Scottish Biodiversity Science Conference 2019

Scottish Biodiversity Science for Nature: novelty, ingenuity and solutions


Chair (morning session):

Dr Rob Brooker - James Hutton Institute


Speakers (morning session):

Welcome: Prof Pete Hollingsworth - RBGE


Introduction: Dr John Kerr - Scottish Government


John is a Scientist and Civil servant with a long standing interest in how we improve the way humans work with and impact on nature. John has recently moved from a science role supporting agriculture to a more policy focused role heading up Agriculture and Crofting policy. John is the current chair of the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy Science Support Group.


Update: Dr Mark Eaton - RSPB


Mark is Principal Conservation Scientist in the Monitoring section of the RSPB Centre for Conservation Science. He is responsible for overseeing much of the RSPB’s involvement in monitoring of wildlife - through surveys, red-listing, indicators and ‘state of’ reporting - in the UK and internationally. See


Update: Dr Debbie Bassett - SNH


Debbie Bassett is Biodiversity Strategy Manager for SNH and was an editor of the 2020 Challenge for Scotland’s Biodiversity. She has a background in woodland and freshwater ecology and has in recent years being involved with policy development and implementation to improve biodiversity in Scotland.


Talk 1: Dr Clive Mitchell - SNH


I have over 20 years of expertise in environmental policy and sustainable development.  In Scottish Natural Heritage, I'm an Outcome Manager, allocating resources to our priorities for people and nature in rural, urban, coastal and marine settings, including protected areas.  I bridge the social and natural sciences, climate change and nature and the geological and biological worlds.  As an associate lecturer with the Open University for over 23 years, my viewpoint is global, using a range of frameworks to evaluate policy and practice on the environment and sustainable development from different viewpoints and to understand how the Earth works as a system.  I worked for the UK Sustainable Development Commission as team leader for climate change, energy, transport and buildings, acting as a critical friend to Government, exercising the newly acquired scrutiny role and working with civil servants to develop policy.


Talk 2: Rachel Tierney - Scottish Biodiversity Information Forum


Rachel Tierney is the Scottish Biodiversity Information Forum (SBIF) Development Officer and is hosted by the Scottish Wildlife Trust.  Rachel has worked as a Data Manager for the RSPB, the Data & Liaison Officer for the NBN Trust and for a period was the NBN Trust Interim CEO.


Talk 3: Professor Mat Williams - University of Edinburgh


Mathew Williams is Professor of Global Change Ecology at the School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh. He is an ecosystem ecologist, studying the effect of climate change on natural and managed landscapes across the globe.


Talk 4: Professor Mark Blaxter - Sanger Institute


Talk 5: Dr Kirsty Blackstock - James Hutton Institute


Talk 6: Professor Dan Haydon - University of Glasgow


Dan Haydon is Professor of Population Ecology and Epidemiology at the University of Glasgow.  Dan undertook his PhD at the University of Texas, and post-docs at the Universities of Oxford, British Columbia, Edinburgh, and Guelph before moving to Glasgow in 2004. He was the founding Director of the Boyd Orr Centre for Population and Ecosystem Health (winner of the Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2014), and has since 2010 has been Director of the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine at the University of Glasgow.  He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and was appointed Director of the Glasgow Centre for International Development in 2017.


Chair (afternoon session):

Dr Jackie Hyland


Dr Jackie Hyland is a medical doctor specialising in public health medicine with a special interest in health equity and environmental health. Jackie advises on health aspects of environmental protection including contamination of air, land and water. She also champions the promotion of biodiversity within health and wider public sectors.

She has published on:

  • environmental health management
  • engagement with stakeholders
  • socioeconomic impact of air pollution and health

Jackie qualified in Medicine at the University of Edinburgh and has worked extensively in the NHS as a clinical practitioner and latterly as an Associate Director of Public Health. She has an MBA from Heriot Watt and a Medical Doctorate from St Andrews University.


Speakers (afternoon session):

Talk 7: Professor Nathalie Seddon - University of Oxford


Nathalie Seddon is Professor of Biodiversity at the University of Oxford with broad interests in understanding the origins and maintenance of biodiversity and its relationship with global change. An ecologist by training, her research now focusses on determining the ecological and socioeconomic effectiveness of nature-based solutions to climate change, and how best to increase the influence of robust biodiversity and ecosystem science on the design and implementation of climate and development policy. In 2017, she founded the Nature-based Solutions Initiative (, a programme of interdisciplinary research, policy advice, and education aimed at bringing the equitable protection of nature to the centre of the sustainable development agenda. She is Senior Associate of the International Institute for Environment and Development and a Senior Fellow of the Oxford Martin School.


Talk 8: Dr Richard Lilley - Project Seagrass


Dr Richard Lilley is a Founding Director of Project Seagrass, he is principally responsible for their operations in Scotland. He is also a Teacher of Biology at a secondary school in Edinburgh. He is passionate about education, particularly marine science communication and outdoor learning. His academic research focuses on the sustainable supply chain management of small-scale capture fisheries. Richard is particularly interested in the role of seagrass meadows in providing local/regional food security.

He has over a decade’s experience of working in marine ecosystems. He has worked in the Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas, the Andaman Sea and in the North Atlantic Ocean. He is a qualified PADI and BSAC scuba-diving instructor and recreational free diver.


Talk 9: Dr Roxane Andersen - University of Highlands and Islands


Dr Roxane Andersen is a Senior Research Fellow based at the Environmental Research Institute, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands, where she leads the “Carbon, Water and Climate” research theme. She coordinates the Flow Country Research Hub, a network of >60 researchers and stakeholders with an interest in the research undertaken in the Flow Country peatlands of Caithness and Sutherland, and she is a member of the Flow Country World Heritage Site Working Group and the Flow Country Rivers Trust. Roxane also chairs Scotland’s National Peatland Research and Monitoring Group, which supports the delivery of Scotland’s National Peatland Plan. Roxane’s own research for the last 15 years has focussed on peatland’s response to disturbance, restoration and climate change. As a “jack of all trade”, she has worked across a range of topics, from mixotrophic microbes to remote-sensing.


Talk 10: Professor Beth Scott - University of Aberdeen


Beth Scott is a Professor in Marine Ecology.  She has a multi-disciplinary background in marine ecology, oceanography and fisheries. Her focus has been the spatial and temporal identification of critical marine habitats where mobile predator and prey species interact. Her approach has been to focus on the functional linkages between fine scale bio-physical oceanographic processes and population dynamics of a range of fish, seabird and mammal species through both empirical data collection and modelling approaches.  Recently she has been appointed Co-Director for the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) SuperGen Hub (2018-22). She was a member of the Ministerial DEFRA Marine Protected Areas Science Advisory Panel and of Scottish Natural Heritage’s (SNH) Scientific Advisory Committee. She is a Forum Coordinator for Marine Renewable Energy Forum, Marine Alliance for Science and Technology, Scotland (MASTS).


Talk 11: Sarah Hutcheon - SNH


Sarah Hutcheon has worked in conservation for over 25  years.  During her time at SNH she has worked as an Area officer in the Highlands and in the Central Belt.  She has managed the Site Condition Monitoring programme, led on freshwater policy, project managed organisational change projects and currently manages the Director Support team for Sally Thomas (Director – People and Nature).


Outlook: Professor Andrew Millar - Scottish Government


Conclusion: Dr Chris Ellis - RBGE


Chris Ellis co-ordinates RBGE’s Scottish Conservation Programme, with personal research interests in the species response to environmental change. This includes the climate change response of Scotland’s globally important lichen diversity, such as our temperate rainforest epiphytes. His research has contributed to major assessments such as the UK National Ecosystem Assessment, the Biodiversity Climate Change Impact Report Card, and the State of Nature Report. Chris works at the interface of science and policy, and among other activities he is the Chair of the SBS Habitats and Species Group, and on the Directorate of ClimateXChange:


The British Ecological Society’s Scottish Policy Group offers a limited number of bursaries (up to £70) for students and early career researchers to cover travel and accommodation. To apply please send a short letter stating why you wish to attend this conference and that you are a BES member (ideally including your membership number) to Maggie Keegan  by 8th November. Places will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

Conference programme and presentations

Scottish Biodiversity Science for Nature: novelty, ingenuity and solutions

18th November 2019, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh



09.30                     Registration and Coffee


Introduction and Updates

Chair: Prof Rob Brooker, James Hutton Institute (JHI)

10.15                      Biodiversity Science for Nature: Welcome from RBGE - Prof Pete Hollingsworth

10.20                     Conference Introduction - Dr John Kerr, Scottish Government

10.30                     State of Nature Summary - Dr Mark Eaton, RSPB

10.40                     Scotland’s Aichi reporting - Dr Debbie Bassett, SNH

10.50                     Questions


Data and Diagnostics

Chair: Prof Rob Brooker, JHI

10.55                    The Climate Emergency - Dr Clive Mitchell, SNH

11.10                     Scottish Biodiversity Data - what do we need? - Rachel Tierney, SBIF

11.25                     Comfort break

11.35                     Biodiversity from Space - Prof Mat Williams, University of Edinburgh

11.50                     The Darwin Tree of Life project: Genomes for biodiversity - Prof Mark Blaxter, Wellcome Sanger Institute

12.05                     Putting the ‘social’ into socio-ecological systems - Dr Kirsty Blackstock, JHI

12.20                     Some contemporary directions in landscape epidemiology - Prof Dan Haydon, University of Glasgow

12:35                    5x2min Speed talks:

  • How to identify a beaver: Using genetics during the Scottish beaver reintroduction - Dr Jean-Marc Costanzi, RZSS
  • Free Access to Earth Observation Sensors: NERC Field Spectroscopy Facility - Andrew Gray, NERC Field Spectroscopy Facility in Edinburgh
  • Rethinking DNA barcoding: Are nuclear genome sequence data good in telling plant species apart? - Wu Huang, RBGE
  • Engaging Communities with Decision-making and Nature - Dr Antonia Eastwood, Hutton
  • Niches for Species, a multi species model to guide woodland management - Dr Alice Broome, Forest Research

12.45                   Lunch and poster viewing (including poster competition)


Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services – Science to Solution

Chair: Dr Jackie Hyland, SNH

13.45                     Understanding the value of and limits to nature-based solutions in a warming world - Prof Nathalie Seddon, University of Oxford                     

14.00                     Underwater gardening: bringing biodiversity back to our oceans - Dr Richard Lilley, Project Seagrass

14.15                      A blanket to keep us cool: Restoration stories from the Flow Country - Dr Roxane Andersen, UHI, Thurso             

14.30                     Interesting physics, interesting ecology: Designing marine ecosystems of the future - Prof Beth Scott, University of Aberdeen

14.45                     Evidence and research priorities - Sarah Hutcheon, SNH

14.55                     Comfort break

15.05                     5x2min Speed talks:                       

  • Integrating species conservation and ecosystem restoration: Exmoor ponies - Deborah Davy, University of Glasgow
  • Using species distribution modelling to further the understanding of maerl bed distribution around Scotland - Cornelia Simon Nutbrown, SNH / RBGE
  • Moving species - How can conservation translocations work best for nature? - Dr Martin Gaywood, SNH
  • B-Lines- enhancing habitat for pollinators along the John Muir Way - Suzanne Burgess, Buglife
  • The appliance of science post-2020 - Dr Susan Campbell, SG


Outlook and Conclusion

Chair: Dr Jackie Hyland, SNH

15.15                     Where next? - Prof Andrew Millar, Scottish Government

15.25                    Announcement of poster prize winner, and presentation of an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society

                            Concluding remarks - Dr Chris Ellis, RBGE

15.45                    Departure for those catching trains etc.

15.45-17.00          Drinks reception