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We’re hiring paid research assistants!

Hey! Are you a bug nerd? What about a debugging nerd? At the Bahlai lab, we want all kinds. We’re looking for undergraduate assistants to help us count insects, to manage home-built hardware for monitoring insects and for data and database management tasks. Position details:

Undergraduate research positions in the Bahlai Lab: Computational Ecology

Hey! Are you a techy, buggy undergraduate student interested in research experience? The Bahlai Lab at Kent State University has a mission to understand how population processes unfold over time using technology and data-driven methods. Starting in Spring 2021, we need insect and/or data and/or hardware enthusiasts to help out in PAID positions supporting graduate student research. We’re looking for motivated, enthusiastic students with strong interests in the intersection of biodiversity research, technology, and data science, people who work well in a diverse, friendly environment, and will work with us to uphold our core goal of inclusivity and equity in the sciences. Field sites are located in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Cleveland area.

Please contact Bahlai Lab manager Julia Perrone at jperrone@kent.edu with a CV/resume and statement of interest to apply. Applications will be reviewed on an ongoing basis but for best consideration, please apply by March 31, 2021.

Current active projects requiring assistance include:

Elevating Biodiversity: understanding how anthropogenic filters affect insect systems

  • How do the physical environments  humans build shape the communities of organisms that use them? This project examines how insect communities in green roofs and similar natural systems assemble. Elevating biodiversity? Green roofs take it up a whole level! 

Advanced insect surveillance: instrumentation for remote sensing of ground-level biodiversity trends.

  • Can we monitor biodiversity better? Insect trapping is sometimes the pits: pitfall traps, that is! Most classical methods of insect biomonitoring are messy,  time consuming, heavily dependent on highly trained experts for identification, and ultimately result in a large number of dead insects to collect data. Remote monitoring technology alongside machine learning enabled automated image processing has potential to lower lethality, time, and expertise barriers that goes alongside classical insect collection. But what are the tradeoffs?

Debugging data trends: methods for validating and humanizing big environmental data

  • How does the source of our information affect our conclusions about systems? Our understanding of ecological processes is shaped by the information we have access to about them. Mining data from citizen science surveys, government documents and other large-scale sources helps us to understand how the environment shapes information (and how information shapes the environment). We have two major projects in this area: developing text-mining approaches to look at human-landscape feedbacks in environmental regulations, and layering data sources to create ‘meta-models’ to examine how human factors affect predictions of changing species distributions.

We are looking for students with a wide array of skills to help support these projects. Tasks for students may be field, lab or remote based. Field workers must:

  • Be comfortable working outside and carrying up to 30lbs equipment through uneven terrain
  • Not be icked out by handling insect samples
  • Be able to climb ladders to access green roofs

Preferred skills: 

  • Experience with insect identification 
  • Python or R coding experience
  • Open hardware, instrumentation and programming aptitude

Because of COVID distancing restrictions, applicants will need a valid driver’s license and access to a vehicle for separate travel to local field sites. Mileage will be reimbursed. The Bahlai lab is committed to adhering to all CDC recommendations and Flashes Safe 8 regulations, and thus masking, distancing and sanitation will be required for all in-person interactions.
For more information on research in the Bahlai Lab please go to: https://bahlailab.org

Three new papers!

I guess I’ve been negligent about keeping up here, but hey! Look! Three new papers came out later in 2020:

Long‐term research avoids spurious and misleading trends in sustainability attributes of no‐till led by Sarah Cusser

Local‐ and landscape‐scale variables shape insect diversity in an urban biodiversity hot spot led by Max Adams

Flower traits associated with the visitation patterns of bees led by Logan Rowe and Dan Gibson.

Reach out if you have any trouble accessing!

Statement on Anti-Black Racism and Police Brutality

I write today to voice my solidarity for the #BlackLivesMatter and #BlackinSTEM movements and to explicitly condemn the ongoing police brutality, systemic racism, and explicit racist acts against Black people across America. The recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, as well as the many that have occurred before, coupled with the massive disparities in health outcomes in COVID-19 between Black and white Americans, shine a light on the ongoing violence and systemic oppression in our culture against Black people. These events, coupled with numerous examples of police brutality in the ensuing protests, make it clear that this problem is real, immediate and continuing, and it is simply immoral to not do everything in our power to speak out for real change in our systems.

In the Bahlai Lab, it is an explicit part of our mission to actively disassemble the white supremacist, cis-hetero-patriarchal structures that dominate the scientific discourse. Our work in the biological information sciences is not an exception: our work is not neutral in the spheres of environmental racism, consent and information privacy, and land use rights (among others). It is our core work to critically examine how these issues ultimately shape our beliefs and actions, and it is essential that we center justice in our narratives about our work. Science is never neutral, and we must explicitly work to do better: to build more inclusive structures, to stand up against inequity and call it out wherever we see it, to LISTEN to our colleagues and believe them when they tell us about the racist or discriminatory acts of ourselves and others.

Some small actions my lab has taken include developing reading lists for classes that emphasize work of people of color, explicitly unpacking the ‘heroism’ of many dominant voices in the scientific discourse in the classroom, and centering a code of conduct in the lab’s policies. 500 Women Scientists has compiled a helpful guide to other actions we can take. Here is another excellent resource for white academics wanting to do better.

I call on my students, colleagues and friends to stand up as well. We built, and we uphold these structures; we can, and will disassemble them.

Yours in solidarity,

-Christie Bahlai

Congratulations Katie and Christian!

Christian and KatieTwo of our intrepid PhD students, Katie Manning and Christian Bullion, have both won The Graduate Student Senate Research Award! The awarded funding will help them each to further their research projects in 2020. As awardees, both Katie and Christian will present research posters at the 35th Annual Graduate Research Symposium in March 2021. Way to go team!