About James

 

43950003_2362728047089023_7857580549919997952_nI am a 24-year naturalist, wild writer and communicator privileged to find myself living my childhood dream of a life and career in nature. I launched Common By Nature back in 2011 as a place to express my interest in the natural world, explore topics that interest me on a personal level and, more importantly, to enthuse others with regards to the world around us. Rarely will you find scientific jargon or convoluted opinion here, because I believe wholeheartedly that nature should be accessible (and understandable) to all. To that end, I try to keep my content as diverse as possible.

Gaining first a BSC (Hons) degree in Animal Conservation Science and progressing to obtain an MSc in Wildlife Management, I have since worked in both practical conservation, as an assistant warden for the National Trust for Scotland, and ecology, as an ecological field assistant in the Scottish Highlands. Meanwhile dedicating my time on a voluntary basis to organisations such as the RSPB, Red Squirrels Northern England, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, the Natual History Society of Northumbria and the British Trust for Ornithology.

To date, my written work has been published in outlets such as Research Features, Fieldsports Magazine, the Entomologists Record, Dragonfly News, Roebuck and the Anthology for the Changing Seasons book series; while, to date, I have held popular online columns for Wildlife Articles, Conservation Jobs and Northumberland Wildlife Trust. Though it beggars belief, my column on the former has now been read by over 153,000 people. A full list of my published work can be found here.

My previous work as both a blogger and aspiring nature writer has won me recognition on multiple occasions by BBC Wildlife Magazine, as well as finalist positions at the Northern Blogger Awards and Living North Awards. More recently, I earned the ‘highly commended’ spot at the UK Blog Awards 2018. In a more bizarre twist, my work as a blogger recently resulted in an appearance on an episode of BBC Countryfile.

I am the founder and current director of New Nature – the youth nature magazine, an e-zine dedicated to supporting, emboldening and promoting the next generation of British naturalists. In 2018 New Nature won first place in the company ‘green and eco’ category of the UK Blog Awards.

At present I find myself working as a Communications Officer for the Natural History Society of Northumbria and, although no longer in the role, served as a regional representative for A Focus on Nature.

Some answers to some common questions, often put forward in one form or another by readers of this blog, can be found below to give a little more information…

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Up close and personal with Ring-necked Parakeets in Hyde Park


What are your primary interests?

In terms of my specific interests, it is difficult to pinpoint just where my affections lie as, truthfully, all aspects of the natural world fascinate me. Indeed, I much prefer to think of myself as a generalist when it comes to natural history; equally enthralled by bees and botanicals as I am by birds, mammals, butterflies and any other group of creatures.  I am just as happy grubbing about on all fours in search of snails and slugs as I am tucked up in my local bird hide, sipping coffee and contently ogling Avocets. Something I hope shines through on this blog: in the wide range of topics covered and the plethora of places visited (and discussed) on my frequent adventures.

To what do you owe your interest in nature?

For me, my interest in the natural world stems from childhood: from long wildlife-fuelled rambles around my home county in the company of my Grandmother, Vera. A lady who singlehandedly taught me more about the world around us, and the creatures that inhabit it, than both of the university degrees I have studied to date. With some of my earliest and fondest memories centred on identifying and pressing wildflowers, growing saplings from seed and, of course, bird watching – all under the watchful eye of my childhood teacher. It was these initial outings that undoubtedly set me on the path on which I now find myself.

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A younger me pictured alongside my sister, grandmother and Molly the dog – taken 13 years ago on an outing near Bedlington.

What motivates you, personally?

An appreciation for the wealth of species with whom we share our planet and a desire to do my bit, so to speak, and contribute to the preservation of the various creatures which have enthralled me since childhood. I wish to get people talking about nature and thus bolster interest in natural history – whether through writing, speaking or direct action – and believe wholeheartedly that in order to properly protect the natural world, that we must extol its virtues to a younger generation. As such, I spend much of my time working to support, embolden and encourage younger conservationists.

Can you name a highlight of your academic career?

Without a doubt, the overall highlight of my university career was the opportunity to carry out fieldwork for my Master’s thesis on the Farne Islands, Northumberland. Aiming to compare alternative methods for Puffin population census, I spent a number of weeks here and, truth be told, loved every minute of it. Coming in a close second, the chance to carry out nocturnal mammal surveys – as part of a field research module – in Bijilo Forest Park, Gambia. This presented a number of challenges and certainly contrasted with previous work in the UK. Porcupines and civets differ vastly from my usual quarry of Ptarmagin and Curlew.

Why do you “waste” so much time blogging when you could be outside?

Simple. My blog is equally about informing myself as it is others. This website acts as a personal journal, so to speak, allowing me to document my experiences in nature and record them so that they may be enjoyed over the weeks, months and years to come. It also serves to generate debate regarding the issues that interest me on a personal level and, at times, is used to draw attention to causes, initiatives and issues I feel worthy of recognition. Over the years, blogging has helped me better my writing skills – I have no formal qualification in English, nor media – and, ultimately, has provided a gateway to a vibrant community of talented, incredibly friendly individuals. Many of whom have offered great support over the years and some of whom I am now lucky enough to call my friends.

Where do you see yourself in 10-years time?

Who knows. At present, I aspire towards a career in wildlife conservation and, whether I end up engaging others in communications or working in the field, I will be happy as long as nature forms a major part of my life. As any aspiring conservationist should, I am currently working to make my ambitions and reality and cannot say for certain what the future holds; though I will continue writing, surveying, volunteering, pondering and applying and see where I end up.

If I really had to choose, I would love to author a natural history book at some point…

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Representing NHSN on Chris Packham’s 2018 UK Bioblitz