Graham Jolliffe talks about second year

A day in the life

Graham Jolliffe talks about second year

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Each lab is about a different animal—sponges, jellyfish, and others. We do worksheets to help us memorize the animals’ anatomy and so on, which we go over in class. It’s fun.

Discovering the diversity of animal life

Before he even started his studies at Dal in Biology, second-year student Graham Jolliffe was already thinking ahead to grad school. “I wanted to pick a school that would be good for that, too.”

So he’s planning to apply for the Biology honours program, and says he’ll probably specialize in some aspect of evolutionary biology when he’s in grad school. “Maybe with an emphasis on physiology,” he muses. “I definitely want to study animals, not plants or protists.”

His interest in biology goes way back, though the focus has changed a little. “When I was a kid, I wanted to be a palaeontologist,” he says. “But I grew out of that when I realized the work of a palaeontologist might not be so much fun: digging through sand with toothbrushes hoping to find something, or scraping dirt off stuff in the lab."

Though he still thinks the science behind paleontology is very interesting, he explains, “I love animals, but I decided I didn’t want to work with the dead ones so much.”

He’s already had the chance to get his hands on some live ones, in labs for his Biology courses. In one lab for his course on animal diversity, “We looked at live worms, mostly analids. There was also this huge pile of local marine worms called nereis,” he says. “They smelled awful—maybe it was the seawater or something.”

Smells aside, Graham says “Labs are useful, fun, and intensive—and a good opportunity to observe animals.”

And for one lab, he discovered an animal he’d never seen before, kind of by chance. “For one lab, we were supposed to look at the anemone in the tanks in the Life Sciences Building,” he says. “But I thought the moon snail was more interesting. It’s not a normal snail shape—it’s a flat sheet with not a lot of definition, and it moves slowly but smoothly,” he says, giving a demo with his hand.

Graham’s favourite course this year is the one dealing with animal diversity. “The prof does a lot to make the class engaging, with videos and pictures,” he explains.

For fun outside class, Graham participates in Dal’s Cult Classics Club. “Every Thursday, we watch an obscure cult movie,” he says. “We’ve watched Blade Runner, Troll 2, Starcrash, Eraserhead—it could be anything, we’re not stringent with the definition.”