Larissa Slaney is a life scientist and PhD student at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. Her innovative research could help secure the future of the cheetah and other endangered species.
Larissa first came to Scotland on a motorbike trip when she was 23. She fell in love with Scotland’s stunning landscape and welcoming people and found a way to come back, taking an internship at a law firm.
“From the first moment I arrived here I always felt really welcome. I find the Scottish people really welcoming and extremely warm hearted. So yeah, they immediately made me feel at home, they have always called me their adopted Scot.”
After moving to Scotland, Larissa joined the Highland Shotokan Karate Association to continue with her karate training. There, she met her husband Kevin.
She decided to study again and found herself at Heriot-Watt University, a world-leader in multiple disciplines of research.
Larissa’s project will determine whether the existing Footprint Identification Technique (FIT) can be adapted to find out if individual cheetahs are related. The technique could give wildlife conservationists a cheaper, quicker and non-invasive monitoring technique that will have applications across all endangered species.
“What I like about Heriot-Watt university is that they have a global vision. They have campuses in different countries and collaborate with researchers all over the world. Here, we are trying to find global solutions to global problems. When I go abroad and mention that I study at a Scottish university the reaction I get form people is always really positive.”
Though she has had an interest in nature since growing up in Germany, her passion for the outdoors became more prominent after moving to Scotland.
“I love the diversity of the Scottish landscape as well the roughness, the wildness of it. I think there’s a close connection to nature that has intensified here, living in Scotland. The Scottish landscape triggers a feeling of freedom in me.”
Larissa enjoys a supportive working atmosphere at Heriot-Watt and she also witnesses a positive learning environment at her children’s school.
"I think Scotland has got a very strong and positive culture of learning and that starts at school and is continued into university and beyond, that is my experience. Teachers are trying to encourage children to be curious and inventive, and find solutions to problems in a really positive way."