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Episode one!

Host (Kirsty MacLeod)

RM: Rahia Mashoodh

SW: Sarah Westrick

BR: Beth Reinke

MP: Monique Pipkin

Hello and welcome to the first ever episode of the Women in Ecology and Evolution podcast, the wee podcast for short! I'm your host, Kirsty MacLeod. There is an amazing first episode lined up for you with some really special guests. I'll be talking epigenetics with Rahia Mashoodh, and then we'll be joined by Beth Reinke and Monique Pipkin to chat about staying afloat during the pandemic, and what representation in academia and science has meant to us. Sarah Westrick is calling in to tell us about her brand new paper on stress and coping styles in red squirrels. And as this is our first episode will be some special introductions from listeners, so stay tuned for those. This podcast has received startup funding from the British ecological society, and you can find out more about this project at the weepodcast.org, and connect with us on Twitter and Instagram at the_wee_podcast.

Part 1 – Rahia Mashoodh

 It's a great pleasure to introduce our very first guest, my friend Dr Rahia Mashoodh. Rahia is a BBSRC Future Leaders research fellow at the Department of zoology in Cambridge, and my personal guru on all things to do with epigenetics and parental effects, so welcome.

RM: Hi Kirsty Thanks for having me.

So how are you doing, how have you been coping with COVID life in Cambridge?

RM: well it's not too bad here, I think that we live in a community that is quite science observant. And so I think rates have been quite low. I've managed to get some work done, and I've managed to have days that are extremely unproductive. But yeah, I think I'm at the point where I need to start interacting with humans in an office again. There was one point at which I was like, I would love to go in and have an argument with someone, that’s how boring and mundane life has gotten but it's, I think, Okay. I think I’ve sort of managed to bungle my way through it, although it's still going. It hasn't ended!

So, you did your undergrad at Dalhousie.

 RM: Yes, I grew up in Canada

And then from there you went to Columbia where you did your PhD with Frances champagne, and then to Cambridge where you've been ever since.

 RM: That’s right.

Three quite different places.

 RM: Yeah, and I would say quite different departments as well. I think the things that led me to make those moves were just opportunities that fit in with what I kind of was into or what I was interested at the time, you know, with my PhD I just was working on parental care, I was interested in parental effects, and then I met my PhD supervisor at a conference. We started to chat, and then I just decided to move there. I don't know whether being from small town Canada I was fully prepared for moving to New York but I did anyways and it was great fun. And then, I was really interested in this idea of transgenerational inheritance, so I applied to work with someone called Anne Ferguson Smith in the department of genetics. I learned a lot of Molecular Theory stuff. And then my true love I think is animal behaviour and so I think it was natural that eventually i moved back to a zoology department where I could kind of bring the sort of behavioural side and molecular side of my work together.

You touched on the nature of your work there. How would you describe your research to a non expert?

RM: Well, I'm interested in inheritance, mostly inheritance that isn't genetic so all the other stuff like your experiences, your life histories, and how that gets passed on to future generations without ever really being encoded in your DNA. I would say that epigenetics is a potential mechanism for non genetic inheritance. There are lots of other ways in which information can be transmitted and they don't necessarily have to be epigenetic but epigenetic mechanisms are these sort of biochemical marks and signals to DNA that shape the way genes are expressed so one way that you could get different expression of genes is by affecting the placement of these marks.

And when you say epigenetic mark, is that just a broad term for any kind of change in DNA expression?

RM: Well, so for example you could have something like DNA methylation which either up or down-regulates genes. You could also have these things called histone modifications, which change the way that DNA is wrapped around the cell and whether or not it's expressed. There are also post transcriptional mechanisms which are small RNAs and long non coding RNAs, which can then go bind to RNAs and down regulate their expression.

So they’re sort of structural changes that alter how the DNA is expressed.

RM: Exactly, so they are things you can actually measure that are not to do with DNA sequence alone. These marks are used for a bunch of things, so for example the reason your liver cell is very different from your kidney cell is because early in development, there are marks that tag cell lineages to become that kind of cell, but they are also very sensitive to environmental signals which is what makes them a potentially interesting candidate, and there's been entire field of work basically showing that different experiences like the diet that you eat, the stress that you've experienced, all have effects on the placement of these marks.

Let's talk about your PhD research, because that probably provides a really nice example for explaining some of these ideas. So, for your PhD, you looked at paternal effects. It's really interesting to me because the parental effects literature has tended to focus on maternal effects. What made you focus on dads, and what were the main findings of your PhD?

RM: So, this is gonna sound odd, but I wasn't really interested in dads themselves, I was kind of interested in the fact that they have sperm. We know that mothers can have transgenerational effects on their offspring, either through the prenatal or the postnatal period. So, but I think what was an exciting idea was that you could potentially have these epigenetic marks accrue in your germ cells and be inherited alongside your DNA. And so at the time, everyone thought that actually fathers are a great model system, especially because at the time I was working with mice, and they don't contribute at all to the parental care and they don't really contribute to the prenatal environment either. And so you could theoretically isolate the effects of sperm on offspring development. At the time there was a lot of evidence that these kinds of things could accrue in the sperm in response to various things like a change in diet or stress, etc. But coming from a maternal effects background, one of the things that we thought about was well, isn't it possible that this could be due to like a maternally mediated effect so the phenotype of the father is experienced by the mother, and it has a consequence for offspring? During my PhD I focused a lot on what happens if you do something to a male mouse, and how does that affect their offspring development. So the things that we did were, for example, food restrict males, which is a extremely stressful one, or we gave them a very complex environment which tends to de-stress them out. So we apply these various experiences to males and show that mothers were responding to the quality of their mate. But then the question really was, is there some sort of direct and effective sperm measure, and so what we decided to do was to just use embryo transfer procedures where we could basically trick females into thinking they mated with a particular mouse, but then implant them with, say the sperm of a stressed mouse. We basically found that there were definitely effects of the mother, and there were definitely effects of the Father, but they could sometimes cancel out.

So you were sort of removing the maternal perception of the dad with that experiment?

RM: And so what you're doing is really just isolating the effect that the sperm has on offspring development. What were the effects. So for example, we did the embryo transfer experiment with food-restricted mice, and so if your mother didn't actually know that she was mating with a stressed restricted now those offspring tended to be more similar to their stressed father. Now if you allow the mother to know the identity of her mate, she increased her maternal contributions towards the offspring. And it almost sort of compensated/ buffered against the negative effects of having a stressed-out father.

Since you've been at Cambridge, you've been building up a research programme on imagenet and their adaptive significance, but you're using a new study system. Can you tell us a bit about any current projects? 

 RM: The problem with a lot of mouse models, is that they have this social complexity that I'm interested in, but they don't really have generational times that are amenable to the kinds of long term adaptive evolutionary studies that you want. I met someone called Becky Kilner in the department of zoology, and she had been working for a long time on these burying beetles that show parental care, and they're extremely weird: they breed on a dead animal, and they have this extremely complex social life, which was kind of great for me because here's an insect species where they have a genome that we know about, so we can start to track these epigenetic changes over the long term. So a lot of the stuff that I've been doing with that system is about how can you measure adaptive evolutionary change and how long do those epigenetic effects persist. I mean it's been quite a steep learning curve because I've definitely had to learn about the eccentricities of working with insect species - but it's just sort of expanded the kinds of questions that I can answer that are really fundamentally based in the questions that I've always been interested in, which is what is the function of transgenerational inheritance. One of the things that I think is really interesting is that we actually don't know what the function of DNA methylation, which is an epigenetic mark, is across several species. What we know is limited to a very small number of model organisms, so one of the things that I've been working on is, well what does DNA methylation actually do in a beetle? And is it responsive to changes in the social environment in the way that it is in the mice?

Are you converted to beetles, or non model organisms now, or do you miss the mice?

 RM: I do miss the mice actually, a lot. The other day I was going for a walk in the woods and I saw a mouse and I went, oh that's like my past life! 

Decaying on the forest floor, ready to be rolled up by a burying beetle, to give birth to new research directions…

RM: I mean it's almost sort of like a metaphor for my career, where like a mouse has to die for a beetle to come into my life!

So, no turning back…

RM:No, and I've gotten actually much more interested in social insects, because there's all kinds of interesting things that you can do and they have these interesting social lives and so the question is really like are epigenetic mechanisms part of the social response, and these are great organisms in which to test these.

Coming up next, we have our first feature in the paper in focus segment. Each episode will do a deep dive into a newly published paper in ecology and evolution with the author. So if you have a paper coming out soon and you'd like to talk about it here on the women in ecology evolution podcast, email me at hello@theweepodcast.org.

Part 2: Paper in Focus: Sarah Westrick

Today we're joined by Dr. Sarah Westrick to talk about her new paper. Sarah, can you start by introducing yourself and your research?

 SW: Yeah, so I'm Sarah Westrick, I just did my PhD at the University of Michigan in Ben Dantzer's lab where I studied maternal effects in American red squirrels, as part of the Kluane red squirrel project, and I'm just starting my NSF postdoc with Eva Fischer and her new lab at Illinois, and we're going to be looking at parental care and frogs, so slightly, shifting my system, but still looking at parental care and the impacts of mothers and fathers.

So your paper that just came out in Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology is back on the red squirrels, and is called “Stress activity is not predictive of coping style in North American red squirrels”. So can you give us a bit of background on that?

SW: Yeah, so te there's two kind of big theories about coping styles: one, the physiological stress response is going to be correlated with the behavioural stress response, so an individual with higher cortisol levels is going to have a more “reactive” approach, so it's going to be shy or it's going to be kind of hiding in the corner, or, kind of a more “proactive” approach, where it approaches the danger, approaches the stressor and is more active and more aggressive. So the theory is that those individuals that are more proactive are going to have a lower physiological stress response. 

The coping style is how they respond in terms of either becoming aggressive or the opposite I guess?

 SW: Yes, how they cope with the stressor. In the lab usually we see that those two things are correlated, so in papers “coping style” will refer to both the physiological response, and the behavioural response. That model has been updated, so that those two axes can be distinct so you can have an individual that has higher physiological stress response and a high behavioural, aggressive response. So we wanted to test on which model best fits the system in a wild animal.

So when you say the physiological stress response, you're talking about glucocorticoid hormones? you mentioned cortisol. 

 SW: Yeah, so there's a lot of different aspects of the physiological stress response. We specifically are looking at glucocorticoids, or cortisol; that's a metabolic hormone, that does a lot of things in the body, but it's specifically elevated in stressful situations or in situations where there's kind of that fight or flight response because you have to mobilise the energy in the body so that you can respond. 

So how are you testing these things in the field?

SW: The study actually used a lot of long term data, which is one of the really cool benefits of working in a long term study. I did the same type of field work for a different study that I'm working on the way. So we track an individual for its entire life. So the red squirrels are very territorial, they basically have an address in the forest where you can go and find them. So if we know a lot about one individual, we can target that individual, and we can trap it and then we can do behavioural trials - we have this huge plastic box that we lug around the forest! Just lugging a bunch of stuff down the highway into the forest. We actually have a folding box, and we put the squirrel in and then we record it on a video. So anytime we track a squirrel we're gonna collect faecal samples, and that's what we use to, to look at the overall circulating levels of cortisol. 

Are they of those nice species that as soon as you trap them they obligingly do a little poo?

 SW: Some of them do, some of them are excellent and some of them, you have to wait a little bit, and then some give you way too much! But it's pretty easy to get a sample.

So what were the main takeaways of this study?

SW: In contrast to a bunch of lab studies where the physiological and behavioural stress response are corresponding with another we find that there was no pattern in whether you're physiologically high stress or behaviorally high stress, so you can be proactive and have a low physiological response or you can have high cortisol levels and still be proactive, which is kind of supporting that updated model which shows that there's no correlation between the two. So it seems that it's a little bit more nuanced than the original model suggests.

So you're now beginning a postdoc on frogs, and this work was on red squirrels – so, do you have a favourite taxa to work on or are you enjoying trying them all?

SW: It is fun to try them all! They all have their benefits and their drawbacks. I really liked working with the red squirrels, but I'm just getting to know herps so maybe, maybe they’ll be really great as well. I mean, working with mammals can just be really difficult.

So last fun question - on your website you mentioned that your mom who is a librarian has trained you well on giving book recommendations. So if you have a recommendation I would love to hear it! 

 SW: so I really like Nevada Barr’s books, they're all based in national parks, the main character is Park Ranger. So she's investigating a lot of murders and crimes are happening in national parks.

Listeners, a reminder that if you'd like to be featured in the Paper In Focus segment, or if you have an elevator pitch, or just an idea for something you'd like to hear us discuss, email me at hello@theweepodcast.org. Part 3: Roundtable Welcome back. We've come to the part of the episode where I am joined by not one, not two, but three amazing women working in ecology and evolution for a roundtable discussion about our experiences in research science and academia. So we're rejoined by Rahia Mashoodh, and I'm also delighted to have two great friends that you will be hearing from regularly on this podcast, I'm sure. Dr. Beth Reinke, Assistant professor at Northeastern Illinois University, and Monique Pipkin, a graduate student at Cornell University.

We've had some brilliant elevator pitches from listeners this week. So, Monique and Beth Are you up for giving us your brief intro to who you are, what you do?

MP: Yeah, absolutely. Hi everyone, my name is Monique. I am a second year PhD at Cornell University, and my research is at the nexus of physiological and behavioural ecology. I'm interested in why animals are doing what they're doing in a specific space at a specific time. Currently I'm working on birds, as well as understanding any secondary function of signals including song and colour. 

 So, Monique we met when you were working on a really cool Master's project at Penn State, looking at physiology and temperament, in fish. How are you finding the switch to birds? 

MP: I actually started out all my research using birds! well that's not necessarily true. I started out first doing bat immunology work on white nose syndrome at Western Michigan University with Martin van Hof. Then I moved from his lab to his wife's lab where I started to work with sound ecology and birds. So, going back to birds is just coming home in a away, but doing so at a place that's full of massive bird nerds, so there's a fully new experience and I'm very excited to be a part of it!

 BR: So I am a new professor at Northeastern Illinois University. This is my second year, and northeastern is a HSI and a PUI so it's a Hispanic serving institution and a primarily undergraduate institution, and I really really love getting to do my research with undergrads. So my research is on primarily the evolution of animal colour, and we work with lots of groups - I have the student working with butterflies, a student working with turtles, and working with waterlife. I also run a long term Mark recapture study of painted turtles in northern Wisconsin and that's a great opportunity to get students involved.

You started that turtle project, a really long time ago?

BR: Yeah, we just had our 11thsummer, I started it as an undergraduate. And it's been great to get that continuous data. The site is beautiful, on this gorgeous huge lake, it's a recreational lake. I study two populations of painted turtles, each year we just catch as many as we can. We know very little about why painted turtles are painted at all, and we don't know how the colour changes throughout the individual's lifetime. Students do lots of independent projects focusing on turtles or whatever else is in the aquatic ecosystem. 

Beth started a very cool research fundraising initiative a couple of years ago that's actually still running where you can adopt one of these turtles in her long term population. So I did that, obviously, so I got I've now had two very cool little postcards telling me how much my turtle has gained in terms of mass from the year before. So that was a very cool funding idea and it is still running?

 BR: Yes! It's a really fun thing to do. The postcards are also always very cool. They're designed by students at NEIU in the art design department. It's just, I'm really grateful to have this fundraiser because it's one of the biggest problems with running a long term study is the funding, especially when you're working with long-lived organisms like turtles where it's like, I'm not gonna have results until I have 10 years of data at least. And so convincing funding organisations that you're worth funding is harder, but having this kind of independence, to be able to help me get students out there and help me buy microchips is great.

Okay, so let's get into the first part of our discussion. The coronavirus pandemic has obviously made this summer a completely crazy time for absolutely everyone on the planet. How have you been coping, what have you been working on lockdown or what you've been trying to work on, and how has the pandemic changed how your summer of research has gone?

RM: Well, I think it kind of goes in waves. So, in the initial phase you're like, Oh, I get to work at home and I get to make my bread in my kitchen while I'm typing away, but the reality of that is that you basically not doing either very well. And so you go through these phases of being extremely productive and you go to this phase of not productive. Not to mention in the first bit of the pandemic I was just kind of like glued to Guardian updates going, oh my god what's happening?! And now I think I'm in the phase where I'm just tired. And I want to go back to my office. You know, have tea with my colleagues.

That first phase of, like, okay, we're all gonna do our bit and work from home and I'll start making sourdough, which I did obviously like 8 million other people - yeah that first period was quite productive! And then, yeah, it coming in waves. Total crashing. Being completely over it, that really resonates with me. Monique How was your summer?

MP: I feel like I got a rough start to my summer. Cornell, as it should have, kind of shut down campus within the first few weeks. But what was pretty unfortunate is that for the first couple weeks of summer I didn't know if I could actually do my fieldwork. So, in the summers, I am a part of the Vitousek lab that studies a local population of tree swallows, a nice long term study site, but initially with the recent reactivation plans we just didn't know what would be possible. And it was hard, especially for someone who is as sociable, as I am, but things changed when I, when we got approval to do fieldwork again. I could go out, I could leave my house, what a dream, and I got to do my first field season, which was very strange being so distant from my entire lab, a lab of like 8 people. It's hard to learn your first field season when you can’t actually be in close contact to learn the protocols of “how do you handle a bird” or “how do you take different samples or measurements” in this lab, but I am very grateful that I was able to do that. As well as I did also make sourdough bread, got my own sourdough starter! And then also this summer was pretty interesting for me, science communication-wise as well. I participated in this thing called “Black Birders week” which was in response to the incident in Central Park with Christian Cooper, who is part of the Audubon in New York City, who was bird-watching and had the police called on him. And that entire response was kind of just to showcase that Black people exist in nature, and enjoy those spaces, and that space is meant for us too. So during the field season I’d write a post at like 6am, thrown into the Twitter universe, and people were engaging which was very exciting! I had a lot of other outreach events come from that, and also from that, I kind of started reaching out to a friend of mine, Amelia Juliette Emery, and we decided to write a paper together talking about safe field guidelines for at-risk populations or individuals. We know about like basic field safety, like “Oh, don't go into the field alone” or “let someone know what you're doing” or there's some basic ideas, but specific guidelines, specific tips for individuals, they're not really known besides a whisper network. And then when you have faculty or department ask how they can help you, you don't really know. So Amelia and I could be constructive, like, What do you mean, what have you learned. Let's break this thing up together – and it’s currently on preprint actually!

We will definitely link to that in the notes. So it sounds like you actually had a very productive summer, despite everything you managed, you did manage to do your field season. Beth, you must have been quite stressed obviously with your long term study, thinking you might end up with a skipped year - but you did end up managing to go?

BR: That's correct. Yeah, we were the first group that was allowed to do fieldwork or travel at all. And so my April May and June were all very full of lots of meetings with our COVID-19 task forces and designing field guidelines, and it was a whole different side of academia from what I'm used to like as a, as a grad student and postdoc I'd written lots of protocols before but never had to deal with human safety so much, and so that that was really interesting for me to see. And so we were allowed to go, with a lot of precautions. My project normally has a lot of interaction with the community, and that was really hard this year to not do. That's one of the best opportunities for scicomm, when somebody sees you out catching turtles and they say, Hey, what are you doing, and you get to explain to them and show them the turtles and show them how you tell the difference between a male and a female, do all this cool stuff, and my students didn't get to experience that this year. But we were able to go and that was great, students still benefited from it, but again it wasn't the same experience.

And your semester had just started back?

 BR: Yeah, so we like everybody else, like Cornell, we did the emergency online switch early on. This semester was more planned out, where we knew we were going to be remote, and we could petition to have hybrid classes that would be Remote Plus some in person components which are what my classes are because they're outdoor based, but I will still be getting to see some students in person, wearing masks. And they'll be going to parks near campus. But yeah, at least we have more preparation this time, I think a lot of students aren't aware that this semester is gonna be way different from the spring switch online, because now we had preparation time. Your teachers were able to get everything online and plan the semester around that versus the emergency switch where we were just kind of all doing our best to get by. Now we can actually do our best to be good teachers!

Has there been anything that you've been doing this really helped you to cope, or really helped you stay sane?

RM: So in the first few months, I got really obsessive really into Tik Tok videos. I realised it was just me escaping the void of like checking the news or, you know, doing anything sensible with my time. But I just got really into Tik Tok videos!

My screentime went through the roof during lockdown…

BR:Do you ever get mad at your phone when it tells you about your screentime, like, don't show me that!

 RM: it finally told me that mine went down this week. Probably because I was in a writing hole, but it went down by 4%.

So you know what your intense writing baseline is! Monique, what’s been keeping you sane?

MP: I create a quarantine pod with like two other people. We have separate homes, but were in contact with each other, could hug each other, or go through things together. That’s been keeping me sane.

BR: I’ve been using the Seek app a lot, the iNaturalist one. It identifies things through your camera, and so I've been loving that, partially because I'm new to the Chicago area so I'm like still learning a lot, so I just take it with me every time I go outside and identify all the bugs and all the plants and it's just been really fun.

So we've talked a bit about the kind of waves of motivation, to feeling crappy about being in lockdown, but something that helped me to feel not so bad about that was that there were tonnes of people on Twitter and other social media platforms, very prominent academics and then also a lot of people kind of around my early career researchers stage, who were clearly also experiencing the same waves and there were always people who were, you know, happy to say, “don't worry about it I'm sure you'll do better next week,” or you know, give advice on what they'd be doing, that really helped me because I think when you're when you're in those sort of lulls of feeling completely unmotivated it's easy to feel like everyone else is so passionate, everyone else is producing so much. It's easy to forget, “Oh yeah, there's a global pandemic.” But I did find that that version of science communication was really helping me to feel like I wasn't alone and that I was doing okay. Did anyone else find that either Twitter or science communication generally was important during this period, either through the sense of community, or through feeling like how you were coping was being represented?

MP: Yeah, having a confirmation that this is not something that I'm going through alone - the idea that professors would say, “Oh, you can do your A exam or your, your candidacy exam early because you have so much time to study things”, and everyone else was like, “No, I'm in a panic all the time! I can't focus on anything!” And that was so nice to read, not because they were struggling but because that experience was universal.

 RM: With Twitter, I felt for a while that there was like a huge thing about people who had kids and were really struggling because obviously there's a lot of demands and then I think there was a side of Twitter that was too ashamed to say that if you didn't have kids that you were still struggling. And what was really interesting, we did this survey at work, which spans everyone from graduate students, up to professors, etc. The thing that was interesting is that everyone struggled but for very different reasons, so as you said before, graduate students have really struggled with sort of being on their own and they can't really reach their families and it’s an isolating time anyway sometimes. And then people who've had responsibilities. But that affected people's sort of perceived effectiveness much less than we thought, it was actually graduate students and people who are in the early career stages where they were feeling isolated and lonely that had a bigger effect on their perceived impact.

 BR: I think one of the things I really appreciate about Twitter and especially the niche we call science Twitter is that since the pandemic, it’s shifted. At least a lot of people I follow have stopped only talking about science, and they'll talk about science andtheir lives. And there were definitely people who did that before, and I always appreciated it, but it felt like it was a minority and now it feels like it's the majority of people wiling to say, I'm a scientist, I'm a complete person, like, I am struggling, or I'm not struggling or, here's the other considerations I had to take into account to I considered my research for the summer or whatever and I really appreciate hearing that whole perspective from everyone. And benefiting from it.

I'm really glad you said that because you've really articulated the main goal of this podcast, which is to present great research but also the fact that the people doing that research are real and have real complicated lives! And as you said the pandemic has really highlighted the importance of that both in terms of building trust between scientists and the public, but also in setting a good example to the broader science community. And I think there's space for more of that “scientists have real lives” discourse beyond just Twitter, and as part of other forms of science communication, like this podcast.

BR: I think there's this general idea around academia that has persisted for decades, if not centuries, that, that if you're an academic, that's your life. That's what you should be doing constantly, that's what you should be thinking about constantly, and I really appreciate the movement in the last few years on Twitter of increased representation of a scientist as a whole person who has hobbies and has other activities. That has really benefited me and I'm sure others, because that's not what I want, like I love science and that's why I do it and I am very passionate about it but I also love other things, I love doing roller derby, I love being at home, I love gardening, like I have all these other things I want my life to be, not to mention having a family and having a partner and that sort of thing! And that feels much more feasible now.

I don't want to keep coming back to Twitter but I think it's really, that's what's really been important for me in terms of broadening what a female role model is in academia. Just the idea that you could be a really successful female scientist and and openly say, you know, this isn't my whole life, I have lots of other things going on. I have tattoos, and you know the things that you see on Twitter that you just don't that you don't necessarily see elsewhere, that was really important for me for just kind of changing the one note version of what a role model should be for women in science. So is there anybody that we haven't mentioned that you would like to direct our listeners to as a particularly good follow? I'll start with Meghan Duffy at the University of Michigan. She's been a really good role model in all of the ways that we've talked about, and she's just an incredible scientist as well so she's somebody that I've looked up to.

MP: Corrie Moreau. I have followed her before she was at Cornell and she's so cool. She’s got loads of insect tattoos, two adorable little French Bulldog. She has a really nice blend of justice equity diversity inclusion (JEDI!).

BR: I’d say Emily Taylor (@snakeymama). She’s at Cal Poly, she’s one of the original HERpers. And she does a really good job of tweeting about her life and I enjoy seeing that, and she also runs a business in addition to being Professor, doing snake relocations, and it's just cool to see like, wow, you can have it all. You can like do multiple things. Good follow.

Rahia is there anyone you enjoy following?

 RM: I only follow men. Just joking! My feed is mostly you Kirsty…

Okay, final question. What has been your most indispensable object of this pandemic? 

 RM:  Probably my bicycle. 

 BR: I don't know. Is it cheating to say my phone? Not just because of access to Twitter and stuff, but because of how I keep in touch with my family. And this is the closest I've ever lived with my family. Normally, I'm much further away. And so we've gotten pretty used to FaceTiming.

 MP: My social distancing, cooler backpack combination that allowed me to socialise from a distance and continue a community that I definitely needed to have.

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