How Molecular Ecologists Work: Craig Primmer on solving problems on the bike and in the sauna

Location: University of Helsinki, Finland (moved there this May after 12 years at the University of Turku, Finland)

Current Position: Professor of Genomics (on leave of absence whilst holding an Academy of Finland research professorship)

Current mobile device(s): Fairphone, iPad, Suunto Spartan Sport watch

Current computer(s): HP EliteBook

What kind of research do you?

Evolutionary and conservation genomics of salmonid fishes

Can you use one word to describe the way you work?

Semi-organized (hope that’s not cheating!)

What specific strategies do you recommend for running (or establishing) a lab?

Hire people you can trust. Have good procedures for ensuring knowledge transfer between older and newer group members. As a PI, always try and prioritize tasks that assist your own team before other stuff.

What apps/software/language/tools can’t you work without (Python, Dropbox, Geneious, etc.)?

An electronic calendar with a good reminder system (also for coordinating trips & commitments with my partner); Mendeley, BaseCamp (project management & collaboration). At the research group level: R

Where do you work with data (personal computer, lab computers, cluster, etc.)?

Finland has a great, free scientific computing centre (CSC), so much of the group’s data analysis is done there.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?

The iPad is very useful for reading papers on the go, and even when riding on my bike trainer.

What part of your job do you wish you had more time for?

Same as many I think: too much reading and writing emails, too little time for analyzing data and writing papers

What is your best time-saving shortcut/lifehack?

Realizing that allocating time for exercise actually helps me get things done faster: I get the same amount of work done in shorter time, and I often get good ideas for writing a hard sentence or solving some other problem whilst on a run/ride/swim.

How do you stay organized (to-do lists, digital reminders, etc.)?

Digital reminders, over-ambitious to do lists

What do you listen to while you’re working (music, kids yelling, the hum of a supercomputer)?

These days, the music of my kids and/or our dog barking. Sometimes all 4 family members sitting around the same table doing work/homework (really nice moments!)

What do you do to recharge outside of science?

Sports: doing (triathlon, running, up until 2016- Australian Rules Football); watching (almost anything, but mostly Australian Rules Football). Fishing and hiking (too rarely).

What are you currently reading?

Too much about the current Australian Rules Football finals series

What is your sleep routine like?

Fairly regular I guess. Ideally I’d sleep from 22-23 until 6-7, but it ends up being an hour or two less too often. If I have an urgent deadline, I used to work late, but these days prefer getting up early instead.

Fill in the blank: I’d like to see _______ answer these questions.

Judith Mank

What’s the best career advice you’ve received?

To be honest, I’ve received very little from anyone (although I would have needed some at various times), so my wife has ended up being my sounding board (very often whilst in our sauna).

Thanks Craig! Next Week: Dr. Katy Heath from the University of Illinois.

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Diving deep: Exploring microbial communities under the seafloor

As we all sat staring at three large monitors in the front of the room, the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Jason hung on to a borehole observatory with one hydraulic arm as the other arm plugged our sampling equipment into a valve. The ROV was about 4,500 meters under the ship, and we were preparing to collect water from over 200 meters below the seafloor, accessing fluid harboring an underexplored microbial community in the basaltic aquifers that exist there. We were in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean at a site referred to as North Pond where multiple Circulation Obviation Retrofit Kit (CORK) observatories were previously installed, allowing us to use an ROV to collect fluids flowing under the seafloor.

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How Molecular Ecologists Work: Tatiana Giraud is all about the paper (agendas/lists)

Welcome to “How Molecular Ecologists Work”, the interview series that asks scientists how they get stuff done.

This week’s interview is from Dr. Tatiana Giraud. Tatiana and her group focus on the wide world of fungi, asking questions about their evolution, speciation, and relationship with humans.

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How Molecular Ecologists Work: Catherine Peichel on being the earliest bird and scheduling to take out the trash

Welcome to “How Molecular Ecologists Work”, the interview series that asks scientists how they get stuff done.

This week’s interview is from Dr. Catherine Peichel. Katie and her lab have used genomic data from three spine stickleback to make big discoveries about the process of speciation and sex chromosome evolution (among many, many others).

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How Molecular Ecologists Work: Richard Hamelin on Moving Art and making scientific use of sliced bread

Welcome to “How Molecular Ecologists Work”, the interview series that asks scientists how they get stuff done.

This week’s interview is from Dr. Richard Hamelin. Richard and his lab investigate all things tree pathogen, from how to detect them to how to encourage resistance.

Location: University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC and Université Laval, Quebec city, QC.

Current Position: Professor

Current mobile device(s): iPhone 6

Current computer(s): MacBook Air

What kind of research do you?

I study tree pathogens to learn how they attack trees, what special adaptation makes them pathogens and I use genomics to try to untangle their epidemiology.

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How Molecular Ecologists Work returns!

Are you interested in how scientists you admire get stuff done? Do you think that reading about someone else’s productivity is a reasonable–but thinly veiled–excuse to waste ten minutes of your day? Do you enjoy comparing your desk to others’?

Well, good news. How Molecular Ecologists Work, our series of interviews that explore the day-to-day work of diverse scientists in Molecular Ecology, returns next week. Here’s the schedule:

11/22 — Dr. Richard Hamelin (University of British Columbia & Université Laval, Canada)

11/29 — Dr. Catherine Peichel (University of Bern, Switzerland)

12/6 — Dr. Tatiana Giraud (Le Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France)

12/13 — Dr. Craig Primmer (University of Helsinki, Finland)

12/20 — Dr. Katy Heath (University of Illinois, United States)

12/27 — Dr. Chris Jiggins (University of Cambridge, United Kingdom)

1/3 — Dr. Carlos Daniel Cadena (Universidad de los Andes, Colombia)

1/10 — Dr. Kathryn Hodgins (Monash University, Australia)

1/17 — Dr. Hanna Kokko (University of Zurich, Switzerland)

1/24 — Dr. Sean Hoban (The Morton Arboretum, United States)

Can’t wait until next Wednesday? Have a look at last year’s series to hold you over.

Thanks to the readership for all of your suggestions! See you next week….

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0.80994 leagues under the sea

The science crew

After a month on the water (and a few weeks getting my land legs again), I’m happily settling back in at home. I just returned from an expedition to a site known as North Pond along the western flank of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge aboard the research vessel (R/V) Atlantis, operated by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI). The cruise was fantastic and I had the chance to chat with different research groups about their projects centered on understanding the ecology of microbial communities in the deep sea. Over the course of my next set of posts, I will discuss some of the cool research led by the scientists I had the chance to work with on the cruise.

The expedition focused on understanding processes and microbial communities under the seafloor. One way to study this ecosystem involves collecting water samples (crustal fluid) from under the oceanic crust at unique platforms referred to as Circulation Obviation Retrofit Kits (CORKs) that have been installed on the seafloor. The basaltic aquifers that we collected fluid from are the largest on the planet, and studying what biogeochemical processes are doing down there helps us better understand cycles globally.

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