English-born Michael Clout says that Scotland changed his life that has seen him take on some vital research into the species of New Zealand.
|Year of Graduation
Your time at the University
I discovered the subject of ecology in the late 1960s. Edinburgh was my first choice of university because it offered a BSc in Ecological Science. I’d never been north of the border before going to university, but Edinburgh lived up to all of my expectations and I still love the place. The Ecological Science programme, in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources at King's Buildings, covered many fields and was taught by an inspiring and eclectic team of staff.
For my honours year I specialised in Wildlife and Fisheries Management, taught by Jim Lockie and Derek Mills. Memories include field trips, surveying quadrats, electrofishing, watching wildlife and swatting midges. I met my wife, Joan, (also an ecologist) at Edinburgh and our daughter was born there. So, although originally English, I have a Scottish wife, a Scottish daughter and a Scottish degree. Edinburgh changed my life in many ways.
Although originally English, I have a Scottish wife, a Scottish daughter and a Scottish degree. Edinburgh changed my life in many ways.
Tell us about your experiences since leaving the University
After graduating from Edinburgh, I was awarded a British Commonwealth Scholarship to study for my PhD on the ecology of brushtail possums at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. After graduating, I went on to become a research scientist in New Zealand, studying the ecology of native birds and introduced mammals. I initially worked for the Ecology Division of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, and then for the New Zealand Department of Conservation, before returning to Auckland in 1993 as an academic.
I am now Professor of Conservation Ecology in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Auckland, specialising in vertebrate ecology and invasion biology. In addition to my own research, I have been involved in international and national initiatives in conservation and biosecurity. For example, I led the IUCN Species Survival Commission invasive species specialist group for 15 years (1993-2008), have chaired the Kakapo Recovery Group since 1995 and am a member of the New Zealand Conservation Authority. I’m a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand and was awarded the Sir Peter Scott Medal for Conservation Merit by the IUCN Species Survival Commission. I also have several New Zealand awards (including the Charles Fleming Award for Environmental Achievement, the New Zealand Ecological Society Award for Ecological Excellence, and the Marsden Medal).
I’m lucky to have worked in areas that I’m passionate about and to have collaborated with so many excellent colleagues and postgraduates. New Zealand is now my home, but I have very fond memories of Scotland and am grateful for the strong foundation and lifelong friends that I gained at the University of Edinburgh.
Follow your own real interests and don’t be afraid to take some risks.