From Aberdeen to Marine Biodiversity - Graham OliverGraham Oliver

BSc (Hons) Zoology, 1973 
From Aberdeen to Marine Biodiversity

Your Time at Aberdeen

Why did you choose to study at Aberdeen?
I was interested in ornithology but also had a botanical hobby. Aberdeen had a good reputation in both these subjects.

Why did you choose your particular course?
I did not choose to begin with because the four year course allowed me to explore zoology, botany and geology. Laterally I chose Zoology because I enjoyed it most. I had been interested in natural history from an early age and Aberdeen suited me. I also have to say that I lost my father a couple of years earlier so Aberdeen was close to home but not at home.

What did you most enjoy about your time at Aberdeen? Did you have any particularly memorable student experiences?
As a keen naturalist any excuse to get into the field was taken, so field trips to Bety Hill and Millport were memorable. I was also allowed to do an independent honours project at home and this was greatly appreciated. Surely, as with most student experiences, the social side was memorable but not repeatable!

If talking to a group of prospective students, what advice would you give them to help them make the most of their time at the University of Aberdeen?
Times have surely changed but take advantage of all possibilities related to your course. The world is now much more competitive and you need more than just the degree.

Your Time After Aberdeen

What was the title of your first job after graduating from Aberdeen?
Curatorial Assistant at the Royal Scottish Museum, now National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh.

What did your first role involve?
Curating and researching Mollusca. So cataloguing mollusc collection, collecting molluscs for the museum, identifying molluscs and undertaking taxonomic research on molluscs.

What is your current job title?
I am now retired and an honorary research fellow. I retired in 2014 as Head of the Biodiversity & Systemic Biology Department in the National Museum of Wales.

What is your current role?
Today I undertake contract work related to Mollusca but also to the management of museum collections. As Head of BioSyB my role was both in management, curation and research.

Please briefly describe the journey from your first job after graduating to where you are now.
Given my life long interest in natural history, I enthusiastically involved myself in my PhD and deep sea faunas in general. The ability to examine species never seen before was exciting and I embarked upon a career of taxonomic research revising and describing species new to science. I moved from Edinburgh to Cardiff where I was able to direct my research and while retaining an interest in the deep sea also became expert on the Arabian fauna, writing books on the Red Sea and Arabian molluscs. My interest in deep sea faunas was maintained thorough studying species that use chemosymbiotic bacteria - that gave me access to many new taxa but also the opportunity to join exploration cruises to the Arabian Sea, NE Atlantic and Barents Sea. Now retired, I have described over 100 new species to science and continue with this work. I also train others and students in taxonomy and this has most recently taken me to Kuwait and Kerala.

Was your degree at Aberdeen essential for getting to where you are now? If so, in what way?
The broad based four year degree was very good when I came to manage a biology department, both zoology and botany. This allowed me to understand the work of all staff. Although I did not get to do an ornithology PhD at Aberdeen, the general aspect of the degree allowed me to get the place in Newcastle, although in an entirely different subject.

One Top Tip

As an employer I always looked for enthusiasm and experiences beyond the degree. Undertake relevant placements and volunteering and show that you are committed to your chosen path.