Sunday, 12 February 2017

Week 23: Cesky Krumlov Chronicles!

Charles Bridge in Prague.
There is no easy way to start this blog post except with wow… It is hard to describe how it was leaving Cesky Krumlov, the place, the people, and the course... I have never learnt so much in such a short period of time and have never met such special people. However, all good things come to an end and it's back to reality.

My trip to the Czech Republic started a little rocky, with the tags on my bag falling off and getting lost on Oslo. Luckily I had my friend Jan, waiting for me at the airport to look after me and help me get my bearings in Prague. Jan, was my Au Pair at the age of 10, when he came to England and helped my family out of quite a rough period and our connection has never been broken. He has been inviting me to his home country for many years and I finally had the opportunity to go and spend time with him and his son in Prague. Although the stay with him was short and sweet I will never forget my time in Prague, it is a truly beautiful city full of beautiful people.

Cesky Krumlov.
On the Sunday morning I adventured through Prague on my own to get to the bus that would take me to Cesky Krumlov. Although I got onto the wrong tram and had to take a few extra trains to get to the bus stop I can safely say that I am quite confident with public transport in Prague and made it to my bus on time.  The 3 hour bus drive to Cesky Krumlov flashed by as I slept most of the way there and I awoke in the city I would be spending a month in and I quickly fell in love. The first night there we got to meet all the wonderful people we would be spending the next two weeks together on the genomics course. Genomics is an interdisciplinary field of science focusing on genomes. A genome is a complete set of DNA and as such genomics is a branch of molecular biology concerned with the structure, function, evolution, and mapping of genomes. At the beginning of the night I bump into the only other student Mercè, that would be staying the entire month and we hit it off right away, I had no idea at this point that she became one of the most important person to me for the month.

Me and Mercè bingo winner!
The next day the genomics course began with a quick orientation of the course, the city and what we could do with our one day of free time. In the afternoon, we had a lecture on genome structural variation which is variation in the structure of an organism’s DNA and in the evening, we had speed networking. Speed networking is a bit like speed dating, but with research topics and with more than 80 people it was really exhausting. We got to hear most of the amazing projects people were working on and hopefully connect with people with similar projects. For the rest of the week we got to grips with the virtual computers we would be using, how to use the UNIX operating system, how to use UNIX for genomics, how to test sequence data quality, assemble a genome, and an introduction to R another important program for bioinformatics. On the Thursday of this week me, Mercè and Edo were the first to get the course bingo. The course bingo was 25 activities you do during the course that ranged from learning Czech words to doing the Macarena with one of the TA’s Sophie.  

The masquerade ball room.
After working for 6 days from 9am to 10pm you would think that on the one day we had off that we would take some time to relax. That is not what happened because on the Sunday we had a VIP tour of the beautiful Cesky Krumlov castle which is closed to the public during the winter. “The State Castle of Český Krumlov, with its architectural standard, cultural tradition, and expanse, ranks among the most important historic sites in the central European region. Building development from the 14th to 19th centuries is well-preserved in the original ground plan layout, material structure, interior installation and architectural detail1.” We had a tour of the masquerade ball room, the Cloak Bridge and theatre. The masquerade ball room was amazingly decorated with mirrors and strange panting on the walls and all I could think was that we were walking through real history. We then walked across a long walk way known as the Cloak Bridge to the Baroque theatre. “The three-storied covered arched bridge stands on massive stone pillars. This technically daring and impressive work connects the 4th and 5th Courtyard of Český Krumlov Castle2

Baroque theatre.
When we entered the Baroque theatre, there were no words to describe the beauty of what we saw. The amazing, beautiful and fully functioning  Baroque theatre (one of two in the world, the other being in Drottningholm near Stockholm). The first indirect information about the beginnings of theatre culture in the Český Krumlov castle come from the end of the 15th century, although the real blossoming of theatre life came during the reign of Wilhelm and Peter Wok of Rosenberg in the late 1500's. In 1675 Prince Johann Christian I. von Eggenberg had a theatre scene built in the so-called Deer Hall in the Krumlov castle, then in 1680 - 82 had a new and independent theatre building built on the 5th courtyard, on the site of the present theatre building. In 1765 - 1766, Josef Adam zu Schwarzenberg had the building reconstructed and equipped with new machinery and decorations. The unique mechanisms for changing the scenes and other decorations were prepared by the Viennese carpenter Lorenz Makh, while the wall paintings, ceiling mural, and curtains and wings were created by the Viennese painters Hans Wetschel and Leo Märkl3. We then got to see under the stage to see how the fully function stage worked.

Amazing people at the top of the castle in a snow flurry.
Once we had finished the castle tour we came outside to a beautiful snow flurry where we explored some more of the castle ground and then we were able to head up the castle tower. “This is a rounded six-storied tower. The lower part (first two stories) is much wider and is separated from the upper one by the cornice, with the original ceilings dating from the 1580's. The facade is decorated with illusively painted architecture. The second floor has a rounded ceiling as well. The ceiling above the third floor is a simple joist ceiling with a porthole and rounded windows with semicircular vaulted niches placed in the circular stonework. The belfry is on the fourth floor, where four bells are set on the bell supporting construction located in the high ceiling room. The fifth storey is an arcaded barrel-vaulted gallery with triagonal segments. The corridor passes upwards through the Renaissance portal into a segmental hutch-vaulted room. The room with the clock is situated on the sixth floor and is lit by small rounded windows. Above the simple joist ceiling is a garret with the lower part of the truss. On the top of the tower is a lantern with bells4.”

Wine tasting!
After a relaxing lunch, we then had the chance to join the previous mayor of Cesky Krumlov for a wine and cheese tasting evening in his puppet shop. The wine was not much to be desired but our host was the star of the show, a spitting image of father Christmas and the humour to match. He was telling us about all the people he had met as the mayor including Princess Margaret, Prince Charles, the King, and Queen of Sweden and many more! He went into great detail about their personalities and how good they were at drinking.

Prizes and T-shirt design. 
The second week built on the knowledge we gained in the first week and went into many different programs and techniques that were vital to my research. RAD-sequencing, stacks, QIME, Transcriptomics and then some additional interesting topics such as, Epigenetics, metagenomics and how to show your work truthfully. The week was so full of information and I had never learnt so much in such a short period of time but before I knew it, it was the end of the week. We got given a couple of prizes for finishing the bingo and ticking off the most of the bingo squares (21/25) and the t-shirts for the course amazingly designed by my good friend Mercè. For the final dinner, which was arranged by the students we had a short screen play written by one of the students and acted out by the supervisors of the course and some gypsy dancing. During the party, people started leaving and we began our goodbyes to all the amazing people we had met during the course. It was very hard so some of us stayed awake until 5am for those lucky people taking the first bus back to Prague. However, I was lucky enough to have another two weeks with the lovely Mercè.   

Old fashioned photo shoot. 
The weekend between the two courses was completely free so me and Mercè made the most of the time and relaxed for most of it but did a little bit of exploring the in the city and took some old fashioned photos at the photo museum. On the Sunday evening, we started all over again meeting all the people we would spend the next two weeks with on the Phylogenomic course. Phylogenomics is the intersection of the fields of evolution and genomics and refers to analysis that involves genome data and evolutionary reconstructions. I would go into more depths regarding the sort of things we learnt during the course, but going into depths regarding the massive variety of programs and techniques we learnt would take long in itself and could also be rather confusing so if you are interested I will leave the links to the timetables at the bottom of this post.

Discussing Phylogenomics! 
The two weeks flew by and before I knew it was the last evening, this time I was the person who had organised the final dinner and party. I took the idea from the previous party and designed a bingo sheet myself for the supervisors of the course that involved similar aspects as ours, but ones that they could finish within one evening. It went really well and was fun to see everyone enjoy themselves, but then came the hard part of having a good evening and saying good bye to another bunch of amazing people. The next morning, I left my beautiful hotel and the beautiful city of Cesky Krumlov behind to get my bus to Prague. There was a group of us taking the same bus together which meant I didn’t have to say good bye to everyone in one go but once we got to Prague it was the final good bye to everyone including the amazing Mercè. Once again, I was lucky to have my friend Jan there in Prague and I spent my last night in the Czech republic with some lovely people and a small little concert. I flew back to reality the next morning, it was very hard but I was greeted by all my favourite people the next day!

Me saying my goodbyes to Cesky Krumlov.
This was just a small summery of what I experienced during my time in the Czech Republic. I have grown so much as both a person and in my knowledge of my field of science. I am by no means an expert in my field, but I am much better equipped to tackle the task of my PhD. I was able to talk, have lunch and drink with some of the leading experts in my field and now have friends all over the world that I can turn to for support. What I gained from this experience is unquantifiableand I hope that I can do everyone proud with what I have learnt.   


Course timetables:

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Week 20: WHAT A MONTH!

Our pilot, taking us to England! :D 
WHAT A MONTH! Hello everyone, welcome back to my blog and once again my schedule has been so full I have had no time to sit down and write my blog. Finally I have the afternoon free and really wanted to catch you all up on what has been going on in my life and work.

When I last left you I was preparing for my trip to the UK. Before I left I had to prepare an overview of my project for Roger Butlin and a presentation for his research team, as I would be visiting him on the 20th of December. The trip to the UK went great and just two days after arriving, I was traveling from London to Sheffield to meet Roger to discuss my project. After discussing the project with him and his research team for almost an entire day, I had many great ideas for my project, but my brain felt as if it was going to explode! Once my brain had returned to normal size, I took the time to summarise all the new ideas and information into a “short” 1000 word document for my supervisors and then took a break for Christmas.

Christmas Dinner!
Although I went home on for the Christmas “break” it was far from a relaxing one, with so many friends to see and so much to do! However I had a really great time with friends and family during my visit. My partner and I also had one big announcement and that was that we are expecting our second son in May! After a relaxing New years party and a few days more in England trying to finish my ethics report, we headed back home to Bodø. When we got home, I was there for a grand total of one day before I jetted off to Prague. This was my first ever trip to the Czech Republic and I was so happy to meet a good old friend who lives in Prague. Although my bag was lost in Oslo, I still had a great time with him and was so grateful to have him there for support! After two nights in Prague I was on the three-hour bus to Cesky Krumlov where I would stay for an entire month.

Charles Bridge, Prague.
For now, all I will say about my two weeks in Cesky Krumlov is that I am having an amazing time and I have never learnt more in two weeks than on the Genomics workshop. I have met lots of really fun and clever people from all over the world! Some have directly affected the way I will go about my PhD and the knowledge I have gained will really put me on the right track during my PhD. When I return home in just over two weeks I will go into a lot more detail about the two workshops and my visit to Cesky Krumlov.

For the next two weeks I will be participating in the Phylogenomics workshop which will probably be just as intense as the genomics workshop, so I predict that you won’t get another blog post until I am settled back home. Once I am home, I am back for just under two weeks and then I am jetting off once again to Italy! This time I will be taking part in the Gordon seminar and conference, which has now been organised. I hope you have enjoyed reading the short little update and I look forward to seeing you in the next one!
A snowy Cesky Krumlov.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Week 14: A quick Summary!

My bike After the snow this Sunday!
Hello once again everyone and welcome to the blog, with Christmas getting closer there is not much going on around at the university, however I am busy trying to finish off as much as I can before I leave for England.

I started the week with the usual group meeting, here I spoke to my supervisor about my conversation with Roger Butlin the week before and he suggested that I invite him to be a part of my project. After the meeting, I shot off an email to Roger and not too long later I received an email from him confirming he would be able to be a bit more involved in my project. This was amazing news, his advice on my project will be invaluable and with his reputation and knowledge on the topic it should help my project do very well.  

My amazing Christmas advent calander! 
During the week I had multiple PhD student representative responsibilities, the majority of which was administrative issues such as, poster placements router, records of our previous meeting and passing along the votes of the PhD students on the structure of our “chain of command” to the administration. Also during the week I fixed my trip to Český Krumlov in the Czech Republic along with my hotel and the workshop itself. I will be away for a month in January taking part in a very intensive course, so I hope to learn a lot and have a lot to talk about in my blogs.

The two images are  the type of food
 we ate at the works Christmas party
By the end of the week I had finished writing my second digest but soon had it sent back for some major revisions. Also, the first has now been edited and is soon ready to be published. After this second digest, I will not be doing any more, although the experience I have gained doing them and the publications themselves are amazing for my portfolio, I believe I have reached the maximum of what I can get out of them. At the very end of the week I had a day course on academic writing. The course provided some very useful information, on the entire concept of writing and publications and how to do it. I can already see myself using some of the advice I was given and I feel much more prepared for my first piece of work/publication. If I have some more time next blog post I will go into detail on the things I learnt as they were extremely useful and think that anybody who is involved in writing publications should know. Finally at the very very end of the week we had the departments Christmas party. It was such a lovely evening with fun games and the Norwegian Christmas dinner is truly amazing! 
Playing in the snow instead of writing my blog! 

Although this blog is very short and I would have loved to go into more detail about a few topics I brought up this week, I do not have the time as you can tell it is already 3 days late (I was out in the snow when I should have been writing my blog post :D )! Next week I hope to have more time to put into my blog, however I will be traveling to England that day so it may be late again. I hope you enjoyed the quick summary of my week and I hope to see you again in the next one.  

Monday, 5 December 2016

Week 13: A bumpy week

Hello again everyone, I hope everyone enjoyed my big catch up blog last week and now I will try to get back to a normal upload. However, last week did not start off so smoothly as I was ill on Monday, but I was back to work on Tuesday.

Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Lucca (Barga) in Italy
This week I have found out that I was given a place at the Gordon Research Conference (GRC) and Gordon Research Seminar (GRS) which were recommended to me by Roger Butlin, a leading expert in speciation. The conference and seminars topic is speciation which is very important for my research and should provide me some useful contacts for the near future. It will be held at Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Lucca (Barga) in Italy.

Český Krumlov in the Czech Republic
After finding out this good news I was hit with the unfortunate news that I could not receive a credit card through work due to me not having a “permanent” personal identification number here in Norway. I also cannot get this number until I have passed my trial period on my contract which is set at 6 months. So, I was having problems paying for the workshops, travel, and courses however thanks to a work around I have managed to get this sorted and I am very excited for my trip to Český Krumlov in the Czech Republic.

I was also lucky enough to have a skype call with Roger Butlin, where we discussed my project a little and my upcoming ethics work. Roger, described speciation in a way that I had never thought about before and had really redirected my energy on a more constructive path.  The point he made about speciation was that the time it takes to complete the process for example in birds is around 10 million years. The length of time of speciation is also similar to the average interval between species events (7 million years for birds based on phylogeny) on a lineage and so most lineages are in the process of speciation most of the time.

A nice example of  Fucus distichus
I was also in contact with James Coyer an expert on Fucus who I have had previous contact with and asked some more about species and speciation in the Fucus genus (The Fucus distichus complex). He explained that the Fucus distichus complex is comprised of several morphs, each of which has been described as a separate species or subspecies. The morphs seem to be stable from generation to generation and in common garden studies, yet hybridization is common. On the basis of a mtDNA ITS spacer, his research had determined that there was no difference among the morphs and suggested that they all be considered F. distichus. This was verified by another study using 13 nuclear markers. Using this information and what I have learnt from Roger Butlin I will attempt to write a nice little paper on the species concept and tie it nicely into my research and the genus I love so much Fucus!

This was the last bit of sunlight we will see in Bodø this winter. 
I understand that this blog has been rather short as it was quite a lot of random administrative work this week. However, I have used some quite in-depth scientific terms in this blog post which I will leave some links explain them in the bottom of this post(found in bold) if you are confused and want to learn more and some other interesting links! I hope you all have a great week and I will see you all in the next blog post!  

Interesting links:

Highlighted words:
Phylogeny/Phylogenetic tree

Monday, 28 November 2016

Week 8-12: Mega catch up post!

Hello once again everyone, I am sorry for not uploading in the last month but it has been one hell of a busy month! While my partner returned home to Sweden I had to take a single parent role which has truly left me exhausted. However, now that we have been back home for a week I finally have a few minutes to myself and I have some time to write a BIG catch up blog.

For all the people who do not want to read the entire blog post I have made a quick summary of some of the key events that occurred in the last month. I will go into greater detail below:

·         Issues with payment finally resolved
·         I participated in an algae workshop, which was a lot of fun although 75% was in Norwegian.
·         Prepared for course, packed for my trip to Sweden and a variety of travel stories and travel issues.
·         Participated in a bioinformatic pipelines course.
·         A week in Umeå meeting friends.
·         Participated in an ethics course
·         My evolutionary digest will be published soon.
·         I have taken over journal club.
·         I am now the PhD student representative for the Faculty of Biosciences and Aquaculture at Nord University. 

So, I will start of by saying that I have final resolved all the issues that I have been having with payment in Norway! At the end of October I was worried that I would not be able to pay for food for me and my son, due to an error made by some of the administration department. When I had asked them what was wrong, I was told “oops I pushed the wrong button”. There was not even an apology and I think these people just live in their little bubble and do not understand that their mistakes can have major impacts! However, I do not want to complain now, everything was resolved and I do not have to worry about this any longer. With that I can now buy winter tires for my bike which I so desperately needed with winter setting in, ow and I could buy the new Pokémon! ;). 

During the same week, I had also been invited to participate in the first ever algae workshop at Nord university the very next week. I was hesitant at first due to most of the workshop being held in Norwegian, but I was convinced by my supervisor that it could still be useful. It turns out that my knowledge in Swedish really helped and I can honestly say I understood around 60/70% of all the Norwegian. I was introduced to many people in the industry of macroalgae(seaweed) production and sales and I got to see the beginnings of an industry that could become very important in the future in Europe. It’s funny to think that in Asia eating seaweed is such a normal thing and that there is a major industry around it. However, in Europe very few cultures use seaweed for anything, but I believe that in the near future this could change and the research I am doing on Fucus could become quite important to this developing industry.

So much snow! 
Later in the week, after preparing my computer for the course, I had to take time to prepare the house and my luggage for traveling to Sweden. The trip me and my son would take took over 20 hours and was the longest but most relaxing trips I have ever taken and that is something when considering I was traveling with a child. I got to see some of the most beautiful sights in Norway as I travelled 5 hours north to take the train from Narvik. The bus even took a trip on the ferry as the road meets a fjord. Once we were on the train me and my son had our own carriage for the majority of the ride to Umeå, Sweden. The seat we started on turned into three very covenant and quite comfortable beds. The trip confirmed my love for trains, but the length of the journey really took it out of both me and my son. Once I had arrived I had one day to enjoy the enormous amount of snow that fell in Umeå and then the next day I was off again to Gothenburg by plane. This time it was not relaxing and due to delayed by the snow in Stockholm I arrived a lot later than expected and missing parts of my travel due to the delays.

The accommodation at Tjarno research station.
I arrived at midnight in the pitch black to this big beautiful white house full of rooms which would be my home for the next week. The next day I woke up for breakfast to one of the most beautiful research stations ever set into a very picturesque bay. The course was full of fantastic information and fantastic people, I was new to bioinformatics in command line and the course was a perfect introduction into it. I will now continue the work myself along with the workshops in the Czech Republic I will be attending in January and the people I met on the course were a group of very intelligent, strong minded and fun people, many of whom I hope to have future connections with. During the course, I had the chance to meet Ricardo Pereyra, who is also researching Fucus seaweed. We discussed some factors in regards to my project, he offered some advice and pointed me in a direct which I am very interested in following.

Tjarno research station.
After the course my trip back to Umeå was much smoother and a little less lonely as I travelled with a few of the people from the course about 50% of the way home. Once I got back to Umeå there was not a single day where I did not meet somebody who I missed after my move. I was surprised how many people wanted to spend their time meeting up with silly old me, but it was very nice to see everyone again. After speaking with Ricardo Pereyra during the course in Gothenburg he suggested messaging Roger Butlin, a leading research in the field of speciation.  I was surprised that Roger Butlin quickly replied to my messages and we have plans to have a Skype meeting and further communication.

After an extremely busy week In Umeå, Sweden we headed home back to Norway the same way we came, only this time it would take 22 hours. The first week back home in Norway I had started an ethics course, when I first started the course I was not looking forward to it as I am not a big fan of philosophy which is a large part of the course. However, the course was amazing and really pushed some boundaries in how I look at things. One of the key topics of the course was the species concept, something we has discussed the course in Sweden in great detail, something I will speak to with Roger Butlin and also something I am personally very interested in. The course has now ended and we must write a paper on our research and two points of view, (eccentric and anthropocentric) I could not think of a way to do this so I have discussed with the teacher that I will focus on the species concept and my work.

Yay for me! 
During this week, I also found out that the Evolution Digest that I wrote will be published soon, here is the link to the publication: here it is so you can give it a quick read. I have also taken over the journal club, I have spoken about it on this blog previously. Journal club is when someone feels a paper is particularly interesting they can present to the club as a whole, then we can ask questions and discuss it. The last Journal club was a very interesting topic which discussed great white shark size and what is the biggest ( The final bit of news I have for all of you is that I was “elected” the PhD student representative for the Faculty of Biosciences and Aquaculture at Nord University. Which means I now have the responsibility of communication between the PhD’s and the rest of the department and organizing social events.

So now that’s the end of another blog post, I have had to rush this post a little and was not able to go into great detail on a lot of the topics due to the large amount of information I have had to convey to you. If you have made it this far I really appreciate you taking the time to read everything I have had to write and I hope you have enjoyed this post. If you have any questions about anything I spoke about in this blog post, please do not hesitate to ask. I also hope to make this blog a weekly thing once again where I can go into much greater detail about what it really means to be a PhD student.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Week 7: Mimics and maniacs!

I want to start off by saying that everyone should now be able to make a comment with or without an account. I have also put a survey on the website and some ratings on each post, please feel free to comment with questions and rate so that I can improve my posts, I wont bite!  
Really, I wont bite!

Linux penguin, Tux
This week started off with some great new that I had officially been accepted onto the PhD program. Now I bet a lot of you are asking, having you already been working for around 2 months and you were not officially accepted? Nope, not until this Monday where I found out that the project plan that I told you all about last week had been accepted. So now not only am I an employee for Nord university I am also a student (yes I know that sounds strange)!

During this week of work my energy was very low, this is because I am temporarily a single parent for the next few weeks, however I have been getting work done as best as I can. Most of the week consisted of reading and I have nearly covered most of the literature on my specific topic. I was also preparing my computer for the course I will be going on in two weeks time near Gothenburg. I had to install several bioinformatic programs along with installing a virtual computer so that I could run Linux on my Windows PC.

larval fish(mimics) mimicking jellyfish/gelatinous larvae
 (models) (Greer et al. 2016) .
This week was also time for another journal club, with this week’s presentation being done by Amalia Mailli on the paper “Larval fishes utilize Batesian mimicry as a survival strategy in the plankton” (Greer et al. 2016).  Batesian mimicry is a form of mimicry where a harmless species has evolved to imitate the warning signs of a harmful species for protection from predation. In this paper, they looked at larval fish(mimics) mimicking jellyfish/gelatinous larvae (models) for protection (See image). The jellyfish larvae are poisonous to predator fish and will be avoided, so the mimics are protected from predation. There are many crazy different examples and is almost as interesting as hybridization. There is so much more I could talk about on this topic but due to my low energy levels I believe it is best to keep it short, instead I will link some interesting sites at the bottom of this post.

One of the many  interesting examples of  Batesian mimicry,
one which I have always thought about as a child, the hover fly
and the wasps! 1- German Wasp, 2 - Hoverfly, 3 - Hoverfly,
4 - Wasp Beetle, 5 - Sawfly, 6 - Hoverfly.
Finally, in my free time I have been working to improve my scientific writing and my portfolio. It is a piece of side work that I am hoping to submit for an Evolutionary Digest and once my work has been submitted I will go into more details. Once again, thank you so much for everyone who is reading my posts, please comment and leave feedback, I would very much like to hear what you think, but until next week, I hope you all have a great one!    

Interesting sites:

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Week 6: My project and why it is interesting!

The 5 PhD students that started along side me. From top left,
Arseny Dubin, Kyle Rogers, Maeve Mcgovern, Peter Schulze,
Solveig Sorensen and me!.  
Greetings once again from my PhD journey, this week was not very exciting and consisted of a lot of reading and learning how to use the command-line on my computer. So in this week’s blog post will be dedicated to letting you all know what exactly the idea is behind my PhD. I will also decorate the post with pictures from my week and I will try to keep it clear and understandable for everyone. So please sit back, relax and enjoy the presentation!

We have always wanted to know the mechanisms behind speciation (the formation of species), but there are so many different factors that leads one species to become two species. It is also becoming more complex and the reason for this is that we have started look at speciation as a continuum (something that goes through a gradual change). One thing that we do know for sure and that is the process of local adaptations where populations evolve to better fit local conditions. When a species evolves there are changes in its DNA, but they usually accumulate in specific parts of the DNA sequence.

The northern lights dancing around the moon this week.
In my research, I will be looking at reproductive barriers, reproductive barriers stop species reproducing and when this happens is key to establishing when a species becomes a species. Reproductive barriers can be a result of many different factors and can be either before an embryo is form or after.  One other key aspect of my research is hybrid zones and the formation of hybrids thought he process of hybridization. When reproductive barriers form between hybridizing species it is very interesting and complex due to the nature of hybridization. Hybridization allows genetic information to be move and shared between the two species, known as “intergression”. Due to intergression, this makes hybrid zones the perfect natural experiment to study the forces that select specific genes which lead to reproductive isolation and ultimately speciation.
Autumn is here and someone is happy about it!

The species I will study, if you had not guessed it already, is the macroalgal (sea weed) Fucus, in particular, Fucus serratus and Fucus distichus. These species provide me the ideal system in which to study the mechanisms of speciation. It has been shown that these two species can produce hybrids in the wild, the sperm from F. serratus can fertilise the eggs of F. disichus. The next important factor about these species is that there are a few hybrid zones, some that have existed for 100 years and one that has existed for around 10,000 years. The reason that this is important is because the older hybrid zone does not produce hybrids whereas the younger hybrid zones do. The reason for this is that hybrids have been shown to be less efficient than either parental species and so natural selection has over time selected individuals that do not produce hybrids or produces less and this process is known as reinforcement. The genes behind this effect are unknown and this is where my research comes in.
My first fish here in Norway!

The central aim of my project is to understand how reproductive isolation mechanisms evolve in the Fucus speciation continuum, from a local adaptation to complete reproductive isolation. And that ladies and gentlemen is the idea behind my PhD.  I hope that you all were able to follow the post to this point and if you had any questions please feel free to ask, I would be very happy to answer them.  But until next time, have a great week everyone!