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Iridescent Bugs

I’m currently in Australia(!) and will be here for the next 4 months on an Endeavour Fellowship, working on the ecological and genetic basis of colour variation in Hibiscus Harlequin Bugs (Tectocoris diophthalmus). I’m based at Macquarie University in Sydney, working with Mariella Herberstein and Kate Umbers.

Hibiscus Harlequin Bugs have contrasting patter made up of orange colouration and iridescent blue patches that vary considerable in size between individuals and populations. Northern populations have far less blue colouration, and may even be completely orange. Furthermore this variation has been shown to influence survival against different types of predators. My work will focus on the causes of this variation, both within and between populations.

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ESEB 2017

I’ve finally recovered from conference flu so just a quick post about ESEB 2017.

The conference was awesome, and very well organised given the size. The main program was on an app that my old phone sadly cannot handle, but they also gave out smaller program booklets so I was able to organise my time well enough.

As usual for ESEB the standard of the talks was pretty high. My lack of access to the abstracts did mean I ended up in a fair few theoretical talks, but honestly one of the reasons I prefer large conferences is getting outside my narrow sphere of study for a while. I found the whole experience very useful for helping me generate new ideas, not to mention finding new collaborators! I also quite enjoy the challenge to trying to follow talks on subjects or techniques I am not familiar with. As someone who got into academia, at least partly, because they just enjoyed learning new things, conference season is the highlight of my year.

The conference dinner was also very fun. Rather than the usual drill of sitting in a large room, on a table of people you don’t know, eating dry roast ham, we instead had a “food fair” in a nearby park with vans serving pizza, chips, ice cream, wraps and various other foods.

Oh and finally. I won 3rd prize for my poster!

ESEB 2017 poster V2

Return to Konnevesi

Winter is finally over in Finland (although you wouldn’t always guess it from the weather) so the bird population in Konnevesi can once again relax and get on with the important things, like having babies.

Last year I posted a rather morose description of our struggles to catch enough birds following two bad breeding seasons. I’m happy to report that we did in fact get a decent season in 2016, in fact midsummer was actually sunny! As a result catching was much easier this winter.

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Exhibit A – a slightly blurry Willow tit 

But the joy is somewhat short-lived as this May has been one of the coldest on record. I won’t actually be working with the birds this coming winter (I’m off to warmer climes) but I hope this cold weather hasn’t hit them too hard…

Fun with Spiders

This September I was lucky enough to go to Hamburg for a couple of weeks to run some predation experiments with spiders. The experiments were part of a collaboration with Prof. Susanne Dobler and Prof. Jutta Schneider to test the effects of the wood tiger moth’s defence fluids on model spider predators (in this case Nephila senegalensis and Larinioides sclopetarius). Stay tuned for the results!

 

 

Summer fieldwork round-up

Since I didn’t have the time to post any fieldwork news this summer I will instead pack it all into a single post. Efficiency!

As always summer is moth collection time, and this year I was in two countries: Estonia and Scotland.

Estonia was first. We went as a team of four, planning to stay a week and catch around 30 moths. In the end, thanks to some very warm weather, we got that number in the first 3 days and were able to return early.

I went to Scotland on my own as most of the lab were off catching in Georgia (the country, not the state). I had a bit of a worrying start, catching a grand total of one moth in the first two days. Scotland is always a bit tricky, unlike in Finland and Estonia, where the moths can generally be found on the edge of woods, in Scotland we generally find them on coastal meadows. This makes for some very scenic fieldwork, but also greatly increases the amount of climbing involved, and the risk of running off the edge of a cliff while chasing them. In the end, despite some less-than-ideal weather, I manged to get 15 moths to inject some much-needed genetic diversity into our lab population.

So once again I missed out on the beauty and excitement of Georgia (where the moths live at the top of mountains!) Still I was able to stock up on Scotch whisky in duty free, and there is always next year…