Meet the Team

Project Board

Project Board

The South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project is overseen by a Project Board made up of representatives of the partner organisations, drawing on knowledge and experience from within their organisations across Scotland to make this a strong and successful project.

Michael Clarke, Chairman

Michael joined the project in early 2020 as our independent chairman. Now a full-time farmer in Dumfries and Galloway, Michael was the Chief Executive Officer for the Buccleuch Group for almost 20 years and before that, Head of the Ministry of Defence's Estates Service. Throughout his career he has shown great commitment to supporting wildlife conservation and biodiversity. He is a Fellow of the Royal Agricultural Society and is a former winner of the RSPB Scotland's Nature of Farming Award. As well as heading up the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project board, Michael is the current Scotland Chair of the Nature Friendly Farming Network.

Sarah-Jane Laing, Scottish Land & Estates

Sarah-Jane is Director of Policy and Parliamentary Affairs for Scottish Land & Estates, the organisation that represents the interests of Scotland’s landowners and rural land based businesses. This constituency, which manages and looks after much of Scotland’s habitats and wildlife, is very important to this project as close collaboration and cooperation will be crucial factors to achieving success. Sarah-Jane brings this support to the project and the ability and contacts to assist with appropriate communications and stakeholder engagement, both important areas of the project.

Duncan Orr-Ewing, RSPB Scotland

Duncan is Head of Species and Land Management for RSPB Scotland, based in Edinburgh. He is a qualified Chartered Surveyor, and is part of the RSPB’s Scottish Management Team with a particular responsibility for the management of the society’s Scottish nature reserve network; advice to land managers; species recovery and policy work; and its work with the public authorities across the UK to tackle wildlife crime.

Duncan has had a long interest in birds and wildlife since his early teenage years. Subsequently this passion has resulted in travel widely in the UK and abroad to look at birds. His first job with RSPB Scotland was based in the Highlands overseeing the now hugely successful red kite reintroduction programme from the early 1990s. Subsequently he supported other reintroductions of this species to other parts of Scotland, and is now helping more widely with red kite conservation efforts across Europe. Following that he became the RSPB’s representative covering Strathclyde and Central Scotland before taking up his current role in Edinburgh in 1999. In his spare time, Duncan is the Chair of the Central Scotland Raptor Study Group and monitors red kites and other raptor species in his home area of Stirling and west Perthshire. He is accredited as a bird ringer and is qualified to fit GPS satellite tags to various species of raptor including golden eagles and red kites.

Through his work for RSPB Scotland, Duncan has been involved in initiating the East of Scotland Sea Eagle reintroduction programme, as well as working with other partners to develop the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project. He was his organisation’s representative on the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project and has been a member of Scotland’s Moorland Forum since the outset. In recent years, Duncan has been involved in providing advice and technical support to the Saving Asian Vultures from Extinction project working alongside local BirdLife partners in India, and Nepal.

Professor Des Thompson, NatureScot

Des is Principal Adviser on Science and Biodiversity with NatureScot, where he oversees science, policy and advisory work, and is heavily involved in the Scottish Government’s work on biodiversity. He chairs the UN Convention on Migratory Species Technical Advisory Group supporting work on African and Eurasian raptors. Until 2020 he chaired the Field Studies Council (of which he is now Vice-President), which promotes fieldwork and outdoor learning. With Tim Burt he recently edited the book ‘Curious about Nature: a passion for fieldwork’.

Following PhD studies at the University of Nottingham, and a Research Fellowship at the University of Liverpool, Des joined the Nature Conservancy Council as Mountain and Moorland Ecologist working under Chief Scientist and world raptor expert Derek Ratcliffe (about whom he co-edited the book ‘Nature’s Conscience: the life and legacy of Derek Ratcliffe’). With colleagues, Des has produced a number of books including ‘Birds of Prey in a Changing Environment’ and ‘Scotland’s Birds of Prey’. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management.

Eagle watching is a passion, with north west Sutherland and the Isles favourite haunts. Des is proud of what the team has achieved, and grateful for the wealth of support on hand.

Colin Edwards, Scottish Forestry

Colin is Environment Policy Adviser for Scottish Forestry; the Scottish Government agency responsible for forestry policy, support and regulation. He leads on developing and interpreting guidance and policy for the forest industry in relation to habitats, species and wider ecosystems in Scotland and has held this post since 2015. This work includes ensuring guidance is in place to protect priority species, including Golden Eagles, from forest operations.

Originally from the village of Callander, he spent his former years in the hills and woodlands in and around the area, developing an interest in birdwatching and wider natural history of Scotland. He is currently a volunteer for Butterfly Conservation Scotland, where he organises and leads moth and butterfly events in Fife, and is involved in invertebrate monitoring, especially pollinators.

He brings over 39 years' experience working in forestry to the project board, including 21 years in research on specialist topics ranging from nursery propagation and control of invasive non-native species, to native forest natural dynamics and alternative silvicultural systems. He has worked in different roles in recent years including working with the full breadth of the environment and forest sectors.

Recent work involves collaborating with policy colleagues across Scottish Government and others across the forestry sector to identify and address policy needs, provide advice to promote good practice, and respond to requests for information regarding forest management for habitats, species and ecosystems.

Colin co-chairs the Raptors and Forestry Working Group alongside Des Thompson, and represents Scottish Forestry on a number of National groups.

Pip Tabor, Southern Uplands Partnership

Pip graduated in Biology at the University of York, went on to do a PGCE teaching qualification and then taught science in a Humberside comprehensive school for 4 years. He left to work as a volunteer teacher in a high school in Bhutan for the next three years. He then joined Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) as Field Officer and helped run a programme of 35 volunteers working in education, health, agriculture, construction and information technology. In 1993 he undertook an MSc in Natural Resource Management at Edinburgh University and then joined NatureScot in the Borders where he was Area Officer for 5 years.

In 1999 he was appointed Project Manager of the Southern Uplands Partnership (our host partner) which has grown to be a major player in rural development in Southern Scotland. The SUP has undertaken a wide range of sustainable land-use projects including nature-based tourism, access, local food, renewable energy, natural and cultural heritage, carbon management, rural housing and community capacity-raising. Sustainable land-use and increasing awareness of what this means is at the heart of the work of the Partnership which is a registered charity and limited company.

Karen Rentoul, NatureScot

Joint Board member alongside Des Thompson for NatureScot.

Karen is an Uplands & Peatlands Officer for NatureScot. She advises on upland issues across Scotland with a focus on site condition monitoring, advising on consultations, upland SRDP options, muirburn and upland policy.

Karen graduated from Queens University Belfast with a BSc (Hons) in Environmental Biology, then from the University of Edinburgh with an MSc in Environmental Protection and Management and is a member of CIEEM. She has worked with NatureScot for over 11 years, the majority of which based in the Borders as an Operations Officer. This role primarily involved advising land managers about management of designated sites (SSSI, SAC and SPA). Alongside her Operations Officer role she sat on the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Group and provided secretariat for the SNH review of Sustainable Moorland Management and the Scottish Government review of Grouse Moor Management (the Werritty Report).

Karen Ramoo, Scottish Land & Estates

Karen is a joint board member alongside Sarah-Jane Laing for Scottish Land & Estates.

Karen joined Scottish Land & Estates, the organisation that represents the interests of Scotland’s landowners and rural land based businesses in 2016 where she is Policy Adviser for Forestry, Conservation & Wildlife Management. Her role primarily involves identifying and developing key policy issues for the rural sector, with a focus on forestry, wildlife and conservation, producing policy briefings and technical guidance and providing advice to the membership.

Karen graduated from Liverpool John Moores University with a BSc (Hons) in Applied Zoology, then from Newcastle University with an MSc in Wildlife Management and Conservation. She has a good background in field-based conservation and her passion for wildlife has seen her work on conservation projects in the UK and abroad. She enjoys spending her free time walking in the hills, photographing wildlife and birdwatching, she is also an accredited bird ringer.