Meet the new Molecular Ecologists

This month we’re excited to welcome a bunch of new voices to The Molecular Ecologist, from all over the world and with all sorts of research interests. Say hello to the 2018 cohort of TME contributors!

Katharine Coykendall

Katharine Coykendall

Who are you?

I grew up at the back door of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in East Tennessee. Oddly, this rural, mountainous, landlocked childhood lit a fire in me to be a … marine biologist. Go figure. As an undergraduate I started working in a conservation genetics lab to bide the time, got a marine science undergraduate degree and went on to get a PhD in genetics. I’ve managed to cobble together a meandering career path that has genetics and marine science as the main threads. I’m also taking bioinformatics classes at Hood College because I can’t help myself.

Where are you?

For now, I’m in Shepherdstown, West Virginia working in a federal lab doing marine science. Again, go figure.

What do you study?

A fair bit of the science we do is concerned with the deep sea ecosystems off the US coast, where leasing blocks for oil and gas exploration occur. We use genetic and genomic techniques to characterize patterns of connectivity between populations of cold water corals and chemosynthetic communities. We participate in many deep sea expeditions for our research, which typically result in finding organisms new to science. We document and characterize this biodiversity as a baseline for future studies.

What do you do when you’re not studying it?

Listen to live music, hill-avoidance road biking when the weather is nice, occasionally walk around outside, visit far-flung friends, voraciously consume podcasts.

Kathryn Turner

Kathryn Turner

Who are you?

I’m originally from Austin, Texas, PhD at the University of British Columbia. I recently started as an Eberly Postdoctoral Fellow at Pennsylvania State University, in the in the labs of Dr. Jesse R. Lasky (Biology) and Dr. George H. Perry (Biology/Anthropology). I’m an ethnobotany nerd, fixated on invasive species. Everywhere I go, I recognize some of the flora, so there’s that.

Where are you?

The very literally named town, State College, Pennsylvania, located in lovely wooded Centre County (cuz it’s in the middle of the state of course). It is, I’m told, a Lyme disease hot spot, so that’s exciting.

What do you study?

I’m interested in introductions, range expansions, and biological invasions. What happens when humans move plant species around all willy nilly? How do some species manage to succeed in the face of near-total environmental change? What are the impacts of human selection, intentional or unintentional, in ‘natural’ populations? Invasive species are the Moriarty to my Sherlock Holmes. Species I particularly love and/or hate include: diffuse knapweed (Centaurea diffusa), blue mustard (Chorispora tenella), and Texas bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis).

What do you do when you’re not studying it?

Grow things. Eat them, pickle them. Brew and/or judge beer. Trivia. Hike, slowly, with a field guide, looking everything up.

Alex Twyford

Alex Twyford (and an Arisotolochia)

Who are you and where are you?

I’m an independent Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, and a Research Associate at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

what do you study?

My research focus is on the ecology and evolution of plants, and in particular on the genetic basis of speciation and adaptation. My work combines genomic approaches with experiments and field observations, and I tend to work on whichever plant group is best suited to a particular research question. I’ve studied tropical begonias, widespread monkeyflowers, and Chilean conifers, amongst other groups. Lately I’ve been drawn to parasitic plants, with recent projects studying population dynamics and genome evolution of British native parasitic eyebrights (Euphrasia).

What do you do when you’re not studying it?

When I’m not working, I like to get out and botanise or travel, and I’m also quite a wine enthusiast having completed the periodic table of wine in 2016.

Sophie von der Heyden

Sophie von der Heyden

Who are you?

My name is Sophie von der Heyden.

Where are you?

I live in the most beautiful part of the world, between mountains, vines and the sea, in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

What do you study?

The research of the von der Heyden lab is by necessity very broad (there are not many molecular ecologists in Africa), but mainly focusses on using genetic and genomic tools to study the evolutionary processes that shape marine populations in southern Africa. My particular interests lie in the applicability of molecular ecological and genomics tools to inform marine spatial planning, understanding MPA connectivity patterns and resilience and adaptation of marine species to ongoing and future change, as well as the impacts of changing marine communities on society.

What do you do when you’re not studying it?

I run after three very busy kids and a crazy dog, swim and row whenever I can, bake cakes, read a lot, clean the chickens and then remember that I am also a molecular ecologist. And we love to travel as a family.

Laetitia Wilkins

Laetitia Wilkins, in Panama

Who are you and where are you?

I am a postdoctoral research scholar originally from Switzerland who lives now in California. I work at UC Berkeley sponsored by Prof. Stephanie Carlson and at UC Davis sponsored by Prof. Jonathan Eisen.

What do you study?

I study host-microbe interactions and their co-evolution. My study hosts include fishes, porcelain crabs and Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frogs. I run projects in Switzerland, California and Panama. I love people, care about diversity and critical thinking, and I help researchers with families to thrive in academia.

What do you do when you’re not studying it?

I love the outdoors and try to spend a lot of time with my husband and children.

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About Jeremy Yoder

Jeremy Yoder is an Assistant Professor of Biology at California State University, Northridge. He also blogs at Denim and Tweed, and tweets under the handle @jbyoder.
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