What do you remember of the first paper you published?
My first first-authored paper was ‘Adaptive social and maternal induction of antipredator dorsal patterns in a lizard with alternative social strategies’ (with Andrew McAdam, John Wingfield and Barry Sinervo as coauthors, Ecology Letters, 2007). This was a cool paper because we actually made a really exciting discovery—treating embryonic side blotched lizards with estradiol resulted in dramatic changes to their dorsal patterning! The discovery was serendipitous, but upon further reading, previous research indicated that migration of the neural crest cells during embryogenesis (which determines pigment patterns) is strongly dependent on regulation by estrogen response elements (EREs). Anyway, as far as I know, no one has followed up this discovery in this or other species. So if you’re reading this blog post and are interested in this topic, please consider taking up the torch and letting me know what you find!
When was the last time you had a paper rejected?
This happens to me all the time! It is never fun! The other thing that is no fun is rejecting other people’s papers. Unfortunately I have to reject papers in this role, and it’s by far the least pleasant part of the job. To mitigate this a bit, I reserve editorial duties for the early part of the week. I promise I won’t send you a rejection on Friday or over the weekend. Rejection is always unpleasant for everyone, but having a rejection ruin your weekend is unforgivable
If you could wake up tomorrow with a new skill, what would it be?
Talent for the creative arts.
Are you a good cook? What’s your signature dish?
Yes, I love cooking. I don’t have a signature dish, but I love to make anything that either involves a lot of chopping (like pico de gallo), or which cooks for a long time in the oven. A good one that comes to mind is a recipe I got a long time ago from an Emeril Lagasse show on FoodTV, where you slow cook ham houghs (hocks) with loads of spring greens, in a broth made from a roux flavoured with onions, celery, and beer. It’s pretty good!
Which small thing irritates you the most at work?
I can’t seem to get on top of my inbox. I just went for coffee and came back to 28 new emails.
How do you deal with stress?
Play with my children, walk the dog, or drink wine.
Who inspired you most as a student?
My dad was my earliest scientific inspiration- as a child, he taught me how to make fireworks, identify the local flora, and dissect the chickens from our backyard henhouse. As a student, papers by David Haig, Jason Wolf, Bill Rice, and Mary Jane West-Eberhard (among others!) helped shape my early ideas about the evolutionary process. Things that blew my mind early on in my scientific training were the life cycles of slime moulds and kelp (seaweed has eyes! Argh!).
If you could recommend one place for people to travel on holiday, where would it be and why?
Aberdeen, Scotland! We don’t get many tourists here, but this is a lovely part of the world and the people are fantastic.