Programme:PhD in Zoology
Field of Study: Freshwater Ecology
Zahra Oliphant was recently successful in defending her PhD thesis which focused on the benthic macroinvertebrate community in a cluster of high altitude ponds in St. Ann. She holds a first degree in Zoology and Biochemistry, as well as an MPhil in Zoology where her study focused on freshwater shrimps in the Rio Grande Valley. It is a well-known fact among her peers that her current path was determined when she fell in love with Swift River in Portland after visiting the site as a Freshwater Ecology student.
As an undergraduate student, she worked as research consultant with The Nature Conservancy for the Waters for Life project which aimed to stem the high incidence of river poisoning that was being carried out in the Rio Grande watershed. The research reports produced for that project examined methods of managing and improving existing stock of harvested species in the fishery, and also informed the initiatives of the Fisheries Division’s work with inland fisheries. As a freshwater ecologist, Zahra desires to see greater appreciation being expressed by all persons for Jamaica’s freshwater sources and that includes the under-appreciated pond systems. Her dream is for a National Freshwater Centre to be established in Jamaica where advanced research is carried out to produce a wealth of data for Jamaica and the wider Caribbean.
Zahra currently holds the position of Chief Research Officer in the Policy Planning Development and Evaluation Division at the Ministry of Science Energy and Technology. In her capacity as head of the Research Unit, she has conducted research that is relevant to national policies, plans and strategies and ultimately relevant to national development. She was the Jamaican representative at the PCST (Public Communication of Science and Technology) 2017 conference in New Zealand where the paper ‘Assessing Science Communication at the Post-Graduate Level’ was presented. She recently attended the Technical Committee’s meeting of the Network of Science and Technology indicators (RICYT) in Argentina in November 2018, which gave Jamaica the opportunity to gain insight and knowledge about the work being done regionally in collecting key indicators for Science and Technology. Although her work spans all portfolio areas in the Ministry, Zahra’s love for science and her desire to see science play a more integral role in Jamaica’s development, has increased exponentially due to her current post. There is far more work to be done in science and it is her hope that as scientists, our passions will extend beyond academia and reach the people around us.