Alumni

Alumni profile - Dan Harrold

In terms of my career so far, I have been fortunate enough to have helped with the conservation of endangered species and with improving the welfare and nutrition of captive animals within zoological institutions such as Zoological London Society (ZSL).

(Zoology BSc, 2015)

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Why did you study BSc Zoology at Queen Mary? Did you have a particular career path in mind?

I have always been fascinated by animals for as long as I can remember, so Zoology was the perfect course for me. Queen Mary’s course was unique with the variety of modules on offer; ranging from biochemistry focusing on what we cannot see all the way to studying evolution and ecosystems explaining how entire biomes function. I wanted to work in conservation of exotic species linking in the work zoos do with ex-situ conservation programs and I thought (correctly) that this course would give me a well-rounded understanding of many key aspects of animal biology.

What did you enjoy most about studying Zoology at Queen Mary? Was there anything that surprised you in your studies?

I enjoyed the diversity of the modules and the knowledge of the lecturers who are world-leading experts in their field. Considering my career interests, most notable for me were the various field trips to South East Asia and Canada to learn various research techniques and put our skills to practice. Learning about each lecturer’s research in the context of the modules really showed how scientific research was pushing the envelope and how what we are learning is used in practice. Learning the content is key but being able to show how to apply it separates us from other graduates.

I always considered myself a macro-biologist but learning aspects of immunology and statistics has formed the foundations of my recent professional roles. Studying the broad range of modules that Queen Mary provides has allowed me to develop a range of skills and apply them to each and every role I have had.

Were there any academics that had a strong influence on shaping your time and studies here?

There were many! Most notably for me personally were Dr Rob Knell, Dr Dave Hone, and the late Dr Steve Le Comber. Each of these academics showed their passion and dedication for their fields with every lecture or seminar and have been key in making me the professional person I am today. I, with some of my course mates, had a very tricky time in third year with the loss of one of our friends. These lecturers, as well as the Faculty, supported us through a terrible time and were instrumental for us all being able to complete our course. I cannot thank them enough for the guidance and support they provided and the encouragement they still provide to this day.

In my later life, I hope to impart my passion for the animal sciences by becoming a lecturer and passing on the knowledge that my lecturers gave to me.

What are some of your daily responsibilities in your role as Service Manager for Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust?

My role as the Service Manager for the Emergency Department largely encompasses helping the clinical leads in the effective and efficient running of the department. Ensuring that all patients who arrive are seen, assessed, and treated within National guidelines in a busy suburban London hospital is the tag line for my role. I joined just prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, so along with my colleagues, I have been instrumental in up scaling the response by creating patient pathways and continually reconfiguring the department to meet the demand from the population based on ever-changing clinical advice.

On a day-to-day basis, I work with supporting the flow of patients throughout the hospital and liaising with specialty clinicians ensuring patients get world class care as quickly as possible to prevent admissions. I mainly fire fight issues as they arise by working with other operational managers throughout our hospital and neighbouring hospitals. No two days are the same which makes my role exciting!

The exposure to working in practice allowed me to tap into many key concepts and theories learnt during my degree such as in animal behaviour, allowing me to make significant improvements for the care of captive species by changing enrichment methods.

How does this job allow you to explore what you feel passionate about?

Even though my training to this point has been within the animal sciences, in anything I do I work to make a difference. Whether this is helping the conservation of endangered species, improving the welfare of captive animals within zoological institutions, or expediting a specialist doctor to review a patient, I am helping to make a positive difference. It sounds cheesy writing it down, but that is all I have ever wanted to do and is what I am passionate about. Learning about a variety of clinical information during my undergraduate degree such as Animal Physiology and Animal Behaviour gave me a comprehensive understanding of human anatomy and behaviour, thus allowing me a basis of understanding when liaising with clinical colleagues.

Tell me a bit about your experience before your current role. What did your previous roles as Nutrition and Research Volunteer for Zoological London Society (ZSL) and Scientific Assistant and then Consultant Zoological Nutritionist at Chester Zoo involve?

After completing my Zoology degree, I completed a master’s degree in animal sciences where I honed my passion for clinical animal nutrition working in conjunction with Bristol Zoo Gardens. From here, I made contacts with researchers at Paignton Zoo in South-west England that opened the door to me working with Animal Nutritionists in the biggest institutions in the UK. I then moved to ZSL London Zoo as a volunteer nutritionist. In these roles, I worked alongside the zoo’s nutritionist in helping review the diets of the exotic species within the living collection, making changes based on newly published research or recommendations. I got to work with an array of critically endangered species conducting investigations on how to improve the way we feed animals in captivity. I was then fortunate enough to be able to present my research at both the BIAZA (British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums) and EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquariums) conferences and forge connections with eminent scientists from around the world.

From there I was lucky enough to move to Chester Zoo as the Scientific Assistant in Nutrition and in this role I was the key contact in the Science Team for keepers and animal care givers to present problems with all things nutrition and feeding. I led all investigations linking improvements to the animal feeding programmes with the support of interns. I assisted keepers in making changes to feed ingredients and quantities to ensure all animals were kept healthy under the best welfare conditions. I gave multiple lectures and lessons to the public on the importance of controlled nutrition and how food can be used as medicine for some exotic species. I was then kept on as a consultant nutritionist focusing on key projects such as Southern cassowary nutrition, parrot diet evaluation, and varanid lizard enrichment methods, among many more.

Alumnus Dan Harrold with a rhino

What did you gain from each of these roles and how did they allow you to build on the knowledge you acquired at Queen Mary?

As above, I was given a well-rounded foundation of knowledge and practical skills from Queen Mary that were put into practice during these roles and my master’s degree. I gained a comprehensive understanding of the issues faced by zoological nutritionists and how best to overcome them with the lack of published information for many endangered species in my roles. The exposure to working in practice allowed me to tap into many key concepts and theories learnt during my degree such as in animal behaviour, allowing me to make significant improvements for the care of captive species by changing enrichment methods. By fully applying myself to all these roles with the foundation of knowledge I developed at Queen Mary, I have gained in confidence and expertise leading me to become a consultant nutritionist and to work with institutions throughout Europe and beyond.

How has your degree helped you in your career? Which aspects of your degree are relevant to your current role?

Being a service manager for an emergency department after studying zoology might seem like a confusing mix to many. However, the transferable skills I learnt at Queen Mary about being focused, logical, systematic, a critical-thinker, ambitious, and evidence-based has translated into all of my roles and has allowed me to thrive in my current position. My quantitative analysis modules have allowed me to evaluate patient data in my current role in order to make service improvements based on evidence. Knowing about the scientific method has allowed me to set up and lead a variety of quality improvement projects throughout the hospital to better patient care and experience. Transferable skills really are the key to success in any field.

Being a service manager for an emergency department after studying zoology might seem like a confusing mix to many. However, the transferable skills I learnt at Queen Mary about being focused, logical, systematic, a critical-thinker, ambitious, and evidence-based has translated into all of my roles and has allowed me to thrive in my current position. 

What was special about your time at Queen Mary?

I have the fondest memories from my time at Queen Mary. In particular, the people (students and staff) and the environment was key in making my time so special. Attending a campus-based university in London was unique and was a fantastic way to experience a community atmosphere. The field trips were a high point where I saw myself as a scientist for the first time and put my skills into practice. I have never looked back.

What advice would you give to a prospective student considering studying Zoology at Queen Mary?

DO IT! The course, the lecturers, the facilities, and the opportunities you will have to network and develop make this course one of the best. The range of modules available and the way teaching is focused on presenting theory and showing how this is placed in practice using the lecturer’s own research, makes Queen Mary’s course stand above the rest. The fact that Queen Mary is also a world-renowned research institution means that you will be getting the most current education possible and that you will be taught by eminent scientists from a variety of backgrounds.

What are your future aspirations in terms of your career and in life?

Shortly, I hope to enrol on a PhD studying the difference in digestive morphology and behaviour of African and Eurasian vulture species and how these results can improve health and wellbeing of captive managed vultures at the University of Nottingham, University of Ghent (Belgium), and Nottingham Trent University. Following this, I hope to continue working on service improvements for the care of animals in zoos and/or patient care in human acute hospitals.

In life, I hope to continue making positive improvements and continue publishing work in journals furthering what we think we already know about the natural world.

Finally, what is one thing you would like to see change in the world?

I hope to see in my lifetime significant improvements and safeguarding of our planet, with the aim to meet and surpass Global Warming and habitat conservation targets to ensure we conserve the natural world for generations to come. I hope to contribute in any small way to the improvement of how we look after organisms and continue to inspire others to care for the natural world to see the beauty of ecosystems.

This profile was conducted by Alumni Engagement Officer, Nicole Brownfield. If you would like to get in touch with Dan or engage him in your work, please contact Nicole at n.brownfield@qmul.ac.uk.