Heartfelt thanks to outgoing Patron, Sir John Lawton

Chair of the NBN Trust, Neil Hodges, pays this tribute to Professor Sir John Lawton CBE FRS – Patron of the NBN Trust since November 2018.

It is with sadness that – as he announced at our annual conference in November – Professor Sir John Lawton CBE FRS has stepped down as our patron after five years.

I would like to thank John for his tremendous contribution. Whether by adding reputational weight and wisdom to a cause or being an important presence at our annual conferences, John has always been a huge asset on behalf of the trust and therefore the National Biodiversity Network.

Although many will be familiar with John’s work in the sector, it is worth reminding ourselves of why John has been able to bring so much to the role of Patron. He was appointed by my predecessor, Professor Michael Hassell, who has kindly attempted to summarise John’s many achievements:

“John is one of the world’s foremost ecologists having published literally hundreds of important ecological research papers on population dynamics and the ecological science underpinning key questions in biodiversity.  This led to his election to the Royal Society in 1989 and to the US National Academy of Science.  It has also led to a cupboard full of prizes including: President’s Gold Medal of the British Ecological Society, The very prestigious Japan Prize and the RSPB Medal and many others.

“Apart from his huge academic achievements, John became Chief Executive of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and was then appointed Chairman of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution in 2005.  Since then, his emphasis has been mainly on the impacts of global environmental change on wild animals and plants and, as Chair of the RSPB, he was instrumental in establishing their strategy for protecting landscapes.  In 2010, he chaired a review group that has really shaken things up with the so-called ‘Lawton Report’ – otherwise known as ‘Making Space for Nature – A Review of England’s Wildlife Sites and Ecological Networks’.  This has had a huge impact on how the UK’s wildlife needs to be conserved and managed.  More recently, he is overseeing the UK’s approach to rewilding and continues to be a highly influential Chairman of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.”

And Michael concludes, significantly, “In short, no one in this country has had such a profound influence on shaping the way forward in managing our biodiversity.”

I feel honoured to have benefited from John’s expertise and to witness his unbridled passion for the natural world. On both a personal basis, and on behalf of the Trust, I would like to thank John for his support over the last five years and wish him all the best for the future.

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