Today we had the full-day PhD Workshop I co-organised with Jean-Christophe Billeter as part of the 2019 NVG (Netherlands Society for Behavioural Biology) Meeting in Groningen. The aim of the meeting was to facilitate discussion about science and academia for PhD students in the field of behavioural biology in a private setting. About 20 students participated and gave a talk about their work after which we had a general discussion about the things they were struggling with. It was really nice to be on the other side and help by sharing my own experiences and lessons I learned as a PhD student and early postdoc to manoeuvre through our world that is academia.
The past years I have been bridging the fields of behavioural ecology with mechanistic perspectives of collective behaviour research. I have recently started to use these concepts to set up some projects to understand how fish populations deal with environmental change, including field work in the Spanish Pyrenees focused specifically on the role of individual heterogeneity in the context of severe effects of floods and droughts.
I have just returned from York where I have presented some of my ideas at the BES conference Impacts of extreme climatic events on ecosystems. It was a great meeting, with many in-depth group discussions about the effects of climatic events on different ecosystems and it was nice to be able to present and discuss my research plans with the broad diversity of people attending. Good to be back in the UK for a couple days as well!
At the ASAB Summer Conference in Konstanz this year, which was focused on new frontiers in the Study of Animal Behaviour, I gave a half-day workshop about automating behavioural experiments with Raspberry Pi’s.
After a general introduction, I discussed its use in animal behaviour research, how to set up, work with, and remotely control a raspberry pi, how to work with the rpi camera system, and finally how to automate recording, including via my own pirecorder software.
I started working with these amazing machines during my PhD, which where then still quite difficult to set up and quite slow, but now with the newest model for almost the same low price, so much is possible!
It was great to see so many people (120) interested in this great open-source technology for their own work, and many told me soon afterwards they immideately started setting-up their own systems.
Due to the interest and enthusiasm I am planning to give more and more hands-on workshops in the near future. Stay tuned!
The last couple days I have been in Florence for the SEB conference. What a great location to have a conference! Where else can you have pizza for breakfast?
On Tuesday I gave a talk about a mechanistic framework I am developing with Shaun Killen to understand the role of individual heterogeneity in collective behaviour. The sessions this year are all really relevant to me and saw lots of great talks and posters and nice to bump into academic friends from around the world. Too many new project ideas! But I think some nice new collaborations will come from it as well.
Today I visited Münster to give an invited departmental seminar at the Institute for Evolution & Biodiversity. It was great to see the nice stickleback labs of Jörn Scharsack and Joachim Kurz and the way in which they are able to experimentally parasitise the fish with Schistocephalus.
Really enjoyed meeting many other members of the department and the very enthusiastic students in the group. I am excited about the possibilities for future collaborations with Jörn to unravel the mechanistic underpinnings of parasite infection and its link to personality variation. Thanks again to Jörn and Nicolle for inviting me!
Today I visited the Institute for Zoology at the University of Bonn. I was invited by Gerhard von der Emde to give a departmental seminar and discuss ideas for investigating individual differences and collective behaviour in weakly electric fish.
Gerhard is an expert on electro-signalling and communicating in weakly electric fish and has been doing great work on unravelling the potential ways that these fish use their electric field. See for example their recent paper in PNAS that shows fish actively use electrocommunication in their interactions.
Yesterday night we had the Konstanzer Lange Nacht der Wissenschaft, a whole evening where scientists present their work to the general public. I was excited to also participate this year and had a couple boards installed with posters and photos about my work, and a big screen that showcased collective moving stickleback shoals with the sophisticated tracking and processing we use projected on top.Read further…
The last couple days Shaun Killen and Lucy Cotgrove from the University of Glasgow visited me in Konstanz to work together on a couple of exciting projects. Shaun and I started collaborating about a year ago to bridge the fields of animal physiology, animal personality, and collective behaviour.
With help of a Zukunftskolleg mentorship grant, we recently started writing an opinion paper on the topic, as well as analysing an exciting experiment with Lucy on the role of individual differences in metabolic rate on collective movement dynamics of schooling fish.Read further…