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.
We are expecting reports tomorrow from the grouse industry funded group called 'You Forgot the Birds' criticising our science on burning. Here's our response...
"In certain circumstances burning can be a legitimate management tool, but scientific evidence from the RSPB (see here) and a range of other sources shows that it must be used appropriately. Inappropriate burning on blanket peatland and protected areas can have a marked impact on the environment, and in some circumstances can be incompatible with the conservation legislation designed to protect and restore these special places.
Our science is respected, peer reviewed, widely accepted by statutory bodies and we fully stand by it."
Well done RSPB. Time and time again your scientific reports and proposals are proven to be right and distorted reports produced by vested/ commercial interests proven to be wrong.
There's a marvellous modern myth that if you are criticised then you must have got something wrong. The reality here is that solid science is in conflict with powerful vested interests who have a track record of muddying the waters with ill founded attacks. That RSPB is being criticised is to its credit - keep up the good work.
Probably going beyond even where RSPB has got to, I would suggest it is time to transform our approach to upland management to make the issues that really matter to future human well being in the UK at the top of the agenda: carbon sequestration and water management, with even wildlife, as well as farming, forestry and shooting having to work within the overriding priorities.
Martin - scientists have criticised RSPB press releases; not RSPB science.