Joanna Bagniewska

Favourite Thing: Looking at tracks of animals. Being able to interact with wildlife. Making sense of the relationships between wildlife and its environment.



Oxford University: 2006-2013; Rice University in Houston: 2005; Jacobs University Bremen, Germany: 2003-2006; IBO School 0704 in Gdynia, Poland: 1999-2003; Shanghai International School: 1995-1998; New International School of Thailand: 1994-1995


Doctorate in Zoology, Oxford University; MSc in Integrated Biosciences, Oxford University; BSc in Biology; Jacobs University Bremen

Work History:

Reading University, Nottingham Trent University, Inscentinel Ltd; Oxford University

Current Job:

Teaching Fellow at the School of Biological Sciences


University of Reading

About Me

I’m a Polish zoologist who loves doing a lot of things at the same time.

I come from Poland, but I have been in the UK for almost ten years now – I came here do do my Master’s degree, and stayed ever since. I am a pretty international person, having lived in eight countries and visited over 40. I’m a zoologist, and I love seeing what animals do in the wild, when they think no-one is watching.

I also love communicating science to various audiences, and I even dabble in science stand-up comedy. In my spare time I do competitive ballroom dancing; I also work with migrant communities in the UK.

My Work

I study how animals interact with their environment, and I talk to people about wildlife.

I am a behavioural ecologist, which means that I study how animals interact with their environment. My particular interest is invasive species: animals and plants that have been brought from one part of the world to another, and have adapted very well to their new environments (so much so, that they have become a threat to the native wildlife). Right now I study how the movement of people can influence the spread of these species.

If you want to know more, you can check out my TEDx talk on the topic:

Apart from that, I do a lot of teaching at the University of Reading – and I really love interacting with my students! I also give talks to people who are not scientists, and I write popular science articles in both Polish and in English.

My Typical Day

A bit of fieldwork, a lot of teaching, some meetings, plenty of writing – every day is different!

I don’t really have a typical work day – in my job, I do all sorts of things (which is great, because it means I’m never bored). Some days I spend mainly with my students – either giving lectures or doing practicals in the field; other days I spend mainly with my computer – on research and programming. Still, the best days are the ones I spend outdoors, chasing animals. That’s pretty diverse, too – I could be surveying small mammals, or observing bird behaviour, or trapping insects.

In summer, I take my students out for fieldwork – last year we have spent a couple of weeks in South Africa and in Sweden; this year we’re going to Sweden and Iceland. That’s a very intensive time, because we are out and about all day – collecting samples, looking at animal tracks, identifying plants – but it is also great fun.

Sometimes I’m in a tent in the South African mountains, trying to warm myself by the fire, wearing hiking boots and a fleece – and sometimes I’m at a conference in high heels and a smart jacket.

What I'd do with the money

I’d publish a book with the answers to your most interesting questions


I was thinking that it would be very cool to put together a little book with short answers to the best questions you guys have (it would also be nice to include your names alongside the questions). It would be a book where kids don’t just get textbook information, but answers to questions that they have a genuine interest in. When I was younger, I would ask plenty of questions that my parents and teachers did not know the answer to – so I had to become a zoologist to figure out my own answers.

If I can’t reply to your questions straight away, I will try to research them, or ask some of my colleagues for help. Together we can create an interesting book, with nature Q&As, as well as quizzes, puzzles and fun facts.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Restless, international, sociable

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Postmodern Jukebox. Or Stornoway. Or any music from the American Civil War. Basically anything with a banjo in it.

What's your favourite food?

Cherries and bubble tea, not necessarily together

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Going to the Galapagos Islands and seeing marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies and giant tortoises. Absolutely incredible.

What did you want to be after you left school?

I couldn’t make up my mind – an architect, a linguist or an animal scientist

Were you ever in trouble at school?

Never – I was a disgustingly well-behaved student!

What was your favourite subject at school?

Maths and history

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

I think being able to put an animal to sleep with an anaesthetic and then wake it up again is almost like a superpower.

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

John Feltwell’s book “Animals and Where They Live”. Ever since I got it (my sixth birthday, I think), I just wanted to know more and more about animals.

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

An engineer, building robots

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

A house, a child, and a guinea pig that lays very small eggs (it would be cute AND useful).

Tell us a joke.

What’s the difference between a stoat and a weasel? Weasels are weasily identified, but stoats are stoatally different! [sorry! I love terrible puns!]

Other stuff

Work photos:


This is where I spend at least some of my time, when I’m not teaching or out in the field. It looks a mess, but I actually know where everything is.



A giant tortoise I met during a trip to the Galapagos Islands. I’m the one on the right.



I love to cycle. I cycle everywhere – to work, to my graduation (pictured), even to my own wedding.




A friendly nyala antelope in our camp in South Africa.



Surveying small mammals in Oxfordshire this spring – found a wood mouse (amongst others).



My latest adventure: talking to a total of 600 8-12 year old school kids from Łódź, Poland. We discussed why it’s important to study and conserve wildlife – and had a lot of fun doing so!



When I was heading out to do fieldwork in Australia, I was told that it hadn’t rained for three years at that site. Unfortunately it started just as we arrived – and this is how we looked after a typical day in the Australian Snowy Mountains.