macad Glasgow Natural History Society: Lectures and Tutorials

Winter Programme

Our talks programme will include both in-person and on-line (Zoom) presentations, but we will not attempt hybrid talks. Zoom links will be emailed to members nearer the time. In-person talks will be in the Boyd Orr Building, University Avenue, unless otherwise indicated. Most talks will be on the second Tuesday evening of the month at 7:00pm, but watch out for a few irregular dates and times. Talk abstracts will be added later.

Where there are two lectures listed for an evening, each will last about 30 minutes.

Jump to Next Meeting


Thursday 21st: Boyd Orr Building (Lecture Theatre C)
7.30pm, Lecture: Prof Alexandre Antonelli, Director of Science, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew: The Hidden Universe: adventures in biodiversity.Jointly with Friends of Glasgow Botanic Gardens.

Unleashing the power of biodiversity science to tackle society’s biggest challenges

Never before has science been more crucial for tackling the huge and interlinked challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change. In this talk I will highlight how the understanding of taxonomy, distribution, threats and uses of species are paramount to providing real-world solutions that benefit nature and people. I will exemplify these points through work carried out at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in strong collaboration with partners worldwide. A critical theme running through these projects, and one that is crucial to their success, is the integration of biodiversity knowledge into wider societal contexts.

Tuesday 26th: on-line by Zoom
7.00pm Lecture: Leif Bersweden, author and botanist: Where the wildflowers grow
Leif last talked to us about his epic travels around the UK as a school-leaver, aiming to see every orchid species in flower. Now, two degrees and two books later, he is BBC Springwatch’s botanist, on a mission to promote our wonderful wildflowers.

Our resident flora is packed full of remarkable creatures. There are plants that poison predators, fight battles and play mind games with pollinators. We have carnivores and climbers, puppeteers and parasites. Some are giants thousands of years old, while others are tiny pinpricks a millimetre across. In 2021, Leif Bersweden went on a big botanical adventure around Britain and Ireland with his bike, travelling from Hampshire’s Bluebell woods to the shores of Shetland, to track down our most intriguing and well-known plants, with the people who love them most dearly.

Leif’s latest book, Where the Wildflowers Grow, follows him on that journey as he botanises his way through an entire calendar year, meeting our plants, telling their stories and exploring people’s connection to their local flora. Plants are capable of extraordinary things that we rarely hear about or give them credit for, and Leif is here to share their ways with new audiences. This talk, like the book, is all about the joy of engaging with nature, the importance of plants for our climate, and celebrating our unbelievable botanical diversity.

Leif Bersweden is a writer, botanist and nature communicator with a face-down, bottom-up approach to watching wildlife. He grew up in rural Wiltshire where he taught himself how to identify the local flora and has championed our wild plants and the joy they bring ever since. He is the author of The Orchid Hunter (2017) and Where the Wildflowers Grow (2022).

Tuesday 10th: on-line by Zoom (only)
7.00pm Lecture: Shannon Clifford: Are Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus) chicks heat stressed?

Summary: Animals are adapted to the thermal range which they inhabit, but climate warming is putting added physiological pressure on their ability to thermoregulate in their environments. Compared to species inhabiting the Arctic and Tropics, the response of temperate seabird chicks and their parents to a changing thermal environment is poorly understood. Young seabird chicks are particularly vulnerable to heat stress as they do not have fully developed thermoregulation abilities and likely depend on parents for shade in their exposed environments. To address this knowledge gap, I investigated heat stress in young Northern Gannet chicks at Bass Rock, Scotland, by exploring variation in thermal microclimate and its influence upon heat stress in chicks.

About me: I graduated from the University of Glasgow in 2018 with a degree in Environmental Science and Sustainability. I worked in an ecological consultancy for a few years doing protected species surveys in Dumfries and Galloway, before working as a Research Assistant for the RSPB working on the national Seabird Census in the Highlands. I then completed my MRes at Glasgow looking at heat stress in Gannets last year. I worked as a freelance Ecologist for a year in Scotland after finishing my Master's before moving to Norfolk and beginning a new job as Assistant Warden with the Norfolk Ornithologists Association (NOA).

c7.45pm Lisbeth Hordley: Lepidoptera and climate change.

Summary: I've been looking into is how upland moths are impacted by climate change. These are the moths that are adapted to cooler temperatures and already live at higher elevation. We'd expect that as the climate warms, for them to distribute themselves even higher and maybe even push themselves out of range. It's really important that we try and understand what's happening here, because as some of these species move further up into mountainous areas, there might not be anywhere else for them to go.

About me: I joined BC as Ecological Modeller, which means that I conduct any research that BC is interested in using their long-term monitoring datasets for butterflies and moths. I look at the impacts of environmental change on butterfly and moth distributions and also assist other members of staff with statistical analysis. BC has a lot of great data collected from members of the public and experienced researchers and ecologists, but the data needs to have an impact somewhere and do something.

Wednesday 1st
5.00pm Lecture: Prof Helen Roy: Documenting and predicting biological invasions globally.
This is the BLB lecture, and will be delivered at 5pm in Lecture Theatre 1, the Graham Kerr Building, to a joint audience of GNHS members and staff and students of the University. It will be followed by a reception in the Zoology Museum.


Professor Helen Roy MBE Hon. FRES is an ecologist at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. Her research focuses on the effects of environmental change, particularly biological invasions, on biodiversity and ecosystems. Helen leads many collaborative national and international research projects on biological invasions with a focus on enhancing information flow to inform understanding of the impacts of invasive alien species. Helen also enjoys science communication and public engagement with research which led to her interest in citizen science; an approach that she has implemented in a number of contexts. Helen co-leads the UK Ladybird Survey and enjoys collaborating with ladybird recorders across the UK. She is currently leading a global assessment on invasive non-native species for the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.


The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Global Assessment’s message is stark: biodiversity – the diversity within species, between species, and of ecosystems – is declining faster than at any time in human history. Alongside climate change, land and sea-use change, invasive alien species were identified as one of the five top direct causes of biodiversity change. Biological invasions can threaten biodiversity and ecosystems but also human health and economies, particularly through their interactions with other drivers such as climate change. The number of alien species arriving in new regions is increasing globally and there is no sign of slowing.

It is widely recognised that the most effective action against biological invasions is preventing the arrival of invasive alien species. Therefore, there has been increasing focus on horizon scanning to predict which invasive alien species pose an imminent emerging threat. Prioritising invasive alien species in the context of the pathways by which they might arrive can be informative for decision-making. Horizon scanning for invasive alien species that could arrive and pose a threat to biodiversity and ecosystems across Europe has underpinned prioritisation of invasive alien species for risk assessment and subsequently consideration for inclusion within lists of invasive alien species of concern. Invasive alien species can have multiple impacts spanning plant, animal, human and wildlife health; cross-sectoral sharing of information is critical to effective action.

I will share insights into invasion ecology from broad patterns and processes to approaches in surveillance and monitoring, including citizen science and the role of the UK Ladybird Survey in increasing our understanding of biological invasions. I will highlight the importance of collaborative, interdisciplinary partnerships including the forthcoming IPBES global thematic assessment on invasive alien species. Networks established through these initiatives have benefits for people, science and nature.

Tuesday 14th: Boyd Orr Building (Lecture Theatre C))
7.00pm Lecture: Keith Watson and Michael Philip: The flora of the Clyde area: past, present and future. Thursday 16th: Boyd Orr Building (Lecture Theatre C)
7.30pm Lecture: Benedict Bate (Woodland Trust): The Work of the Woodland Trust in Scotland. The talk will include a section on the Atlantic rainforest, the topic of the talk originally advertised.
Jointly with Friends of Glasgow Botanic Gardens and the Glasgow Treelovers Society.

Tuesday 5th: Boyd Orr Building (Lecture Theatre 2)
7.00pm Lecture: Roger Downie: Sir John Graham Kerr and the flourishing of Glasgow zoology. This is a special lecture to celebrate the centenary of the opening of the Graham Kerr (Zoology) building. Jointly with staff and students of the School of Biodiversity.
Tuesday 12th
Christmas Social: details to be confirmed.


Tuesday 9th: Boyd Orr Building (Lecture Theatre C)
7.00pm Lecture: Suzanne Livingstone: Offsetting biodiversity losses: can we mitigate the damage from major developments in biodiverse countries?

The talk presents several case studies of projects aligning (or attempting to align) international best practice for biodiversity management with biodiversity offsets as a method of achieving a no net loss or net gain for identified priority biodiversity features.

Suzanne is a UoG graduate with 25 years experience in global biodiversity conservation, and has been working in the field of biodiversity and business since 2011. She has extensive experience working internationally with large development projects (particularly mining and renewables) in both terrestrial and marine environments.

Suzanne specialises in ecological and environmental impact assessment, specifically to understand and manage biodiversity risk. Her expertise includes navigating IFC PS6 and other international good practice standards. She has considerable practical experience in biodiversity risk screening, critical habitat assessment, strategic baseline survey design and management, biodiversity action plans, offset design, strategy, feasibility assessment and implementation planning, as well as developing monitoring and evaluation plans. She also has experience of working directly with lenders on E&S due diligence. Suzanne is skilled at technical delivery and project management of the biodiversity-related risks and opportunities of large infrastructure projects, providing strategic advice and guidance to clients.

Prior to TBC, Suzanne worked for the IUCN Red List Unit and several international NGOs, including Conservation International and WWF. In these roles she developed conservation programmes on the ground in the Caribbean and Africa, resolving conflicting demands of diverse stakeholder groups. She has marine and terrestrial expertise, specialising in marine turtles.

Tuesday 13th: Boyd Orr Building
7.00pm: Members’ Photographic Night.

Wednesday 6th: Graham Kerr Lecture Theatre 1
6.00pm: Exploration Society report back: this is a chance to find how the students used their BLB grants.

Tuesday 12th : Boyd Orr building
7.00pm: Heather Ferguson: Mosquito vectors of avian diseases in Scotland; followed by the Society’s AGM.

Climate and other environmental changes are driving the expansion of mosquito vector borne diseases (VBDs) into areas of Europe previously unsuitable for transmission; with many being derived from avian populations. This presents a growing risk of VBD establishment in the United Kingdom due to presence of competent vectors and zoonotic pathogens in resident and migratory birds. Ability to detect and respond to emergence is however constrained by major gaps in national surveillance; with current activities restricted almost entirely to England and Wales.

In contrast, almost no data on mosquito and avian reservoirs are available for Scotland. Here we will give an overview of the “Mosquito Scotland” project; a new multidisciplinary research programme designed to address this gap through comprehensive investigation of mosquito vectors and avian reservoir populations in Scotland. Our goal is to assess potential for VBD transmission under current and future environmental conditions through integration of entomological, pathogen and wildlife surveillance and modelling. Activities include surveillance of mosquitoes over 2 years in geographically and ecologically representative wetland habitats, and across a rural-urban gradient extending from Glasgow City. Mosquito and avian reservoirs will be screened for up to 40 VBD pathogens and endosymbionts using a novel micro-fluidic PCR approach.

Additionally we will establish laboratory colonies of Culex pipiens from wild populations and use them to assess the competence of Scottish mosquito populations for West Nile and other viruses emerging from wildlife reservoirs in Europe (eg Usutu and Sindbis virus). In combination, these data will be used to develop distribution maps for mosquito vectors and model the likelihood of zoonotic VBD establishment in Scotland under current or future conditions.. The presentation will focus on the design and implementation of this interdisciplinary One Health mosquito VBD surveillance programme, and experiences from the first season of data collection.

Tuesday 16th: Boyd Orr Building
7.00pm: Nigel Willby: Beavers in Scotland: a 20-year journey. Nigel is Professor of Freshwater Science at the University of Stirling. His team works on the ecological effects of Eurasian beavers, water policy, invasive species and habitat restoration.
NB This talk is on the third Tuesday, not the second. It is a joint meeting with Paisley Natural History Society.

Tuesday 14th: Boyd Orr Building Lecture Theatre D
7.00pm: two half-hour talks. First, Louisa Maddison on the work of the Green Action Trust.
Second, Stuart Whittaker, Community Woodland Officer of the Cassiltoun Housing Association on the Castlemilk Project: nature and community.

The Green Action Trust has been working on green infrastructure projects across the Central Scotland Green Network for nearly 40 years. Working with partners including local authorities, communities and private landowners we help improve the environment through site specific projects, as well as wider scale schemes including 10,000 Raingardens for Scotland and the Leven Programme. Our focus is on addressing climate change, biodiversity loss and environmental inequality through a range of interventions including green active travel and improving vacant and derelict land. Louisa has been working with GAT for 2 years as a Project Development Officer; and also leads on ecology for the company. Her background is in nature conservation at various strategic and delivery levels; she was previously a Biodiversity Officer, and before that a Countryside Ranger.

Stuart Whittaker started in nature conservation in his late 30s as a Countryside Ranger in Lothian and Fife before moving to Cassiltoun Housing Association as Community Woodland officer. Stuart has a passion for Trees, Bats, Great Crested Newts, outdoor formal and informal education and a big passion for developing communities with nature and green space at its heart. Stuart will be talking about the Castlemilk park project ran by Cassiltoun Housing association and supported by Scottish Forestry. The project sees community development and engagement at its heart, but also the improvements to the green space and biodiversity of Castlemilk Park since 2011, and the positives and challenges that the project has seen on its journey since 2011.

Saturday 8th: Not part of the GNHS programme, but an additional event is being planned as part of the Graham Kerr Centenary.

Why not become a member − and experience the Society’s meetings in action?

Back to the Meetings page