What is your area of expertise in the field of conservation?
Jonny enjoying the Scottish mountains
I am a field ecologist by training and I’m pleased to say I still do the occasional vegetation or invertebrate survey. However, nowadays my expertise lies more in ecosystem-based conservation, and how to apply this in ways which are good for the environment, the economy and people’s quality of life. I have also worked as an advisor on native and ancient woodlands to the Forestry Commission England and woodland ecology remains a strong interest. Other interests include peatland restoration ecology, through my work as Vice Chair of the IUCN Peatland Programme, and urban ecology, for which I have a longstanding passion.
What are the key issues you are engaged with at the moment?
I oversee a highly motivated department which is involved in several pioneering conservation projects. The Scottish Beaver Trial for example is the first attempt to re-establish an extinct mammal back to the UK and continues to progress well. I am also responsible for the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s 120 nature reserves which range from small but vitally important urban reserves to large estates in the Scottish Highlands. My priorities for the coming years include campaigning for the adoption by Government of a ‘National Ecological Network’ in Scotland and encouraging landowners and local communities to collaborate across landscapes to restore nature on bigger scales than has ever been seen before in the UK. This ‘Living Landscape’ approach is a vision which has been adopted by the 47 UK Wildlife Trusts and holds the key to halting continued biodiversity loss.
What could people in the outdoors do to protect and minimize their impact on the type of habitats you focus on?
I’d recommend three things. First, disturbance during the breeding season has perhaps the biggest impact on wildlife, particularly birds. So during the spring and early summer it is always a good idea to keep dogs on a lead. The second thing I would recommend would be to put something back by volunteering for your local Wildlife Trust. It can be a great way of restoring that well loved path that has become eroded from the thousands of boots passing over it. Finally, when camping in more remote areas, try and leave no trace. Take a bag for litter and the all important trowel for a good sized pit away from watercourses!
How and why did you become involved with EOCA?
EOCA are members of World Conservation Union (IUCN) and I currently sit on the IUCN UK Executive Committee. I am also running for election to the global Council at the World Conservation Congress in September 2012 in Korea.
Favourite outdoor activity:
I love walking the hills but as non-naturalist friends will frustratingly testify, tend to stop every 100 yards and get down on my hands and knees identifying mosses and liverworts. So a combination of observing and recording wildlife and just generally taking in the sense of space and freedom that walking in the hills provides. I’m not an obsessional Munro bagger but confess I have started ticking a little in recent years (I’m about half way there for those who are on the same mission). I also love a good urban walk, taking in architecture, urban form and the wildlife that inhabits (or not) our towns and cities.
Favourite wild place:
The idea of a ‘wild place’ is of course a very individual one. A wild place to a city dwelling Munro bagger may be the backyard of a west coast crofter in Scotland. For me, wild places are those places where nature is in some degree of balance, largely untrammelled by the impacts of man and relatively remote from settlements. I say 'degree', very deliberately as there are few really ‘wild’ places in the UK - even the small islands of the Hebrides have a long history of human use and grazing.
If I had to pick one I’d go for the summit of Ben Mor Coigach, the most spectacular of all Scottish Wildlife Trust reserves and with views of the Summer Isles and the bizarrely shaped mountains of Inverpolly.
Perfect outdoor day:
A long day mountain walking along multiple peaks in the sunshine (winter or summer) followed by a high camp, a good book, good friends and a warm sleeping bag. I did the GR20 along the spine of Corsica five years ago and every day was the perfect day. I can’t recommend it enough.
Note from EOCA
: Many congratulations to Jonny for being elected IUCN Regional Councillor for West Europe at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Korea
in September 2012. We look forward to benefiting from his wealth of knowledge and experience, and to him representing us within this fantastic international organisation of which we are members