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.

Juli Titherington, Scottish Forestry

Juli Titherington is the Environment Policy Advisor for Scottish Forestry, leading on Biodiversity – species and habitats.

Scottish Forestry (SF) develops and delivers policies to address the Scottish Government’s priorities and directly advises Scottish Ministers on matters relating to forestry. We manage forestry regulations and grants, support the development of the forestry industry and woodland expansion, as well as seek to enhance for the benefit of all the social, economic and environmental benefits of forestry. Juli focuses on the development of advice on forest policy and practice for biodiversity, particularly issues in relation to forest habitats, species, and wider ecosystems. She works with colleagues in SF and SG to help promote sustainable forest management and provide information regarding native & semi-natural woodlands, invasive non-native species, protected & priority species. Juli also works collaboratively with a range of stakeholders to support landscape scale habitat connectivity and management to protect and expand the range of key protected and priority woodland species.

Juli completed her undergraduate degree, in Environmental Studies at Bucknell University, in the US, and her MSc in Environmental Management at University of Stirling. Prior to her current post at SF, Juli was at FLS, as a Regional Environment Advisor, spent a few years at SNH (now NatureScot) as a species licensing officer, and held several roles in various environmental consultancies. She is a full member of CIEEM, currently holding the post of Scotland Committee Vice-convenor.

Cara Gillespie, Southern Uplands Partnership

Cara Gillespie is Chief Executive of the Southern Uplands Partnership, which support communities across South Scotland to make environmentally sustainable use of their natural and cultural resources. After graduating from Edinburgh University, Cara has held a number of roles, including in the Scottish Parliament, as Chief of Staff for the Scottish Green Party 2003-2007 and then based in Dumfries and Galloway since 2009, where she now lives in Gatehouse of Fleet. She has worked in social enterprise and also run her own consultancy, specialising in third sector governance, strategy, business planning and stakeholder engagement. Cara was Foundation Scotland’s Community Engagement Manager for South Scotland for six years, developing and delivering a portfolio of community benefit funds in Dumfries and Galloway, Scottish Borders and South Ayrshire. Cara also currently chairs the Scottish Land Fund Committee.

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).