Meet...Hannah Dalgleish

4 May 2021

Hannah Dalgleish

Name: Dr Hannah Dalgleish
Job title: Postdoctoral Researcher in Astronomy for Development

What are you currently working on?
I am currently living in the capital of Namibia, Windhoek, where I am looking at ways to implement astronomy as a tool for sustainable development. This involves numerous projects, such as promoting astrotourism to relevant stakeholders and developing an astronomy course for tour guides. Other projects include leading the Social Impact Plan for the Africa Millimetre Telescope (AMT), where we aim to train the scientists and engineers of the future, in harmony with the Namibian vision for science, technology and innovation. I’ve also begun a new and exciting collaboration with local experts in tourism and indigenous knowledge, where we will be studying the intersection between astrotourism and rural indigenous communities, like the San people in the remote Nyae Nyae conservancy. Last but not least, I’m very interested in science diplomacy, and understanding the role that astronomy plays in cultural relations; I recently wrote an essay on this topic which will be published by the British Council on 7 May.

Describe a typical day
My days actually vary quite a lot! Sometimes I get to travel somewhere exciting (like the H.E.S.S. Observatory, the Gamsberg mountain, or the remote town of Tsumkwe) and other times I get to meet with interesting and important people (such as the High Commissioner of the United Kingdom to Namibia). Most days I’ll attend a meeting online, either with my research group or with my collaborators at the Office of Astronomy for Development in Cape Town, or Radboud University in the Netherlands. I will also be writing emails and drafting articles, grant proposals or fellowship applications. As a result of the pandemic, I’ve been lucky in that I can give regular presentations at conferences since they are now all online. I spend a lot of additional time organising and facilitating, through my role as founder of a new dark sky tourism network, as co-chair of the sustainability working group of the European Astronomical Society, and as a Councillor of the Royal Astronomical Society.

If you had an entire day at your disposal (not at work), what would be your ideal way to spend it?
I’d be out travelling and exploring Namibia! Ideally, I’d be hiking and I wouldn’t have access to the internet for the entire day.

What is your favourite place in Oxford?
Unfortunately, I haven’t actually set foot in Oxford since I started working at the University. But having grown up in Oxford, I can cheat a little and say that I am very fond of the Bodleian. Whereas in Namibia, there is still so much for me to see and explore, but so far the Waterberg Plateau would have to be my favourite for its very beautiful and dramatic landscape!

What would you be if you weren’t doing the job you are currently doing?
That’s a very tough question! I think I might actually be doing another Masters, in sustainable development, or science and technology studies perhaps. Or if not that, I’d probably be WWOOFing (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) on some faraway island, riding out the pandemic.