Board members

Our Board members together make decisions relating to the strategic direction of our organisation on behalf of Scottish Ministers.

Biographies

Read brief biographies of our Board members to discover the skills and experience that each brings to NatureScot.

You can view the level of remuneration awarded to Board members in our annual report and accounts.

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Aoife Martin (Interim Chair)

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Aoife Martin took up the role of Deputy Chair of the NatureScot Board in April 2022.

Aoife believes that NatureScot is an organisation that can enrich people’s lives. She says, “I am passionate about Scotland’s natural environment and ensuring that its benefits are accessible to all. As a country, we need to strike the right balance on the sustainable use of this vital asset.”

Aoife brings to the Board many years’ experience of resource management, particularly marine environment management. She is an expert in policy development, regulatory implementation and compliance issues in fisheries, forestry and land management.

Aoife is currently Director of Operations at Seafish, the non-departmental public body supporting the UK seafood sector. Previously, she worked for the civil service in New Zealand, where she set up a partnership between government and the fisheries industry to ensure that deep-water stocks are managed sustainably.

Aoife is also a member of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, which advises government on nature conservation.

She holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in History and Geography from Trinity College Dublin and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Edinburgh.

Aoife spends her time between Edinburgh and the Isle of Skye, in her words “one of the most beautiful places on the planet”. She loves being able to appreciate and value nature wherever she is and relaxes by running in Edinburgh parks and walking in the hills of Skye.

Aoife will serve as Deputy Chair of the NatureScot Board initially until 31 March 2024.

Contact[email protected]

Margaret Davidson

Margaret Davidson

Margaret Davidson joined the NatureScot Board in September 2022.

Margaret believes that NatureScot will be on the frontline of working with communities to protect our natural heritage for future generations through Scotland’s new biodiversity strategy. She says, “Land reform and community ownership have been my incentive to get up in the morning for years. But now it’s time to focus on understanding and protecting biodiversity and to harness communities’ enthusiasm for and commitment to tackling climate change.”

Margaret brings to the Board 27 years’ experience as a local councillor, including 7 years as Leader of Highland Council. She has worked alongside communities to deliver nature-based projects, including large landscape-based schemes to protect species and habitats. This has given her a first-hand understanding of the people and places affected by the challenges facing nature in Scotland and an appreciation of the will of people in communities to work together to make things better.

The Board will also benefit from Margaret’s experience as a rural business owner. Her family runs Abriachan Garden Nursery, a renowned woodland garden and plant nursery on the shores of Loch Ness in Inverness-shire, specialising in shrubs, hardy perennials and alpines.

Margaret enjoys spending time with her family in the landscape she loves.

She will serve as a Board member of NatureScot initially until 31 August 2026.

Contact: [email protected]

Dr Ian Gambles

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Dr Ian Gambles joined the NatureScot Board in April 2021.

Ian believes that NatureScot is key to Scotland overcoming the challenges of looking after its environment and people in the face of global issues such as climate change. He says, “Protecting and restoring Scotland’s natural environment is the greatest responsibility of our times. We need to set things right for future generations.”

Ian joined the NatureScot Board following 8 years at the Forestry Commission in England, where he was Chief Executive Officer. He brings to the Board his considerable management experience, culminating in leading the Forestry Commission to become the strong organisation it is today, focused on valuing nature and connecting people to the natural world.

He is currently Chair of the Board of Directors of the James Hutton Institute.

Ian’s career has spanned both public and private sectors, including senior positions at the Planning Inspectorate, HM Treasury and the management consultancy firms KPMG and Deloitte. He also ran his own consultancy business, specialising in strategy and business management in the public sector.

He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.

When Ian is not relaxing outdoors in the mountains or the garden, he enjoys playing chess and real tennis. His ambition is to play on the only real tennis court in Scotland – and the oldest in the world – at Falkland Palace.

Ian will serve as a Board member of NatureScot initially until 31 March 202

Contact: [email protected]

Professor Jaboury Ghazoul

Professor Jaboury Ghazoul

Professor Jaboury Ghazoul joined the NatureScot Board in September 2022.

Jaboury has been immersed in the natural world all his life. He first encountered Scotland’s natural heritage as a student and has been passionate about connecting people with it ever since. He says, “Through my work on biodiversity and landscape change, I want to help protect and enhance Scotland’s natural resources, landscapes and seascapes and make them accessible to everyone.”

Jaboury brings to the Board a deep understanding of how complex ecosystems work and how they are affected by changing environmental conditions and the decisions we make. The Board will benefit from his skills in bringing together people with different and often conflicting views and developing inclusive approaches to managing landscapes.

Jaboury is Professor of Ecosystem Management at ETH Zürich. Previous posts include Director of the Centre for Sustainable Forests and Landscapes at the University of Edinburgh and the Prince Bernhard Chair for International Nature Conservation at Utrecht University.

Jaboury was a member of the UK Expert Committee on Forest Science (2014) and President of the Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation (2015). Among several awards for outstanding service, he holds a Golden Owl Award from the students at ETH Zürich in recognition of his commitment and teaching skills.

Jaboury relaxes by spending time with his family camping and kayaking. Above all, he loves talking to people who have a deep understanding of the land and its history.

Jaboury will serve as a Board member of NatureScot initially until 31 August 2026.

Contact: [email protected]

Professor Peter Higgins

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Professor Peter Higgins joined the NatureScot Board in April 2021.

Pete sees NatureScot as an organisation embodying his values. He says, “I have a real connection with the natural world. I am passionate about looking after nature and people’s relationships with nature and about how we deal with the big issues of the day such as the climate emergency.”

Pete brings to the Board a lifetime’s experience of working in and for the environment, promoting its value through teaching, research and policy development. This gives him a holistic view of the natural world and an understanding of why people want to spend time in nature.

Pete is Professor of Outdoor, Environmental and Sustainability Education at the University of Edinburgh and Director of the United Nations University Regional Centre for Education for Sustainable Development (Scotland). His contribution to higher education has been recognised by the award of Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Pete is an expert adviser to the UK Commission for UNESCO, a trustee of The Venture Trust and Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Field Studies Council. He chaired the Scottish Government Ministerial Advisory/Implementation Groups on Learning for Sustainability and was a Member of the National Parks Act Review Group (2008).

When he gets the chance, Pete relaxes by spending time in the mountains walking, climbing and skiing.

Pete will serve as a Board member of NatureScot initially until 31 March 2025.

Contact: [email protected]

David Johnstone

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David Johnstone joined the NatureScot Board in April 2021.

David believes that there has never been a more important time to address the challenges facing Scotland’s environment and that the public has the will to deal with them. He says, “We have an opportunity to reframe the way our countryside is managed and supported. There is a huge willingness to do good that’s very heartening.”

Running the family estate gives David first-hand experience of the challenge of managing land to protect the natural environment while looking after people by maintaining a vibrant community and economy. He manages enterprises ranging from traditional agriculture, forestry, and residential and commercial property through to renewable energy and tourism.

The Board benefits from David’s experience of bringing together people from the public and private sectors and finding ways that they can work together to deliver better outcomes for Scotland’s nature and people.

David is a Board member of South of Scotland Community Housing and chairs the Johnstonebridge Community Trust. He chaired Scottish Land and Estates for 7 years before stepping down in March 2020.

He lives on the family estate south of Moffat.

David will serve as a Board member of NatureScot initially until 31 March 2025.

Contact[email protected]

Colin MacPhail

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Colin MacPhail joined the NatureScot Board in April 2021.

Colin is passionate about supporting rural communities and about the role farmers and land managers play in balancing producing sustainable food with managing the environment and looking after nature. He says, “I want to make sure we protect and enhance the natural environment for our children and future generations to enjoy.”

As a farmer and agricultural business consultant, Colin has an in-depth understanding of practical land management and the challenges land managers face. He is particularly interested in, and has experience of, building relationships between land managers, nature conservation bodies and communities to develop practical environmental management schemes.

Colin brings to the Board a business-focused outlook and years of experience of working with a variety of rural businesses across Scotland. This includes posts as a Scottish Government agricultural officer, an agricultural consultant and the manager of large farming business.

Experiences ranging from crofting on the machair in the Western Isles to intensive livestock and arable farming units give Colin a good understanding of how farming systems can support nature and contribute to its recovery.

Colin set up his agricultural consultancy business, C.A. MacPhail Consulting Ltd, part of the 5Agri Group, in 2016. He and his family also run a 6,000-acre hill farm and holiday cottages on the Isle of Mull. He relaxes by spending time with his young family and following the rugby.

Colin will serve as a Board member of NatureScot initially until 31 March 2025.

Contact[email protected]

Professor Wayne Powell

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Professor Wayne Powell joined the NatureScot Board in April 2021.

Wayne believes that NatureScot’s mission is key to Scotland’s future. He says, “I am passionate about connecting people with nature, as our natural heritage is at the heart of a healthy, prosperous and inclusive society.”

Wayne brings to the Board extensive experience of leadership in the public, private and university sectors. He has a lifetime’s experience of applying science to deliver practical benefits for rural economies. His personal research interests have a strong emphasis on delivering “public good” outcomes that benefit people and their well-being. He has published widely and collaborates with researchers around the world.

Wayne is currently Principal and Chief Executive of Scotland's Rural College (SRUC).

Before joining SRUC, he was Chief Science Officer at CGIAR in Montpellier, France, a global agri-food research partnership dedicated to achieving food security and sustainable food, land and water systems in a climate crisis.

Before that, as Professor and Director of the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University, Wayne led a merger to form one of the largest research groups in the UK focusing on plant, environment and land-based sciences. He was also Director of the National Institute of Agricultural Botany in Cambridge.

Wayne is a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales and of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

In his spare time, he is a passionate rugby follower.

Wayne will serve as a Board member of NatureScot initially until 31 March 2025.

Contact: [email protected]

Dr Heather Reid

Dr Heather Reid

Dr Heather Reid joined the NatureScot Board in April 2021.

Heather grew up loving the outdoors and Scotland’s landscape, and she is passionate about sharing that appreciation of nature and making sure that it’s protected for future generations to enjoy. She says, “We need to act now to leave our natural world in a good place for our children and generations to follow, and I would like to contribute to that.”

Heather brings to the Board over 25 years’ experience and skills in public science engagement and education, especially in environmental sciences and climate change. She has a strong background in science, which is at the heart of everything NatureScot does. She understands the climate crisis and the effect it is having on nature, having watched it evolve at first hand. She also has experience of strategic policy-making and public sector governance.

Heather is currently a science education consultant and was previously a weather forecaster with the Met Office and BBC Scotland.

She is a Board member of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority and was previously Chair of the Institute of Physics in Scotland and a trustee of Glasgow Science Centre. Heather has sat on several STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education advisory committees and works closely with the education sector and industry.

She enjoys hill-walking and mountain biking, especially when the sun is shining!

Heather will serve as a Board member of NatureScot initially until 31 March 2025.

Contact: [email protected]

Dr Jill Robbie

Dr Jill Robbie

Dr Jill Robbie joined the NatureScot Board in September 2022.

Jill is passionate about protecting and restoring our natural environment and believes that NatureScot’s work is crucial. She says, “As we face the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change, I want to use my knowledge and skills to contribute to the practical work of tackling these crises.”

Jill is a Senior Lecturer in Private Law at the University of Glasgow. Her research interests include the sustainable management of natural resources, particularly water, and the role of law and policy in encouraging good land management.

Jill brings to the Board her experience of working with policymakers in Scotland on land governance and reform and her commitment to building consensus and collaboration between policymakers and landowners on nature protection.

After graduating with a law degree from the University of Edinburgh, she then undertook a postgraduate degree on private water rights in Scots law. Jill trained as a solicitor before joining the Glasgow School of Law. She is a Board member of the Association for Law, Property and Society.

Jill has always loved spending time in nature, whether walking the family dogs, cross-country skiing or taking part in triathlons.

Jill will serve as a Board member of NatureScot initially until 31 August 2026.

Contact: [email protected]

Nikki Yoxall

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Nikki Yoxall joined the NatureScot Board in April 2021.

Nikki believes that NatureScot has a crucial role in inspiring the Scottish public to get closer to nature. She says, “I love farming in a nature-rich landscape, and sharing that passion for being connected with the natural world is something I really enjoy and want to contribute.” She is inspired by NatureScot’s work with landowners and managers to find large-scale nature-based solutions to climate change.

Nikki brings to the Board experience of leadership and governance in the higher education sector. She also has the perspective of a young woman working in agriculture with an interest in engaging farmers, crofters and land managers with nature-friendly approaches.

Nikki farms with her husband in the north-east of Scotland and is Head of Research at Pasture for Life. She is currently undertaking a postgraduate degree to explore agroecological transitions.

Nikki previously worked in the higher education sector as Director of Learning and Teaching at the University of the Highlands and Islands Moray College and as Head of Learning – Land-based Studies at Chichester College.

She is a farmer ambassador for the Soil Association and sits on the Scotland Steering Group of the Nature Friendly Farming Network.

Nikki’s favourite time to be outside in nature is early in the morning in late spring.

She will serve as a Board member of NatureScot initially until 31 March 2025.

Contact: [email protected]