Ecologist’s Diary – meet the researchers!

In Ecologist’s Diary, we follow four ecologists from different fields in their daily work. Through regular updates, by means of columns, pictures and video, these enthusiastic  researchers take us along the ups and downs of their field and lab work. Below they introduce themselves and give us a taste of what their posts are about.    


Stacey Trevathan-Tackett
Stacey Trevathan-Tackett, After deploying 320 tea bags in a day. More (not so harrowing) details to come soon.

Stacey Trevathan-Tackett Blue Carbon Lab, Melbourne, Australia

Hey ya’ll and G’day mates,

I am Stacey Trevathan-Tackett, an early career researcher in the Blue Carbon Lab (BCL) in Melbourne, Australia. BCL includes a lot of research interests and I am the one really keen on microbes, molecules and mud. My research career started as a Masters student with seagrass stress and disease ecology at the University of North Florida (much to my enjoyment, I still do research in this area). During my PhD at the University of Technology Sydney, I got switched on to carbon biogeochemistry in seagrass ecosystems both from the angle of seagrass carbon chemistry and the microbes that degrade that carbon, i.e. blue carbon research. Following on from this, most of my work as a post-doctoral research fellow in BCL investigates how microbes drive the breakdown of different types of carbon and the risks that cause microbes to convert stored soil carbon back in to carbon dioxide.

Stacey_Tea_Photo credit Simon Peter Fox
TeaComposition H2O is a global initiative using household tea bags to answer large-scale questions about wetland carbon sequestration.

Over the next several months, I will be writing about the adventures, and quite possibly some misadventures, of the global TeaComposition H2O initiative. TeaComposition H2O aims to assess the carbon sequestration capacity of marine and freshwater wetlands via tea decomposition! Yes – we are sacrificing perfectly good cuppas for science. Born out of the terrestrial TeaComposition initiative led by Dr Ika Djukic (Environment Agency Austria), this wetland initiative is using green and red tea bags as standardised proxies for litter. Over the next three years, we will be tracking biomass and carbon decomposition as well as the microbial communities driving the decomposition process. At the moment, we span more than 30 countries (and growing) and a diversity of habitats (seagrass, mangrove, saltmarsh, inland wetland, lentic, lotic and macroalgal ecosystems).

While perusing this blog and its photos and videos over a cuppa (tea), don’t forget to check our 140 character updates from myself and my TeaComposition H2O colleagues @stacey_teetee and #TeaCompositionH2O.

Robert Mills

Robert Mills Lancaster University, UK

I’m Rob Mills, a research fellow funded by the NERC Soil Security program based at Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, UK. I’m part of the plant and soil ecology group, headed by Prof Nick Ostle, and full of exciting research cutting across functional microbial and plant ecology. My own research focuses on mountainous ecosystems, which experience a great range in climatic constraints to processes, with seasonality and snow-related phenomena a central focus. These ecosystems are great ‘natural experiments’ to explore change over gradients (such as elevation, snow cover), and to see how changing land-use may interact with climate change to alter the functioning of these fascinating places. Of particular focus is how the resistance-resilience characteristics of the microbial community describes the accumulation and retention of soil carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus. I’m exploring this across a European bioclimatic gradient, and a Scottish precipitation gradient, employing isotope techniques to target specific soil functions during periods of transition (e.g. snowmelt) or imposed extremes (e.g. freeing, extreme rain). Of course, I’m not alone, and I have a great PhD student, Rosanne Broyd working on alpine snowbeds, and a number of PG and UG students tackling some really neat questions, embedded within a great network of motivated and excellent fellow researchers around the world. I’m looking forward to keeping you updated on my research, and will give insight into our field sites with some videos, some updates on the exciting survey and experimental work, and also discuss some of the key output from my group and the wider community working on mountain and alpine ecology.


Gesche Blume-Werry Umeå Univerity, Sweden & University of Greifswald, Germany

I am an ecosystem ecologist with a passion for high latitude ecosystems and am interested in the interplay of plants and their environment, specifically belowground. I study fine root dynamics and their role in ecosystem processes in different ecosystems, such as tundra, boreal forest and temperate wetlands. I have just started a position as a PostDoc in the Experimental Plant Ecology group at the University of Greifswald, after my PhD and a short PostDoc project at the Climate Impacts Research Centre in Abisko, Umeå University. This means that my focus is shifting a bit from natural ecosystems in the far north, to managed wetlands in the middle of Europe – but as a common thread I will continue to work on roots and ecosystem processes. Over the next few months, I will take you along on my journey of moving from arctic tundra to temperate wetlands, and I expect there to be some sadness about endings, excitement over new beginnings and hopefully a lot of joy about doing science in all of it.

RB blogger pic smallRichard Beason PhD student with the London NERC DTP, based at Royal Holloway University of London, UK

My research project is based on using acoustic monitoring to characterise the effect different forestry and park management practices have on animal diversity and activity. Basically, I record all the sounds made in the audible and ultrasonic frequency ranges and then analyse them to find out which vocalising species are present and how much time they’re spending in each location.

Even before starting this subject, I’d often felt that sound in the environment hadn’t received enough attention as it contains all sorts of useful information. Acoustic monitoring is non-intrusive, multi-directional and doesn’t require line of sight so can simultaneously record a wide range of animal species and species groups. Not just birds and bats, but also other mammals, frogs and insects as well as anthropogenic sources of interest such as aeroplane noise, gunshots and chainsaws. Acoustic recordings additionally provide a permanent record of what a location or species sounds like, something you’ll appreciate if you’ve ever wondered what the rainforests or ancient woodlands sounded like 100+ years ago, or a dodo, or passenger pigeon.

I’ll be sharing some thoughts and experiences related to various aspects of my research and life as a PhD student. As an added incentive, I’ll also be posting some of the more interesting recordings I’ve collected, so watch (and listen to) this space.

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