Zarah Pattison

Favourite Thing: Being outside doing fieldwork! You are totally focused and nothing else matters except collecting your samples. Feels like freedom.



Table View High in South Africa (1998-2000), Hazelwick High School Crawley (2000-2002), Royal Holloway University of London (2008-2012)


Bsc (Hons), MSc, awaiting my PhD qualification (eeek)

Work History:

Make-up artist for Clinique and MAC cosmetics oh and a number of jobs before that: pizza place, Boots…

Current Job:

Postdoctoral researcher


University of Stirling

About Me

Freshwater ecologist who loves coffee and my staffie rescue dog, Ninja.

This is Ninja. We adopted him from the dog’s trust. He was previously a stray found wandering around the streets of Leeds. Now he has a home with us. He is a total Ninja! #AdoptDontShop


My Work

Alien plant hunter

Technically I am an invasion ecologist. My job is to find out where alien (non-native) plants are and how they are spreading across the UK. I also want to know how they are affecting the native plants here in Britain. Many alien plants can grow bigger and faster than our native plants which means that they are out-competed for vital resources such as space and light to grow. An example is Kudzu vine which can take over an entire forest like a blanket. We lose a lot of diversity due to alien plants and they can have severe impacts on ecosystems such as increasing flooding and changing nutrient cycles which affects the growth of native plants.



My Typical Day

During fieldwork, I will be head high in dense plants along rivers searching for invasive alien plants, in the office I will be trying to figure out what these aliens are doing to our native plants!

When I find a patch of Himalayan balsam it is so big that I have to crawl through to get to the other side where it isn’t growing!



What I'd do with the money

Enable students from local schools to get outside and do fieldwork, to experience science first hand!

One of the best parts of being a scientist is getting out into the field and collecting samples, exploring your study site and going to places you wouldn’t normally go if you weren’t a scientist. I really want students to experience this part of science! Get out of the classroom and have some adventures.


My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Sarcastic, tenacious, curious

Who is your favourite singer or band?

That’s a tough one….White Zombie, The Cranberries and oldskool garage.

What's your favourite food?


What is the most fun thing you've done?

Jumped out of an aeroplane (sky diving)

What did you want to be after you left school?

Make-up artist and Biologist…yeah…

Were you ever in trouble at school? many times…

What was your favourite subject at school?

English Literature and Biology

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

Got lost in the Carpathian mountains after finding fresh bear tracks…adrenaline rush! oh and got bitten by a poisonous spider in Hawai’i…my foot went purple, weird!

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

Nature reserve rangers in South Africa and Fungal Professor Alan Gange who trusted me to carry out experiments on plants.

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

Run a coffee shop in Hawai’i and collect rare and carnivorous plants

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

1) Longer arms for sampling; 2) water-and cold-proof skin…for sampling in rivers and lakes in winter and 3) lead a research project in Cape Town, South Africa in a green 4×4 jeep filled with sampling gear.

Tell us a joke.

er…. search on YouTube for a funny cat video, that will always make you laugh!

Other stuff

Work photos:

This was the biggest stem of Himalayan balsam I found..nearly 45 cm long. The stem is actually hollow and not made of wood..yet this alien plant can grow as tall as a small tree!