Hannah Grist

Had a great couple of weeks, thank you to all the brilliant students who have participated :-)

Favourite Thing: Go out to a beach at low tide and look for animals in the kelp (big seaweeds): all the best squishy, weird and beautiful things are found down there. And sometimes I get ice cream afterwards :-)



Primary school: St Andrews Primary, Laverstock; Secondary: South Wilts Grammar School, Salisbury. I went to University of Oxford to do my undergrad,University of York for a masters, and University of Aberdeen for my PhD


I have 14 GCSES, including Maths and English, and 4 A-Levels. I also have a Bachelors degree, Masters degree and PhD, all in ecology.

Work History:

Save the Rhino International, London (I worked in fundraising and tracking rhinos); Royal Veterinary College (where I made tiny lycra outfits for chickens); Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Glasgow (where I taught kids how to make fire)

Current Job:

“Marine Ecological Researcher”


Scottish Association for Marine Science

About Me

I love animals and spending time outdoors: I also talk far too much, sing all the time, and nap in the afternoon as much as I can.

I currently live in Oban, which is a beautiful place on the West coast of Scotland, close to lots of beaches, mountains and islands. I live with my long-suffering partner, nine fish, three gerbils, three chickens and a rescue pigeon called Errol. We have a big garden that is full of random trees, bushes and ponds, and we sometimes get red squirrels and deer wandering in.


(This is one of my chickens, Shirley).

I enjoy watching rugby, and am addicted to Diet Coke. I ‘m also addicted to rock music, and go to lots of gigs, although not many bands come to Oban so we have to go and visit our nearest big city, Glasgow (which is an awesome city). I play guitar and drums, and have tattoos and a nose piercing, so I don’t look much like a “typical” scientist. No-one here seems to mind though!

I mainly love being outside, which is what I get to do a lot in my job. I especially enjoy our big red kayak that we use to go on adventures on the water. We also go for walks up mountains, although I think I prefer snowboarding down (I can be a bit lazy)! Often in the evenings I like sharing pizza and TV shows with my friends: we’re currently watching Glee and Game of Thrones (not at the same time). We enjoy playing board games and computer games too: I have an Xbox, Megadrive, Playstation and Wii, and I think I’m particularly good at Katy Perry on Just Dance.


(This is me out kayaking on our local loch)


My Work

I research animals, from birds to rhinos to limpets: where they live, why they behave different ways, and how we can protect them

My job title is “ecological researcher”, which is a fancy name for someone who is interested in plants and animals. I’ve done a lot of research all over the world, from rhinos in Namibia, to seabirds in America and chickens in London!

My current job is to try and find out what kinds of things live on our seashores in the UK, how many there are and whether they are ok. Sometimes different things can affect them, like rubbish that gets thrown away, or people using up all the space on beaches for other things like buildings. Our job is to make sure there is enough good space and food for them all.


(This is me doing a survey)

Of course, there is a lot of seashore around! The way we try and get to look everywhere is that I have a fantastic team of people who help out by looking on shores near them. We often get together to share ideas or swap notes, and a lot of my job is to chat to all these people and collect all the information they have found out. I also work with lots of great scientists all across the country: I have friends in Newcastle, Bangor, Hull, Portsmouth, Plymouth and Ross-on-Wye who are all looking out for the plants and animals near them as well. It is great, because it means that I can tell other people when I find something exciting, and they get excited too.


(This is most of the team together down in Newcastle)

My Typical Day

Involves going outside and playing in rockpools.

My days are really varied: sometimes I’m just sat inside all day just working on my computer, which is important but can be a bit boring if the weather is nice outside.

My favourite days are when I get to go and work with other people that are working on my project. I have lots of fantastic volunteers, who are all really enthusiastic and funny, and give up their time to help out. I get to teach them all sorts of cool facts about how to find interesting animals and plants and how they live, and then we go out together on to beaches and write down all the stuff we find. There is always plenty of tea and biscuits, and I normally find my stomach aches from laughing so hard at the end of the day, often because I have fallen into a rockpool.


(This is some of us out learning about seashells)

I sometimes go out on my own to look for something special: for example, last week I was out looking for barnacles (tiny animals that are stuck to rocks). It means I get to go to remote places, sometimes on islands, and spend the day counting or collecting things. It can be really fascinating: a few weeks ago I was looking under the water and found all these eggs from sea slugs and sea snails: they look like aliens!


Sea squirt

What I'd do with the money

I’d really like to have a mini science art festival that everyone can take part in!

Being a scientist isn’t all about counting and boring writing. When you get to go outside and look at nature, you realise how beautiful it is, and that is why many people want to be an ecologist: because of that lovely feeling you get being outside and among the beautiful places on this planet. Lots of the people I work with are artists who want to get involved with science because they think it is interesting, and many scientists also create art from all the inspiration they get from nature. You don’t have to be one or the other.

I’d like to work with people to show how artistic science can be by putting on a display where anyone can submit art that has been inspired by nature, and we can match it with the awesome science to show that  you can be both an artist AND a scientist together.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Chatty, enthusiastic, cuddly

Who is your favourite singer or band?

I like lots of rock music: anything with a guitar in it!

What's your favourite food?

BBQ Pizza

What is the most fun thing you've done?

I went tracking black rhinos in the desert in Namibia, and wild camped out under more stars than I knew existed.

What did you want to be after you left school?


Were you ever in trouble at school?

Yes: I was involved in a stunt to play a guitar on the school roof: the teachers weren’t very impressed!

What was your favourite subject at school?


What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

I got to stay on a remote island with just two friends over the winter: we saw seals breeding, and seabirds. It was magical.

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

I volunteered as a nature warden during the school holidays, and a puffin hit me in the head. After that, I was hooked.

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

A rock star.

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

That I was taller (I can never reach high shelves!); that I had more hours every day to do fun stuff; that I had a dog to take with me on adventures like they do in books.

Tell us a joke.

Where do the head lobsters catch their train? Kings Crus-tacean.

Other stuff

Work photos:


This is my desk at work: not very interesting, although I do build lego and keep it there to amuse myself when emails get boring.


This is the view from my office window though: we are based on a place called Loch Etive, and can see right across the water to mountains in the Highlands.


This is me pretending to have a wise beard made of lichen.