3rd Feb 2021
Covid strikes again! I cannot explain what a challenge science and teaching has been in the last (almost) year. The new online programmes to learn, new online content creation, video editing (!), reduced access to labs, difficulty in getting consumables/equipment fixed etc, the physical (and mental) impacts of working from home, in isolation, and away from my wonderful colleagues and students. Rant done 😉 On a positive note I’ve never felt so thankful for our wonderful lab group (I would be lost without the coffee mornings, science catch ups, and Friday socials). And I’ve never been so happy to be at Univ of Essex; the support of fellow lecturers, and the university actually, has been really impressive, and heart-warming. So as my wait for the vaccine drops from Aug to July I’m looking to 2021 optimistically.
So to science… my students are leading the way and producing some great research at the moment. Some have almost finished in the lab (no mean feat in Covid times), one has finished her PhD corrections and is most definitely a Dr, one is delving into the world of octocorals for the first time, and yet another is putting the finishing touches on a very exciting global coral paper… watch this space… I fear I’m letting the side down as I’ve had one grant rejection this week (I’m afraid that is the norm in science… getting them is the exception to the rule); fingers crossed for the NERC Standard grant we are still waiting to hear back from…
Other activities: I’ve been interviewing some excellent scholars for a PhD DTP studentship – an embarrassment of wealth in terms of candidates (I’m honestly not sure I’d get a PhD if I had to compete now…). I’m writing a presentation to help first generation students and their families to help them get their heads around the weird and wonderful ways of universities, academia, and degree courses. I have a few chapters and papers to edit (sorry I’m late guys!), some beautiful deep-sea coral from the Falklands to ID, and a job description for a bioinformatician to write… coming soon (email me if you are into genomic data crunching – population genomics and phylogenomics preferably). I even joined Instagram (scary). Fingers crossed for some escape in the coming months so I have content 😉
26th Nov 2020
Covid has consumed so much time this year, my blogging has been ignored I’m afraid. That said, it cause we’ve been teaching our amazing Essex students online, getting some amazing science done, writing cool grants, and receiving yet another kitten delivery (face palm)…
The impetus for me writing today is that I have had 4 co-author papers come out in the last 48 hrs. This may never happen again! And I’m so proud of these papers. One is about the history and development of Equity at Sea, two are about creating a new 10-year programme for deep-sea research (Challenger 150) and how we suggest that happens, and lastly, one about framing a new narrative for ocean conservation (One Ocean, One Health) and management to combat climate change. Check out my paper list. Thank you to all co-authors – they were really fun to write !
4th Aug 2020
I literally have no idea where this year went… I think my gut instinct to shut the lab was well placed and I’m happy to say that our lab group (and families) are well, surviving. Since March times have been tough. Students (and staff!) have had financial, personal, health, and research worries and concerns. Our lab coffee zooms three time a week were frankly a life line, a much needed time to chat about walks, baking, kittens (my cat had surprise babies in lockdown!), and of course Tiger King ethics….
I’m happy to say that a few of our team have been back in the lab for the last few weeks and are slowly getting to grips with what is possible in a backdrop of equipment shortages / delays, restricted Covid-safe movements around the building, limited working hours etc. I cannot say how proud I am of how our lab has gelled and supported each other through this most unusual of years.
13th Mar 2020
It is with heavy heart that I’ve today suggested that our lab all work from home from now for a while. I don’t know what the coming weeks will bring but I think that’s the safest option until we know more about Covid-19.
20th Feb 2020
I’m on a flying trip to the Smithsonian Natural Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. to identify and collect specimens for the Antarctic population connectivity work that is part of the Darwin Initiative grant. The new Head of Invertebrates is in Columbia visiting colleagues but I did manage to touch base with my good friend Dr Cairns, the Emeritus head of Inverts (below).
2nd Jan 2020
To review the end of 2019 – The Darwin Initiative grant started last year and we have a wonderful researcher now supporting the work on that grant – Dr Kerry-Lee Etsebeth. She has been organising the mammoth task of DNA extractions and UCE protocol development for the last few weeks with gusto. We also got “The Beast” (new desktop) delivered so we are ready for the influx of next generation sequencing data. In 2020 we will use it in anger!
Excitingly I took over as the Director of the Marine Biology course in October. This made for a very hectic term as I got used to the ebb and flow of teaching, pastoral, and admin duties. Thanks to the support of my wonderful colleagues, showing me the ropes, a sustained supply of Jaffa cakes in my office, and the enthusiasm of our brilliant students the term went pretty smoothly. Well done team.
I was invited to give a talk about deep-sea impacts in the Anthropocene session of the UK Royal Society / Japan Frontiers of Science Symposium 2019 in Tokyo, Japan in November. It was a real honour to hear the latest in cutting-edge research from an array of diverse research fields: nano ‘smart’ materials, black holes, biomedical technology and dealing with “messy” data. An absolutely fascinating few days.
I also wrote a small grant to study coralligenous reefs in Greece – keep your fingers crossed!
A new decade and many fun science plans are afoot. 2020 will see me advertise for a bioinformatician… keep your eyes peeled. I hope to welcome another PhD student to our lab. I have museum trips to the Smithsonian and Paris planned. And I will hopefully be packing for a large expedition in early 2021…bring it on 🙂
Well time did fly… after the Antarctic rollercoaster, the South African Cape Town octocoral workshop, and then our wonderful Hoga field course for undergrads it was easter! At that point the new Darwin grant with Cefas commenced so I spent time identifying coral for a few weeks. The rest of the summer was a wonderful maelstrom of Masters student research projects – you want polychaetes, we got them, whelks, those too, we had drones mapping coral reefs, we delved into 30-year old coral data, we worked on undescribed deep-sea coral species, we surveyed reef predators and octopus. And when I say ‘we’ I mean they 😉 I was certainly lucky to have a wonderful diverse group this summer in TaylorLab.
And…. drum roll…. as the new Director of Marine Biology at the University of Essex, I’m now keenly looking forward to welcoming a whole new year of marine biologists into the academic world. Hello class of 2019!
I’m finally back on land with all the wondrous things that brings – fresh vegetables, non-steel toe capped shoes, the internet. The Weddell Sea expedition was an extraordinary experience. There is an Insta story coming out on the Essex website soon where you will see some of the incredible views I was lucky enough to gaze at. The team from Nekton and University of Oxford made for a lean mean science machine. Papers to follow….
6th Jan 2019
Well 2019 has started off in a magical way. I pulled up the roller blind on the 1st January to look out over Antarctic sea ice! I didn’t imbibe too much over the festive season, its not a mirage, I’m undertaking deep-sea marine biological research under the Larsen C ice shelf as part of the Weddell Sea expedition 2019: https://weddellseaexpedition.org. To celebrate the new year we re-created Shackleton’s New Year’s Day football match from 1915 (the crew beat the science team in a derby worthy thriller that necessitated a golden goal finish). We are now heading west to the Larsen ice shelf area. On board we have ROV and AUV technology and hope to put these into action to look at what animal life exists under these rarely studied ice areas. The expedition is truly the most unusual I’ve ever experienced (it started by getting a jet to Antarctica…); its the first major independent (non-national) expedition to Antarctica in 25 years and first vessel to the Larsen C area since 2002, only 5-6 ships to ever visit this area. The science research will therefore all be novel and no doubt fascinating. If that wasn’t enough we are also dedicating 5 days to getting to the wreck site of Shackleton’s vessel the Endurance in the hope we can map the area and find it! Cross your fingers for us… more updates to follow.
18th Nov 2018
Term started with a bang, and an email tsunami. I was lucky enough to welcome Jessica Gordon and Amy Sing-Wong into the lab as PhD students (web pages and links to follow…). It’s been a pleasure to teach our first years Marine Ecology and in the last few weeks I’ve grappled back science time with the Deep Sea Special Interests Group meeting, visits to the Natural History Museum, and, in preparation for my upcoming Antarctic expedition (https://weddellseaexpedition.org), a visit to the Royal Geographical Society.
24th Sept 2018
Where did summer go?? Well it went in a wonderful blur of science and more science. The UCE protocol was successfully started and completed by the lab marvel that is Alice. Alice will be staying in the lab from Oct-Dec to learn new techniques and complete more UCE work – welcome Alice!
I was lucky enough to go to the Deep Sea Biology Symposium in Monterey, USA, and spend an inspiring week hearing about the latest in deep-sea science awesomeness; and what incredible research there was! The potential new genomic clustering methods, the vast quantities of fossils found in some deep-sea areas, and that crazy MBARI bioluminesing whip coral… see MBARI Twitter for more!
And I picked up an award with my student Lissie (defending next week… I’d say wish her luck but its in the bag 🙂 )
In between this I submitted a Darwin grant with Cefas to undertake population connectivity research around the Southern Ocean… fingers crossed for that, submitted some co-authored papers and tried to crunch some RAD-seq data… results to follow soon I hope.
5th July 2018
Summer has been in full swing in the lab for a number of weeks now. My fabulous undergraduate Frontrunner (paid summer internships here at Essex, awesome) has been extracting and fragmenting the DNA of deep-sea octocorals. And with kits arriving from the far corners of the planet we are finally ready to start with the new ultra-conserved elements methodology (a year in the making…). I have a wonderful research assistant preparing the new UCE protocol which we happily started today. Go science! Let’s get this UCE library prep underway 🙂
9th May 2018
I was lucky enough to go to sea on the Nathaniel B Palmer icebreaker back in 2011. The wonderful Dr Rhian Waller saved many 100s of octocorals in her freezer since then and I managed to go and visit her to ID them and take genetic sub-samples last summer. A student and I have been trying to squeeze DNA out of them for a few weeks and we finally have bands. Cue the band dance (yes that’s a thing, ask any self-respecting geneticist)!
Yes it’s smeary but it’s there!
Two sets of PhD interviews are pending. I look forward to welcoming candidates to the Taylor Lab and to Colchester to see the delights that out university has to offer.
I also have a Frontrunner starting in June; this is a marvellous initiative where instead of interning for free (which I fundamentally disagree with if its over a few weeks – who can afford to do that??) students within the University of Essex can apply to get experience in different jobs AND get paid for it. A wonderful 2nd year student is therefore joining TaylorLab for the summer to learn DNA extraction, PCR and many and varied other lab techniques. With a research assistant starting next week too its going to be a busy summer.
I have a fully-funded PhD studentship to study deep-sea coral population genomics and dispersal modeling… come join Taylor Lab!
Well what a year it has been! It finished with a flourish of reefy science with a visit to the European Coral Reef Conference in Oxford last week. It was good to catch up with the shallow-water brethren and meet friends old and new. I’m just about unpacked in the office and lab, equipment is ordered and books are on shelves. With an eye to 2018 I’m writing an advert for a PhD studentship to start in Oct 2018 so watch this space… Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone!
late Nov 2017
Florida State University was kind enough to invite me to join a workshop to discuss the research necessary to understand life under ice shelves post-collapse. This gathering of Antarctic researchers discussed some fascinating ideas for science and the location was just stunning. Thank you Jeroen and the Coastal Marine Laboratory team!
Nov 2017 – I’ve just moved to the University of Essex to start work as a Lecturer in Marine Biology.
The first few days have been a blur of unpacking coral and taxonomic literature, working out the square locations of various departments and chatting to the press about the minor help I offered Blue Planet II with deep sea coral knowledge (how amazing was the deep sea episode!!). See me talking about deep sea coral here at 22min30. Oh and on FB live talking about deep sea corals here.
And, to start my time at Essex off with a bang I am co-supervising a PhD studentship with Dr Alex Dumbrell here in Biological Sciences. Check out the advert here if you want to join the embryonic Taylor Lab group 🙂