Ian Boyd was appointed Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in May 2012. He is Professor in Biology at the University of St Andrews and Director of the Scottish Oceans Institute and the NERC Sea Mammal Research Unit.
Ian has been chairman of the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland and was Chief Executive of SMRU Consulting. His research field is in marine ecology with a specialisation in marine mammals and he has gained awards for his research in polar science, zoology and marine science. He led a UK research programme in Antarctica for 14 years, has led several international research projects as chief scientist, and he is an adviser to the Government about issues concerning marine management.
Ian has received the Scientific Medal of the Zoological Society of London, and the Bruce Medal (awarded once every 4 years) for his research in polar science. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Society of Biology.
Director, Sea Mammal Research Unit
Ailsa’s academic career started when she joined the Institute of Occupational Health at the University of Birmingham in 1985. Her first research project was a study for the Department of Health, investigating the microbiological health risks for Pathologists and Post Mortem Technicians (Hall et al, 1991a; Babb et al, 1989). This research helped the Department produce a new Code of Practise for the Prevention of Infection in the Post Mortem Room. In combination with a mortality study for the Royal College of Pathologists it formed the basis of her PhD (Hall et al, 1991b).
She joined the Sea Mammal Research Unit in 1989 after the outbreak of phocine distemper (PDV) among harbour seals in the North Sea the previous year. Her initial studies involved investigating the interaction between polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contaminants on the mortality rates from PDV in UK harbour seals (Hall et al, 1992). This was followed by a study of the effect of PCBs, transferred through lactational exposure, on the developing immune system of grey seals pups (Hall et al, 1997).
Since then she has undertaken a number of studies aimed at determining the effect that contaminant and pathogen exposure has on the risk of mortality and morbidity in marine mammals, both seals and cetaceans. She is particularly interested in the role of these factors in determining an animals early survival and reproductive capability and in how they interact with the species’ immune and endocrine systems. This has led to more fundamental questions about how the immune system may be shaped by the life history strategies of marine mammals.
She is also now very interested in the physiological adaptations to a marine existence, particularly at the molecular level; such as the respiratory strategies that allow animals to forage at depth and their adaptations to cope with long periods of fasting. It is these remarkable aspects of their physiology that makes these unique and fascinating mammals to study.