The role of the laboratory technician is a crucial one, and John O’Hanlon is one of the turning gears in the Chester Zoo Science team. Every day, hundreds of poo samples from the myriad of animal species at Chester Zoo pass through this laboratory, to inform on animal health.
John is a molecular biologist, specialising in the study of hormones. His work examines the biochemical contents of poo and tissue to understand everything about our animals, from their general health, to the stages of pregnancy indicating a new arrival is on the way.
Alongside all of this, John’s knowledge of PCR, a method of disease detection, is helping to make sure our animals are safe and healthy. Earlier this year, his work through this technique gave our veterinary and elephant teams time to act when 2 year old elephant calf Indali Hi-Way was diagnosed with EEHV (Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpes Virus)
John is an invaluable asset to the unique and diverse Chester Zoo science team. This weekend, we’re celebrating stories of diversity from those that experienced them themselves.
“This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, a major point in the LGBTQ+ history. With hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community doubling in the past 5 years, Pride still holds an important role today for the modern LGBTQ+ equality movement.
“Being a member of the LGBTQ+ community and a scientist,inclusion and representation in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) is very important to me. I am extremely fortunate to work in a diverse and inclusive work place at Chester Zoo, but it is important to recognise that as conservationists and scientists there is a need for more open diversity and representation. Over 40 percent of LGBTQ+ people in STEM are not out, and LGBTQ+ students are less likely to follow an academic career.
“As an undergraduate student I was conflicted with who I was and my own sexuality. This, mixed in with the pressures of studying for my final year, I really began to struggle. If it was not for the support from an openly gay lecturer, I would not be the scientist I am today. This is why for me, it is important that we show our diversity, so that all members LGBT+ community feel comfortable within themselves and accepted by society.
“Science can sometimes appear very black and white, when a more accurate description might be a rainbow. To solve diverse problems we need diverse people.”