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.
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!
Guest post by my former PhD student Thomas Guillerme on collaborative science.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Is your research good value for money?
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.
In early 2015 the Natural History Museum announced that it would be moving “Dippy” the diplodocus from the main hall of the Museum and replacing it with a blue whale. This turned out to be controversial, but for me it provided an exciting opportunity to serendipitously expand my research into a completely new area.
New job, new blog.