Candidate Profile

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Wildlife & Nature
David was born in Sheffield and raised on Tyneside and started birding along the north-east coast of England at the age of twelve. Talks at the local Natural History Society convinced him to study Zoology and degrees from Durham and Manchester followed. After four years at Edinburgh (teaching medical students to dissect dogfish!), he moved to Nottingham to help found the Department of Genetics. He remained there for the rest of his academic career, gradually rising through the ranks to Professor of Avian Genetics.

Specialising in evolutionary genetics, his research group was at the forefront of applying biochemical and molecular technology to the study of bird populations. Target species included House Sparrows, Azure-winged Magpies, Snow Geese, Red Kites and Merlins, and they successfully transferred the technology to the forensic investigation of birds of prey and the identification of rare birds from blood samples.He and his Ph D students published about 200 scientific papers in national and international journals. During his career, he gave lectures to a wide range of audiences from undergraduates to international scientific conferences.

Since retiring, he has developed a suite of lectures appropriate for bird clubs and wildlife trusts, and has modified these for cruise passengers. Some of these are illustrative shows of birds from individual regions, but most have a more serious side, drawing attention to the science behind bird biology. A particularly popular group come under the heading ‘Giving birds a helping hand’ which show, for a variety of species, how science and conservation have come together to help rescue birds that were (or are) at the brink of extinction.

He and his wife have undertaken 20 cruises for SAGA, specialising in ‘adventure cruising’ to wild-life rich regions such as the Amazon, the Caribbean, Greenland, Norway & Spitzbergen, the Arabian Gulf & Indian Ocean, West Africa, Cape Verde & the Atlantic Islands, and the far east, from Hong Kong through the Philippines and Borneo, to Indonesia and the Barrier Reef. They have also travelled independently, visiting India, China, South Africa, Gambia, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Israel. His wife is a successful breeder, exhibitor and judge of English Setters, and is always happy to 'talk dogs' with passengers.

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1. Marking birds for science and conservation: From metal rings to satellite transmitters, the methods of marking birds for individual recognition have advanced dramatically over the past 20 years. This talk describes the technology and shows how it has revolutionised our understanding of bird biology.

2. Bird Migration: A review of the where, why, when and how birds migrate. The talk shows how captive-breeding has revealed that bird migration can evolve and change in response to changing conditions in the wider countryside.

3. Cuckoos, Swifts and Nightingales: Some of our most familiar birds are in decline, but is this due to problems on the breeding or wintering grounds – or on migration itself? This talk explores current methods of separating these, and perhaps indicating ways of reversing the trends.

4. Britain’s Seabirds – threats and challenges: The north-east Atlantic Ocean is home to millions of seabirds; Britain & Ireland play host to some truly magnificent colonies. The lecture describes methods of monitoring these and show how changes in the numbers can sometimes be related to problems in the oceans themselves.

5. Birds and climate change: Almost every professional scientist recognises that our climate is changing – and that this is likely due to human activity. This talk shows how climate acts upon bird populations, and how they are adapting to the challenges that it poses.

6. The changing fortunes of some of Britain’s most familiar birds: Over the last 25 years, we have lost huge numbers of common birds. From Skylarks to House Sparrows, and from Lapwings to Nightingales, numbers have plummeted. Others, however, such as Goldfinches, Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Little Egrets have fared much better. This talk examines the how and why of these changes.

7. Giving birds a helping hand: A series of talks on individual conservation successes (and failures)

• Chatham Island Black Robin – saving the world’s rarest bird (New Zealand).
• Back from the brink – saving the Bermuda Petrel from near-extinction.
• The struggle to save the Spoon-billed Sandpiper from extinction in eastern Asia.
• The re-introduction of the Red Kite to Britain and Ireland.
• White-tailed Sea-eagles in Britain and Ireland.
• Diclofenac and the demise of vultures across the Indian sub-continent.
• Helping to save the Northern Bald Ibis in Syria and Morocco.
• Rats on islands: Puffins and Roseate Terns.

Birds of the Ocean: Regional-specific talks on the birds likely to be seen from the decks of the ship. These have included seabirds from the Caribbean, Arabian Gulf, Indian Ocean, North Atlantic, West Africa & the Benguela Current, Cape Verde, Madeira & the Canaries, Indonesia, Borneo, Philippines.

I also routinely prepare talks on common and conspicuous birds of the region being visited. Past talks include the Barrier Reef, Indonesia, Philippines, the Gulf States, coastal W India, Greenland, Spitzbergen, coastal West Africa, Cape Verde, the Canaries, the Caribbean and the Amazon.

There is also a series of talks on iconic places and animals: Fair Isle Bird Observatory in Shetland; the Asa Wright Nature Centre in Trinidad; Spitzbergen; The Farne Islands off Northumberland; the extinction of the Dodo on Mauritius; Orang Utans and Palm Oil in Borneo; and a Christmas ‘special’ – The life and times of Robin Redbreast.
Cruises completed with Saga:

2006 Greenland, Iceland & Faeroes
2007 Norway & Spitzbergen
2008 Greenland, Iceland & Faeroes
2008 Madeira, Canaries, Morocco & Portugal
2009 Barbados to Amazon, including Devil’s Island & Guyana
2009 Mull, Orkney, Shetland, Skye & Stavanger
2010 Borneo, Philippine & Hong Kong
2010 Kuwait, Bahrein &UAE
2011 UAE, India, Maldives, Seychelles & Mauritius
2011 Scotland, Orkney, Shetland & Faeroes
2012 Brisbane to Borneo
2012 Borneo, Philippine to Hong Kong
2012 Costa Rica, Panama to Barbados
2013 Norway to Spitzbergen
2014 Barbados to Lesser Antilles
2014 Madeira, Canaries & Agadir
2015 Gambia to Cape Town
2015 Norway to Murmansk
2016 Azores, Ls Antilles & Trinidad
2016 Madeira, Canaries & Cape Verde
2017 Madeira, Canaries & Cape Verde
The following recent Cruise History has been recorded for this candidate.
Saga Sapphire SA293 Caribbean Calypso 32 Southampton Monday, January 25, 2016
Saga Pearl 11 P2133 Land of the Midnight Sun 17 Dover Saturday, June 6, 2015