Professor Sotherton had been with the conservation charity, based in Fordingbridge in Hampshire for 44 years, since joining to study for his PhD in 1976. He has been director of Research since 1998 and in 2015 he took on the additional role of director of Advisory and Education.
GWCT chief executive Teresa Dent CBE said, “We will miss Nick enormously and the GWCT owes him a great deal. Nick has been a driving force at the Trust and in the field of agricultural science, especially on farmland, throughout his career. Many of his innovations have been agri-environment prescriptions from the start of those schemes, such as beetle banks, and are now seen across the country. This is the end of an era for us.”
Reflecting on his time with the GWCT, Professor Sotherton said, “Almost from day one, I was told that the organisation was about “turning words into birds” and 40 years on, this motto is still the driving force behind what we are and what we do. Our research needs to have an impact on the ground. On the back of quality research, we provide an evidence base for those making management decisions over large tracts of land, be they farmers or policy makers. I have been proud to lead a team of talented scientists and advisors, committed to wildlife conservation in our countryside.”
Of Nick’s many notable achievements, the creation of the Game Conservancy’s Cereals and Gamebirds Project is widely acknowledged to have transformed cereal production and wildlife conservation. He helped invent ‘beetle banks’ (raised strips of perennial grasses, situated strategically across arable fields, where predatory insects and spiders can overwinter before helping to control crop pests in spring) and ‘conservation headlands’ (the selective spraying of crops), which can still be seen on farmland across the UK.
In response to Professor Sotherton’s retirement, Liam Stokes, chief executive of the British Game Alliance, said, “I am very sad to see Nick go. He gave a number of inspiring talks to our gamekeeping and our conservation students at Lackham and I remember his provocative address to our conservation students in particular, challenging them to think about their approach to game and wildlife management as conservationists. He leaves behind a tremendous legacy of research.”
Following Professor Sotherton’s retirement, the role of director of Research, Advisory and Education is being split. Dr Andrew Hoodless will become interim director of Research. Andrew has been GWCT’s head of wetland research since 2010. He joined the Game Conservancy Trust in the early 1990s, when the Trust sponsored his PhD on woodcock.
Dr Roger Draycott will take on the role of interim director of Advisory and Education. From a farming background and with a PhD in pheasant ecology, Roger has worked at the GWCT since 1993.
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