make a strategic plan for what we would sample in our project. We estimated that we had enough money to take about 300 samples, and the original plan was to take these from the jaw bones of rorqual whales (Balaenopteridae - this includes humpback, minke, fin, sei and blue whales) of different species, from different geographic locations and from different dates. This didn’t entirely go to plan.

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A Whale of a Time 2 - Let me make you a proposal...

headimg A Whale of a Time is the name I’ve given to the research projects happening in the cetacean collections at the Museum. However it is also the name of a specific project funded by the British Ecological Society on using stable isotopes to monitor changes in baleen whale diets through time. I intend to document the progress of this project here, so thought I’d start with our proposal.

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