What do you remember of the first paper you published?
I was an undergraduate working on my final year dissertation examining the impacts of recreational disturbance on wintering wildfowl. My supervisor could see the significance of the results and encouraged me to publish. Like most students trying to publish their first paper it felt like a ‘baptism of fire’ but I’ll always be thankful to my supervisor, Dr. Stuart Warrington, for helping me to persevere. I remember the feeling when we finally received the email saying the paper had been accepted and still get immense pleasure receiving proofs – the first glimpse of what the published paper will look like and the culmination of years of work.
When was the last time you had a paper rejected?
A few weeks ago by a BES journal! There is a hashtag on Twitter #RejectionIsTheNorm which pretty much says it all, at whatever stage you are at in your career. I’ve also learned that Editors are fallible.
Have you ever had a paper rejected from JAE?
Most likely. My research group regularly submit papers to BES journals with mixed success.
If you could wake up tomorrow with a new skill, what would it be?
Are you a good cook? What’s your signature dish?
As a family we have chosen to eat less meat, grow some of our own fruit and veg and support local farmers for ecological reasons. So we do a lot of home cooking. I’m not the best cook in our house, but I do make a good homemade pizza. I also make a mean cappuccino.
How many British Ecological Society annual meetings have you attended? Which one was the best?
I’ve lost count. But I remember going to my first one and feeling slightly overwhelmed as I didn’t know many people. Conferences can be a challenge for introverts, especially when you are trying to promote your research and network. It is good to see efforts to make conferences more welcoming and inclusive. I really enjoyed the BES and SFÉ Joint Annual Meeting in Lille in 2014, not least because I’m supportive of BES efforts to back other ecological societies around the world.
[Ed note, tif you are attending the BES annual meeting for the first time check out the BES guide for tips and advice on how to get the most out of your first major ecology conference].
Which small thing irritates you the most at work?
Academic egos and politics.
How do you deal with stress?
Birdwatching, mothing, music, gardening, praying and walking in the Northumberland National Park (where my family lives).
What’s your favourite sports team and why?
Hull City. A team I have grown to love with my Son, who is eternally faithful, optimistic and hopeful – good qualities to have when supporting this particular football team.
What was the last TV series you became slightly obsessed with?
Flight of the Conchords
What’s your favourite species and why?
Meadow pipit (Anthus pratensis). Whereas most birders like sexy birds, such as raptors, I’ve always been interested in common (some might say dull) species. I’ve been privileged to have the opportunity to study Meadow pipits for nearly 20 years. I also learned early on that common, abundant species provide good sample sizes to test hypotheses – rare, sexy species usually don’t.
What was the first album you owned?
Human’s Lib by Howard Jones. He was from my home town of High Wycombe and inspired me to learn to play keyboard.
If any fictional character could join your lab, who would it be and why?
R2D2. Any droid that could help with automation and bioinformatics… and make good coffee
Who inspired you most as a student?
Many. I am most grateful to Dr. Avice Hall MBE, Dr. Stuart Warrington, Peter & Miranda Harris, Dr. Colin Jackson, Prof. Tony Fox, Prof. Pat Monaghan, Prof. Graeme Ruxton and Prof. Bob Furness, who not only inspired me but actively helped me to become a professional ecologist.
Are you a morning person or an evening person?
Morning, but only if fuelled by coffee.
If you could recommend one place for people to travel to on holiday, where would it be and why?
Ardnamurchan, Scotland. Beauty, wilderness and the changing light.