Making SCENE tick: The whirlwind efforts of Rona Brennan

Rona Brennan outside SCENE. ©Angus Lothian
Rona Brennan outside SCENE. ©Angus Lothian

Making SCENE tick: The whirlwind efforts of Rona Brennan

At the start of the New Year, despite the post-Christmas holiday lag that we all suffer from, SCENE was already set for a busy year of research, teaching and learning. As Master’s students, our year was kick-started with new classes at the University’s main campus, getting our brains back in gear with fresh challenges. The frequent commuting has given us a chance to catch up with fellow students and supervisors in Glasgow; however, it has left us slightly out of the loop at SCENE. One thing is for certain: there is no time to pause for those working at SCENE, which Rona Brennan would certainly agree with wholeheartedly.

Rona is the Domestic Bursar at SCENE, a title which hardly does justice to the central role that she plays. She is the lady that keeps everything running smoothly, keeping an eye on us all in the research building, while making sure the courses next door are under control. Her job spans the whole of the research centre, which is no small task.

With all this going on, Rona is clearly an extremely busy lady; however, we luckily managed to get her to sit down for a few minutes to chat to us about her job and, more importantly, what else we don’t know about her.

Having worked here for just over 31 years, Rona is a long running member of the SCENE team. In this time, she has seen first-hand the grand transformation of the facility: from a small field station with humble living quarters to a modern research building that boasts a meeting room and offices, laboratory space, and living quarters for research staff. Now, as well as this research building, there is a bustling teaching building that has courses almost every week. As a result there is a nearly 200% increase in the number of days that students and researchers have attended courses at SCENE—great news for the research centre!

However, this does mean that Rona also has her work cut out for her. Not only is she in charge of the domestic running of the research building, but she is also in charge of booking, administration and cleaning of the buildings, as well as feeding the many people who attend the courses. You will often hear people praise Rona for her hard work and express awe for how much she does. Living at SCENE, we see directly how hard she works and the impact she has on making the Centre an excellent research environment.

The amazing view from one of the bedrooms. ©Eleanor Dickinson
The amazing view from one of the bedrooms, overlooking Loch Lomond. ©Eleanor Dickinson

One of the most notable skills Rona possesses is her masterful cooking! Here at SCENE, we all know that Rona is a fantastic chef; everyone who has stayed here would agree and probably, like us, dreams of her lasagne or venison stew. She has a passion for cooking and will prepare delicious and exciting meals for large groups of people to a standard that is likely to be most enviable to many chefs.

One of her personal favourite foods is seafood, and it doesn’t sound like she is too fussy about what type, as most dishes could satisfy her palette. Bouillabaisse, a traditional fish stew from southern France, comes in as her top dish. Her close second, squid ink linguine, is probably more of an acquired taste for most people, and something I have never tried personally. Her passion for cooking runs even further afield: at home, as well as cooking for her family, she also makes a variety of tasty chutneys and pickles.

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When she is not cooking or making sure SCENE is running smoothly, Rona is out walking her dog, Brenna, a small Jack Russell with (apparently) quite the personality. The name “Brenna” is Gaelic, meaning “beauty with hair as dark as a raven”; it’s very similar to Rona’s surname, something directly questioned by her daughter when they got Brenna as a puppy.  However, Rona is not phased by this similarity: at the end of the day, dogs don’t ever really need to use their surnames.

Rona may be instrumental in the day-to-day running of SCENE, but she also has interests in the research that takes place in the facilities. One of her favorite aspects of working here is being able to meet so many interesting people and learn about their work on all sorts of projects in and around the Centre. When she does get a chance to pause and absorb the research around her, she is most interested in the fish studies conducted at SCENE. One aspect in particular are the experiments that take place using the artificial streams in the basement laboratory. These streams attempt to simulate a natural environment so one can observe certain behaviours of fish, such as territoriality. She is also fascinated by the prehistoric Triops, which are considered living fossils whose eggs can hatch 20 years after laying.

It’s always nice to chat to Rona, when she isn’t rushing around too quickly! She is a lovely lady who works tirelessly, and to whom many people are very grateful. She is full of great stories about SCENE and beyond, and always has plenty of advice should you ever need it. Indeed, Rona is a woman of many talents, fastidious in her work at SCENE, and a good friend when you are there. And, of course, her curry is definitely not to be missed if you get the chance!

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