Friend, Artist, Naturalist, Volunteer: Richard Dolan

3rd November 2015 | by

Conducting a PhD usually entails meeting a lot of people, be it at conferences, within your institution, at a field site or through collaboration.

Friend, Artist, Naturalist, Volunteer: Richard Dolan

I have had the great fortune to meet some incredible people during the first year of my PhD, one of which I’m going to introduce you to here.

I met Rich during a field trip in Gansbaai, South Africa earlier this year. He was volunteering for International Marine Volunteers ( and was working on Marine Dynamic’s ( award winning white shark ecotourism boat, Slashfin – the same boat that I am lucky enough to collect data from.

As a visiting researcher, I’m often asked to give talks about my work to the volunteers and actively engage them in the work where possible. Rich proved not only to be knowledgeable but also enthusiastic, attentive and responsible – everything that I could have wanted in a volunteer! Rich helped greatly with my laser photogrammetry work – using lasers to get accurate length measurements of the sharks (see previous blog post Sharks and Lasers).

Rich the laser master.

Rich the laser master.

Rich is currently assisting me with tracing shark dorsal fins into fin photo ID software DARWIN (see previous blog post How I Individually Identify White Sharks).

Not only is Rich a lovely guy, great volunteer and naturalist, he’s also an incredible artist. Here’s a short bio that he was kind enough to put together:

“My current body of work focuses on the mysticism of elusive characters, whether they be fauna or human.  The visual nature of this imagery is borne from a vague notion of the finalized product, dictated primarily through a visceral translation of the medium at hand.  My source material ranges from antiquated photographs to fragmented memories, while the process is informed by emotion and aesthetic dialect.

I graduated from Montserrat College of Art in 2005 with a concentration in painting.  In 2013 I volunteered at the New England Aquarium in Boston as a lobster nursery technician, studying shell disease and the effects of diet on lobster coloration.  After working as an education intern with the Boston Harbor Cruises for the 2014 season, I was hired as a naturalist with the New England Aquarium Whale Watch.  Our team of naturalists analyses health and behavior of humpback whales migrating through Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.  My personal aesthetic focus is toward the fluke patterns of humpbacks, a trait unique to each individual that enables the identification of these marine nomads.”
My favourite piece of his art has to be The Great Zambezi (bull sharks are called Zambezi in Africa), featured below:
TheGreatZambezi- RichardWDolan

The Great Zambezi by Richard Dolan.

To see more of Rich’s diverse and brilliant art, go to

I am extremely grateful to Rich for all of his valuable assistance and glad to have made friends with such an all round great guy – a wonderful perk of travel, research and likemindedness. Thank you Rich!

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