We are delighted to announce the winners of the prestigious Mammal Society Award and Richard Shore Prize for 2023. These awards recognise exceptional contributions to mammal conservation and research, highlighting the dedication and passion of individuals who go above and beyond for Britain’s mammals.
The Mammal Society Award 2023
The Mammal Society Award celebrates individuals whose contributions have significantly advanced the field of mammal conservation.
This year, we are pleased to honour:
Dr Henry Schofield
Describing himself as a “Wildlife Biologist with an interest in evidence-based mammal conservation” puts Dr Henry Schofield’s immeasurable impact of over 30 years of dedicated work in wildlife conservation extremely lightly to say the least. From early encounters with bats to becoming the Head of Conservation with the Vincent Wildlife Trust (VWT), Henry’s journey has been a testament to evidence-based conservation. Henry began working for the Hon. Vincent Wier in 1990 (later to become the VWT), researching lesser horseshoe bats for his PhD thesis, and in doing so generating projects with practical conservation applications, and distilling that knowledge into the highly useful (and well thumbed) Lesser Horseshoe Conservation Handbook. It would not at all be an exaggeration to say that the work carried out by Henry and his VWT colleagues, as well as the collaboration with other researchers and the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) is a major factor in why the lesser horseshoe bat is one of the few bat species that are on an upward trajectory.
His pioneering work on lesser horseshoe bats has not only led to a wealth of knowledge but also practical applications that have contributed to the species’ positive trajectory. Henry’s extensive research, collaborations, and communication efforts have reshaped our understanding of bat and mammal conservation. Through his work with VWT, Henry has an impressive list of publications that include other bat and mammal species across Great Britain, Ireland and Europe, focusing on key conservation questions – status, habitat requirements, access to resources and novel monitoring techniques to name a few. His contributions continue to inspire and guide our conservation efforts.
Richard Shore Prize 2023
Named in memory of the late and much-missed Vice-Chair of the Mammal Society, the Richard Shore Prize celebrates individuals who have demonstrated remarkable commitment to protecting Britain’s mammals. This year we honour joint winners:
Dr Helen O’Brien and Helen Rasmussen
Dr. Helen O’Brien
Dr. Helen O’Brien’s journey from police officer into the world of ecology has been inspirational. From her early research on Dormice to her engagement with local communities in search of water voles, Helen’s contributions have made a lasting impact. As the County Mammal Recorder for Leicestershire & Rutland, Helen has worked tirelessly to verify records and promote the conservation of various mammal species. She has worked closely with the Leicestershire & Rutland Environmental Resource Centre (LRERC) and NatureSpot (a local recording database under the umbrella of iRecord), to verify records submitted by local people to better understand the status of mammals in the counties.
It was from attending a virtual talk given by Derek Crawley during the COVID-19 pandemic, that the Leicestershire & Rutland Mammal Group was formed, set up and chaired by Dr Helen O’Brien. Helen continues to inspire more people to join her in her journey in mammal conservation. Her dedication and commitment has been evident – organising countless monitoring projects to help facilitate good management to assist conservation efforts as well as organise local studies on various mammals including hedgehogs, dormice, harvest mice, otters and more. The group runs monthly meetings and have encouraged more people to get involved in mammals in the local area.
Helen Rasmussen’s profound love for nature beginning from a very young age has guided her journey in mammal conservation. A chance conversation in 2004 introduced her to the Staffordshire Mammal Group and current Mammal Society Vice-Chair, Derek Crawley. She would later go on to joining the Staffordshire Mammal Group committee, heavily involved in building the website and Facebook group. Despite moving to Derby, she remained on the Staffordshire Mammal Group committee, becoming a verifier for the local area, though when she eventually moved to Rutland, she joined Helen O’Brien in the Leicestershire & Rutland Mammal Group and began verifying in the VC55 area.
Throughout all this, Helen’s impact has been exceptional. She has shown her commitment to protecting Britain’s mammals with projects like the local mammal atlas, square busting and ‘crap calendars’, and with them her love for mammal ecology continued to grow. Helen’s commitment to education and involvement, even during challenging times, reflects her dedication to ensuring the next generations cherish and protect our diverse mammal species.
A joint prize to celebrate their collaborative work
Working together in the Leicestershire & Rutland Mammal Group, Helen O’Brien and Helen Rasmussen have continued to share their love for mammals with more and more people, setting up a programme of walks and talks, as well as training workshops to get people to join in and record mammals in the two counties. Among the many initiatives the two Helens have worked together on, the launch of the Mammal Spotter Competition in August 2022 – which saw the innovative use of CCTV cameras at the local university campus to survey and record mammals – saw a surge of new members and participants getting involved with the mammal group. Working collaboratively, with Helen Rasmussen devising the scoring mechanism while Helen O’Brien handled the verification, this initiative helped boost the fox and badger records in Leicester greatly! The 2nd Mammal Spotter Competition started on the 1st of August, and if you would like to get involved, please contact the mammal group at LandRmammals@gmail.com.
Both Helens have exemplified the spirit of the Richard Shore Prize by dedicating their work to mammal conservation. Their efforts have ignited passion, fostered community engagement, and created lasting change in our approach to mammal conservation that we at the Mammal Society are incredibly proud to honour with this prize.
Mammal Society Award 2022
In 2022 it was announced that the recipient of the Mammal Society Award would be Professor Fiona Mathews for her significant contributions to mammal conservation. As last year’s conference was online only, we were unable to present her with her award in-person last year. We therefore took the opportunity to present Fiona with her medal in the prize-giving ceremony this year.
Professor Fiona Mathews
We proudly recognize the accomplishments of Professor Fiona Mathews, the winner of The Mammal Society Award in 2022. As Professor of Environmental Biology at the University of Sussex, Fiona’s influence on mammal conservation spans various fronts. Fiona is Professor of Environmental Biology at the University of Sussex. She is the founding Chair of Mammal Conservation Europe, author of the UK government’s official census of British mammals and of its internationally-sanctioned Red List, co-author of the State of Nature Reports in 2016 and 2019, lead editor on the new Atlas of Mammals of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. She advises the UK government and its devolved authorities on a variety of conservation issues. From 2015 to 2021 she served as Chair of the Mammal Society. Fiona’s commitment to sharing her knowledge extends to media appearances, where she has enlightened audiences through platforms such as Radio 4’s Today Programme and Countryfile. Her tireless efforts exemplify the ideals of The Mammal Society Award.
These remarkable individuals truly embody the spirit of the Mammal Society’s mission, and their unwavering dedication sets a shining example for all of us.
We extend our warmest congratulations to all of the winners, past and present, and express our gratitude for their outstanding contributions to mammal conservation. Through their efforts, as well as others who are contributing everyday through surveys and other conservation initiatives, the future of Britain’s mammals looks brighter.
The awards were proudly presented by Mammal Society President Penny Lewns at the Mammal Society’s Annual Conference, which took place from August 4th to 6th at Nottingham Trent University’s beautiful Brackenhurst Campus. This conference marked a significant milestone as the first in-person gathering since the pandemic, providing an opportunity for like-minded individuals to come together, share knowledge and research, and celebrate the achievements of our exceptional recipients.
As we look to the future, we invite you to stay tuned for more information on how you can nominate someone deserving for next year’s award. We also encourage you to envision yourself as a potential recipient of a future award, as your dedication and efforts could be recognized for the remarkable contributions you make to the world of mammal conservation! Keep an eye on the Mammal Society’s website and social media channels for updates on upcoming events, initiatives, and opportunities to get involved. Your support and involvement play a crucial role in ensuring a bright future for mammals in the British Isles.