Update from Bec in the USA: new year, new job, new papers!

I am pretty dang happy to be able to say that as of the 25th of January, I officially became "Dr Bec". This would obviously not have been even remotely possible without my fantastic support network - my advisors, the lab, my collaborators, my students and volunteers, my family, and a whole lot of 80s rock star buff-footed antechinus - thank you, from the bottom of my overjoyed, geeky heart.

 Thanks lil guys!

Thanks lil guys!

I've been lucky enough to score a postdoc with Robbie, so I get to stick around in the Wilson lab for another year! For my postdoc, I'm building a mathematical model to predict prey escape success against predators in different kinds of habitats. The end goal of this model is to predict how well different native marsupials (such as northern quolls and brown bandicoots) can escape from mammalian predators (like cats and dingoes) in different kinds of habitats, using data my lab mates are collecting on Groote Eylandt. This will allow us to predict what kinds of habitats are best for native mammals, which will hopefully have some conservation implications. I also function as the Wilson lab's go-to stats person, and am running a bunch of the statistics for our human health project.

   
  
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  Tempe, clockwise from top left – wall of awesome at King’s Coffee (as everyone knows coffee is a key element of research); cycling on a sunny afternoon; nap time with Mylo the gangsta cat; sunsets and palm trees on the way home

Tempe, clockwise from top left – wall of awesome at King’s Coffee (as everyone knows coffee is a key element of research); cycling on a sunny afternoon; nap time with Mylo the gangsta cat; sunsets and palm trees on the way home

At the moment, I'm back in at Arizona State University in Tempe, working with A/Prof Ted Pavlic to get the generalised version of our predator-prey model finished and written up. Things are progressing very nicely, and as always, it’s been an amazing experience and I've learned a lot!

I also attended a Gordon Research Conference on Predator-Prey Interactions in Ventura, California at the start of the month. This conference was absolutely amazing - I learned so many new things, got a ton of new ideas, and met some awesome people doing freakin' awesome research. Though I can't share any pictures (GRCs focus on presenting research that's right at the cutting edge of the field, so most of it is unpublished), I would absolutely recommend these conferences, as they are fantastic for networking and gaining a broader insight into your own field.

   
  
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    Whale watching in the Santa Barbara channel

Whale watching in the Santa Barbara channel

Last up, a couple of papers just came out in early view! The second paper from my PhD, titled "Ecological context and the probability of mistakes underlie speed choice" came out recently in Functional Ecology. In it, we show that antechinus choose both how fast and where they move based on their chance of making mistakes - when looking for food and escaping from predators. You can read a plain language summary of the paper here.

Also, a paper I coauthored with Skye, titled "Sex-specific thermal sensitivities of performance and activity in the asian house gecko, Hemidactylus frenatus", came out in the Journal of Comparative Physiology B, and is available to view here. We demonstrate that male geckos have broader thermal performance curves than females across different populations, possibly to allow them to fight competitors and acquire matings more effectively over a wider range of thermal habitats. Go Skye!

   
  
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    An asian house gecko (image courtesy of Wikimedia commons), and a buff-footed antechinus on a (non-experimental) branch

An asian house gecko (image courtesy of Wikimedia commons), and a buff-footed antechinus on a (non-experimental) branch

I'm absolutely psyched to be sticking around and continuing my research, and I'm looking forward to the year ahead - which is already off to a great start. All images by Rebecca Wheatley unless otherwise credited.