My passion for wildlife was stimulated in my teenage years, mainly thanks to my Mum (a biology teacher) who made me look at the world differently and being inspired by writers such as Paul Colinvaux. This early interest developed into biological research in my 20s, when I did practical conservation work in places such as the Comores and Mongolia.
Today, any free time I have I spend pottering around the flatlands of East Anglia or escaping to our hut on the Northumberland coast looking for wildlife and castles with my wife and children.
I studied Biological Sciences at Oxford and Conservation at UCL, and worked at Wildlife and Countryside Link before spending five years as Conservation Director at Plantlife.
I joined the RSPB as Head of Government Affairs in 2004, became Head of Sustainable Development in 2006, before becoming Conservation Director in 2011.
Barring an environmental catastrophe (which really would be a bad way to end the year), this will be my last post of 2011.
It has been quite a year. I have a fabulous new job which allows me to support the breadth of the RSPB's conservation work. And I get to visit fabulous RSPB reserves like Abernethy, Bempton Cliffs and Dove Stone. That can't be bad.
2011 was the year that the coalition government began to outline its ambitions for the natural world through the Natural Environment White Paper and English Biodiversity Strategy. Both of these documents were informed by the groundbreaking National Ecosystem Assessment which provided compelling arguments for better investment in nature.
Alas the year has also thrown up a whole load of new challenges: continued decline in farmland and woodland birds, threats to EU funding for wildlife-friendly farming, the economic growth imperative in danger of eclipsing environmental protection (through new planning proposals and reviews of environmental regulation), and, sadly, the inadequacy of the global response to tackling climate change.
Throughout this period, I have tried to give you an insight into the work of the RSPB and our views on the topics of the day. Below, in traditional end of year fashion, is my top 10 posts of the year (in chronological order).
I hope you enjoy my mini review of the year. I look forward to picking up the story (and the fight) in the new year. Until then, have a peaceful and relaxing Christmas.
Martin's Top Ten Blogs of 2011
1. Breathless over nature: a eulogy to the UK National Ecosystem Assessment.
2. Don't cut the life from the countryside - the sequel">Don't cut the life from the countryside - the sequel: highlighting the threats to EU funding for wildlife-friendly farming
3. The selfish gene at work within Whitehall: describing how some government departments might undermine Defra's Natural Environment White Paper ambitions
4. New planning policy is a backwards step for nature: our initial response the now infamous consultation on the draft National Planning Policy Framework
5. Conkers and bottle tops: reminiscing about the decline of full fat milk
6. 7 Billion reasons to rethink our economy: acknowledging the impact of global population on nature and outlining our proposed response
7. In search of happiness: reflecting on the Government's plan to establish a well-being index
8. How green is the government? 29 critical friends have their say: the NGO report on Government's ambitions to be the greenest ever
9. The Habitats Regulations ; the case for the defence: dealing with the consequences of the Chancellor's autumn economic statement
10. A sad day for badgers and farmers: responding to the Government's decision to proceed with a badger cull
Did I miss any of your favourites? What would you like to hear more about in 2012?
It would be great to hear your views.
I enjoyed an icy evening carol singing with the neighbours yesterday. It is rare that I have a chance to exercise my baritone voice in public (or in private nowadays thanks to my daughter's sensitive ears) and so I made the most of the opportunity. While we worked our way through some of the classic carols, the kids ran door to door collecting money for charity (alas not the RSPB). Apart from one house with a rather aggressive looking dog, we were given a warm reception and the rattled tins were filled.
There are about 170,000 charities in the UK, benefiting from the generosity of millions of people and playing an incredibly important role in modern society.
The RSPB is one such charity. And our million + members are our lifeblood. It's not just about the money - although in these tough times, their loyalty is much appreciated. We also have 615,000 volunteers who offer an incredible gift of time - undertaking over 1.5 million hours of work a year . They help us assess the status of wild bird populations, support nature reserve management, run wildlife explorers groups and advise farmers on how to manage their land for nature. Many of these activities are undertaken incredibly locally, either in or around people’s garden’s/neighbourhoods or within 10 miles of their home.
They also campaign.
As discussed in an article by Juliette Jowit in the Observer yesterday, supporters of charities will not stand idly by if their interests are threatened. Over the past five years, an astonishing 700,000 of our members have supported at least one of our campaigning actions. I am under no illusions, the environment remains low in voters' motivations. But, as I said to Juliette, our members do have a tendency to vote - 96% the last time we asked.
I would love it if politicians invested in nature because they knew it was the right thing to do, but I'd settle for them doing the right thing because it made sense politically.
So, if you are a member of the RSPB, thank you for whatever you have done to support us this year.
This week I posed the question - which are the 5% of vertebrates that you cannot find on the current RSPB nature reserve network? And, thanks to my colleague, Mark Gurney, here is the answer:
Pool frog, Silver Bream, Common Sturgeon, Bleak, Allis Shad, Stone Loach, Barbel, Vendace, Gwyniad, Houting, Gudgeon, Burbot, Grayling, Lesser White-toothed Shrew, Brandt's Bat, Nathusis' Pipistrelle, and Myotis alcathoe.
"The figures do not include marine species (either for RSPB reserves or for Britain), so there are no cetaceans or turtles in them, but they do include both resident seals because they breed on land. Of the native land and freshwater vertebrates we have:
So now you know!