My passion for wildlife was stimulated in my teenage years, mainly thanks to my Mum (a biology teacher) who made me look at the world differently and being inspired by writers such as Paul Colinvaux. This early interest developed into biological research in my 20s, when I did practical conservation work in places such as the Comores and Mongolia.
Today, any free time I have I spend pottering around the flatlands of East Anglia or escaping to our hut on the Northumberland coast looking for wildlife and castles with my wife and children.
I studied Biological Sciences at Oxford and Conservation at UCL, and worked at Wildlife and Countryside Link before spending five years as Conservation Director at Plantlife.
I joined the RSPB as Head of Government Affairs in 2004, became Head of Sustainable Development in 2006, before becoming Conservation Director in 2011.
The rain lashed down and waves crashed against the Brighton seafront, but inside the Liberal Democrat conference centre there was relative calm.
While the media are on the lookout for divisions within the party, the conference itself seemed to be getting on with the business of policy development and planning how to hold on to their 57 seats at the next general election.
It seems that the party faithful have come to terms with the reality of government. Most seem keen to support the leadership in fighting for Liberal Democrat policies as part of coalition negotiations. I wonder if the public (and media) may take longer to adjust to the reality of coalition politics. When at a fringe meeting the Party President, Tim Farron, said that Nick Clegg was an outstanding leader and would become an electoral asset, the audience responded enthusastically. This may not make good copy for the media, but it seems to reflects the mood of the party.
And it is equally clear that the process of differentiation has begun. The challenge appears to be to demonstrate that the Liberal Democrats are a distinctive party while governing as part of a coalition. And they need policy successes to celebrate as well.
There are environmental issues on which the party thinks there may be opportunity to demonstrate difference from the Conservatives. This week, while still on the lookout for a new hub airport, the Lib Dems have voted to rule out a new aiport in the Thames Estuary, or other new runways at Heathrow, Stansted or Gatwick. It has also voted to establish a target range of 50-100g of CO2 per kwh for the decarbonisation of the power sector by 2030 - essentially placing a cap on emissions from power generation. This is welcome. As we argued in a recent pamphlet with Green Alliance, industry needs clear signals such as this to guide investment to deliver both environmental outcomes and jobs.
Over the next couple of weeks we'll find how the other parties are thinking about these issues. As I wrote yesterday, we want competition for the best environmental policies. Which is why I am a disappointed that the natural environment has not figured prominently at this conference. Lots of talk about green growth, but purely through the lens of low Carbon infrastructure. I want to hear more about how the natural environment underpins a healthy rural economy and what the Liberal Democrats will do to protect our natural assets.
I'll let you know.
The mood of the Liberal party is clearly 19th C liberalism rather than the party of Beverige and the greatest thinker of them all John Maynard Keynes.
Could we, in Bristol, have some clear strategic advice re costs of alternatives to barrage and a clear critique of Treasury where schemes that give "carbon free energy" for 80 years after their initial funding period are not getting the priority/legacy the future deserves. The Bristol election deserves a clear programme from the "Green Alliance" to all candidates as to how we regain the Green Capital Award from Copenhagen; launched on the powerful symbol of our link to the tidal sea; Giovanni Cabotini's "Mattthew ?