Academic Background

(Or: The ramblings of a PhD student)

Bullet-point version in the form of downloadable CV: julie-sheard-cv

Finishing up high school in 2007/2008, people started asking me difficult questions like: What do you want to do with your life? Do you want to continue studying? I remember flipping through books on the various studies offered in Denmark, their requirements, your career prospects once you completed your five years of studying. Basically, I had no clue. “Well, what classes do you like?” I liked English. Danish. History. I had good teachers in those classes. Maybe I would study law. It was very popular. Maybe English. I took an advanced Shakespeare class my senior year. And no, Shakespeare didn’t kill English for me. I just found it to be more of a hobby than a career choice. I toyed with becoming a doctor or a vet. Couldn’t deal with the blood. Or the needles. And didn’t quite have the grades either. I loved nature. Biology it was.

The first year of my Bachelor at Copenhagen University, I’m pretty sure I had no idea what I was doing. Honestly, I still sometimes have no idea what I’m doing. But I was having fun. At least as long as the courses I was taking were called something-ecology. Or ecology of something. Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Statistics were not my friends. Human physiology was a killer. There were times during taking these courses where I truely doubted that I was on the right path.

Certainty came in my third year, while writing up my thesis. Almost 10 years after choosing to study biology, I am now a Ph.D student at the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate (CMEC) in the lab of Professor Anders Tøttrup, Copenhagen University and affiliated with Professor Nathan Sanders, University of Vermont and Professor Rob Dunn, North Carolina State University. It’s awesome.

What drives my research is a desire to understand species distrilaurennichols-20161028-img_0058butions and engage the public in scientific research. My main fields are biogeography, invasion biology and citizen science. For my PhD and in collaboration with Danish schools, I am hunting ants across Denmark in order to answer questions about their distribution, community assembly and resource use. These findings will furthermore be compared to findings from similar international studies to elucidate any patterns in what drives and limits ant distributions across the world. For more information on the ant hunt, visit Also, I will be looking into optimal methods for citizen science with children and how we might strengthen the link between schools and current science in the future.