[Updated below 1st November - two Argyll projects also highly commended] Pioneers in Scottish nature conservation were honoured last night, 30th October, at the second annual RSPB Nature of Scotland Awards.
Held at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Edinburgh and hosted by comedian and talk show host, Fred MacAulay and broadcaster Sally Magnusson, the awards recognise and celebrate excellence, innovation and outstanding achievement in nature conservation.
The event brought together a range of industry professionals, public sector organisations, community groups, politicians, charities and conservationists, all of whom have an interest in safeguarding and conserving Scotland’s greatest asset – its natural heritage.
After tough deliberations sifting through over seventy high quality entries, the judges had managed to narrow it down to nine winners, each taking home the top prize in their category.
The RSPB Species Champion Award went to Clive Craik and the South Shian Tern Rafts, a project to protect Common Terns in the West of Scotland. Clive devised a system using discarded mussel rafts to give breeding terns a safe place to raise young, out of reach of their two main predators – mink and otter.
There was success local to Edinburgh for The Ecology Centre, a Fife-based project which transformed a landfill site into an environmental education and volunteering centre at Kinghorn Loch. The Centre took home top prize in the Community Initiative category.
A unique project to protect the iconic Scottish wildcat that won the Innovation Award. The Cairngorms Wildcat project impressed the judges with their work to bring land managers and conservationists together to gather vital information to better understand the species and raise awareness of their plight.
Edinburgh-based print distribution company, EAE, won the Sustainable Development category for their specially developed biodiversity garden that creates valuable greenspace in an industrial setting.
Dedicated conservationist Nick Riddiford of the Fair Isle Marine Environment and Tourism Initiative was honoured with the Marine Conservation Award for his years of work campaigning for integrated marine resource management of the seas around Fair Isle, as well as for his efforts to preserve traditional values and practices.
Students and staff at Larbert High School in Falkirk were given the Youth and Education Award for their unique project to transform a neglected site at Carron Dams and the Lade into a wildlife haven.
Alan Watson Featherstone, founder of conservation charity Trees for Life, was selected as the winner of the Outstanding Contribution Award for his work to protect and restore Scotland’s native Caledonian woodland.
Caithness and Sutherland MSP Rob Gibson, was given the Politician of the Year Award for his contribution towards a sustainable, natural Scotland.
The final accolade of the evening, the Lifetime Achievement Award, was given to Professor Aubrey Manning OBE – an acclaimed zoologist who has dedicated his life’s work to the understanding and promotion of wildlife and conservation.
Stuart Housden, Director of RSPB Scotland, said: ‘With the Year of Natural Scotland coming to a close, the Nature of Scotland Awards are an opportunity to celebrate the very best in Scottish conservation and honour the leading lights in the field.
‘Congratulations to the very worthy winners. We hope the standard set today will encourage many others across the whole Country to take action for wildlife, so that Scotland can continue to offer a fantastic home for nature.’
[Update 1st November] Two Argyll projects were Highly Commended
Snapberry: Snapberry is a collaboration between Scottish Natural Heritage and Lochgilphead High School. Snapberry uses photography to connect local school students with the astonishing natural landscape of Argyll and then by means of a spectacular outdoor town centre projection, links with a much wider audience. It is a collaboration between Scottish Natural Heritage and Lochgilphead High School with digital imagery allowing the participants to express what they see and feel about their local environment. Ease of use and the high quality images provided by digital cameras allows young people to record and communicate their experience of the natural heritage. The project is a novel and successful way of engaging with this age group (14-17yrs) and is successful in doing this across a wide ability range. The public output from this project has become the main attraction at Lochgilphead’s annual November 5th lantern procession and firework display. The outdoor presentation of the images as a “sons et lumiere” is a stunning attraction and brings the community together from a wide geographic area. The project has successfully engaged public support ranging from Michael Russell MSP who joined the project for a day in 2012 to the links with the local artistic community via ArtMap Argyll. The work of the students has found its way back into the NNR where it originated and has been displayed in Argyll’s only outdoor exhibition area, The Piggery, Taynish National Nature Reserve. The project started from an SNH/Lochgilphead High School collaboration and has successfully bridged elements of the school curriculum and become a trail blazing part of Curriculum for Excellence.
Scottish Beaver Trial: The Scottish Beaver Trial sees the first ever formal reintroduction of a mammal species anywhere in the UK. In itself, this is a major innovation and a remarkable step forward for conservation, driven by a committed and expert partnership. The project has been meticulously planned, carefully developed and comprehensively monitored and has rigorously followed IUCN principles. It is clearly a leading example of the way such programmes should be designed and delivered. However, it is not just the environmental aspects that make this project so special and remarkable, but it is the whole integrated approach to the reintroduction, including education, tourism and the wider social and economic benefits as well. The partnership brings together multiple disciplines and multiple perspectives in an original and highly successful way. The project has been taken forward in the open, with a focus on inclusive engagement with local communities, experts, supporters, doubters, and the media. The beaver is what is known as a “keystone” species, and has been recognised as a major ecosystem or environmental engineer – one that by its very presence and behaviour can transform riverine habitats into much more diverse and natural ecosystems. This has consequent benefits to a wide range of other species, and also the potential to impact on the delivery of other ecosystem services, such as natural flood management, water quality improvement, recreation, education and tourism. Taken together, this is about a sea change in the way we approach conservation at a natural ecosystem scale, and the way we involve people and communities in enjoying nature and the services it delivers. Bringing the beaver back home to Scotland has been an outstanding achievement.