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First ever Dr BryaBryan Nelson1 OTRn Nelson Memorial Lecture announced

Event to celebrate the legacy of the world’s leading gannet expert

A first of its kind lecture is to be held in memory of the world’s leading expert on gannets, Dr Bryan Nelson MBE, who passed away in 2015.

As a tribute to Bryan, the Scottish Seabird Centre and RSPB Scotland are jointly hosting a memorial lecture which it is hoped will become an annual event. The first will be held on 6 October, 19:30, at Napier University (Craiglockhart Campus) in Edinburgh.

Bryan Nelson spent his life working to better understand and conserve seabirds. He was a great supporter of the Scottish Seabird Centre from its inception and served as a Trustee until shortly before he died in 2015. He was a lifelong RSPB member, and a founding member of RSPB Scotland’s Galloway Local Group.

He and his wife, June, famously spent three years in the 1960s living in a small hut on the Bass Rock where his pioneering research work helped to unravel the fascinating life history of Britain’s largest seabird, the gannet.

Bryan also carried out important research on seabirds in the Galapagos and worked to help save the very rare Abbots Booby (a relation of the gannet) which is only found on Christmas Island in the Pacific. It was in danger of becoming extinct because large scale phosphate mining was removing the forest in which it nested. Bryan’s research and campaigning helped to ensure the protection of most of the remaining forest and the future of this extraordinary bird.

The speaker for this first lecture will be well-known seabird biologist, Professor Mike Harris, on the subject of ‘The Puffin: Past, Present and Future’.

Mike Harris, Research Fellow at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Edinburgh, said: “I knew Bryan Nelson from the time that he started his pioneering research into the life of the gannet on the Bass Rock. We both subsequently went on to study seabirds in the Galapagos Islands before migrating back to southeast Scotland to carry out research on islands within sight of each other on either sides of the Firth of Forth. I am therefore extremely flattered to be asked to give the first Bryan Nelson Memorial Lecture.

“Almost all the news that we hear of the puffin is bad – breeding failures, winter wrecks and population crashes. But is the situation really that dire? This lecture will review the history of the puffin worldwide and use the results from a 45-year study on the Isle of May to give new insights into puffin biology both at the colony and at sea. Finally, it will speculate on what the future holds for this iconic seabird.”

Tom Brock OBE, Chief Executive of the Scottish Seabird Centre, said: “We were very sad to learn of the passing of the brilliant Dr Bryan Nelson last year. He was the undisputed world expert on gannets and an outstanding supporter of the Seabird Centre; an inspiration and a dear friend to us all.

“I first met Bryan when I was one of his zoology students at Aberdeen University, over 37 years ago. A wonderful and inspiring communicator, he was keen to share his enthusiasm and outstanding knowledge, always wanting to inspire others about our amazing wildlife.

“The aim of the Bryan Nelson Memorial Lecture is to celebrate and continue what Bryan did so successfully – enthusiastically sharing insights and research into the natural world – while also ensuring that his passion for wildlife lives on.”

Stuart Housden, Director of RSPB Scotland said: “This lecture is a fitting memorial to Bryan and a wonderful legacy to his lifetime’s work which established him as a world authority on seabirds. With so many of Scotland’s seabirds now in trouble, it is fitting so many people are coming together to share their knowledge, as Bryan did so enthusiastically, to help find solutions that will ensure future generations can continue to marvel at the huge seabird ‘cities’ found on our coasts and islands.”

Thursday 6 October
Edinburgh Napier University (Craiglockhart Campus)
Tickets £6

Tickets are available from the online shop at, by calling 01620 890202 or from the Scottish Seabird Centre Admissions Desk.

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