Board of Trustees
The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust is a registered charity and has a Board of Trustees who are legally accountable for controlling the management and administration of the charity. It is a voluntary post with responsibility for decision-making, policies and expenditure. The Board meet regularly and each member has a different area of expertise that they bring to their role.
Prof Denis Mollison
Chairman of the Board of Trustees
Denis is Emeritus Professor of Applied Probability at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. His main research interests are in epidemic and ecological population dynamics, and in wave energy; work for which he was awarded an Sc.D. in Mathematics by Cambridge University in 1994.
Denis has plenty of other interests which focus mainly on conservation and the environment. Apart from being a Trustee of HWDT, he is involved in the work of many other Trusts. He is a co-founder of the John Muir Trust and has been a Trustee since 1986. Denis is also a Member of the Council of the National Trust for Scotland and a Trustee of the Castle Tioram Trust. Additionally Denis was Chairman of the Mountain Bothies Association from 1978 to 1994 and is now an Honorary Life Member.
As someone who is very involved with environmental agencies and who is concerned about the development of policies which affect how we treat our environment Denis has a close involvement with “green” politics and is Convenor of the Scottish Green Liberal Democrats.
Despite such diverse academic and political commitments Denis has a very happy and busy family life. Denis and his wife have four children and their second daughter, Hazel, has continued the family’s involvement with the Trust by being a volunteer in 1999.
Trustee and Treasurer
David was born and brought up in Edinburgh and came to live in the West Highlands in 1991 to work at Nevis Range ski resort as Finance Director. His previous contact with the Highlands was through sailing holidays on the west coast.
David has had a long term interest in conservation and animal welfare issues and was very pleased to help out as Treasurer when invited 'on board' (except he has yet to sail on Silurian so that might not be the right expression!). Neither has he ever seen a whale but that is the life of the 'back room' people.
Other interests currently are skiing, golf and hill walking. David's great love is staying in mountain bothies.
David was for many years Chairman of the Highlands of Scotland Tourist Board and part time accountant for Nevis Radio based in Fort William. He is currently full time employed in the charitable sector working on the finances of over 100 charities in the West Highland and islands
Dr Jonathan Gordon
Jonathan has been studying marine mammals since the early 1980’s and completed his PhD and much of his research on the behaviour of sperm whales (the largest of the toothed whales and a species that lives only in deep offshore waters). In the course of this he has been involved in developing methods for studying sperm whales and other cetaceans from modest motor sailors and using acoustic techniques to find, follow and assess the abundance of cetaceans. (Some of these techniques and approaches are now being applied on the Trust’s boat Silurian.) This emphasis on acoustics has also lead to a particular interest in and concern for the potential effects of underwater noise on marine mammals. For many years Jonathan ran a motor sailor (Song of the Whale) as a research boat for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). Richard Fairbairns contacted IFAW for help and advice soon after he started the first whale watching operations in Mull and this was followed by two field seasons working in the Hebrides in collaboration with Richard and the fledgling HWDT.
Jonathan was invited to become a Trustee when the Trust moved to its new premises in Tobermory. Although his association with IFAW has now ended, (Jonathan works part time for the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St. Andrews, and also as a consultant), his links to HWDT endure and he serves as Chair of the Scientific Committee.
Dr Peter Evans
Peter’s passion for the Hebrides started from the age of eleven when he first went there, following this up with seabird studies in the late 1970’s. Then in 1980, Peter discovered its rich marine mammal fauna when conducting boat surveys of the Minches and Sea of the Hebrides, and has been conducting field-work on cetaceans in the region on an annual basis since 1982. Peter’s interests lie especially in cetacean monitoring and distribution studies, but also investigating ecology and behaviour, and the potential conservation threats facing cetaceans. In the Hebrides, his studies have concentrated particularly upon minke whales, Risso’s dolphins, white-beaked dolphins and the harbour porpoise.
In 1991 Peter established Sea Watch, and is Head of Research. He has worked on cetaceans for thirty years, and overseen the UK National Cetacean Monitoring Scheme. Presently on the Council of the European Cetacean Society as Editor, Peter was previously founding Secretary and Chairman. He is a Director of Fair Isle Bird Observatory Trust, a Trustee of the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, and advisor to the government and various NGO’s on cetacean matters.
Peter’s field research concentrates upon ecological, behavioural and conservation biology studies of cetaceans in the UK, particularly harbour porpoises, bottlenose dolphins and minke whales, as well as the effects of human disturbance upon cetaceans. Peter has also worked extensively on seabirds in Britain, Ireland and the Arctic, and was former Secretary of the Seabird Group and editor of its journal Seabird. At present Peter is Research Associate of the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford.
Tom started working for the Mull Research Project in 1992 with Richard Fairbairns. His enthusiasm generated sparks for new projects and over the following summers a dolphin skeleton was boiled then rebuilt, the first underwater video of minke whales was recorded and a picture was taken that changed the way we looked at minke whales: by rowing in the dinghy Richard and Tom were able to sit right next to a ball of fish with minke whales feeding in the area. Eventually a whale lunged through the fish by the boat and although Tom missed the whale, the frame was full of flying fish which could be identified as sand eels – the first proof of what they ate.
Research and filming projects drew Tom back to the Hebrides most summers and also for winter surveys and ceilidhs. Now, as the longest standing member of the group, Tom is sadly bound to Bristol for long periods. Tom is Director of Specialist Stock, an online library of aquatic world and changing environment images and motion clips and this expertise has benefitted HWDT greatly over the years.
Philip Cheek joined the Board in 2013 having been involved with the Trust for over ten years. Phil has probably spent more time observing cetaceans from the deck of Silurian than any other volunteer and counts himself lucky to have seen all of our regular species. He cites an encounter with killer whales off Barra and newborn common dolphins riding the yacht's bow wave as among his most memorable moments. In addition to his passion for the Hebrides and its wildlife, he brings much needed expertise in marketing and in HR. He also holds an RYA Day Skipper certificate. Phil is based in Cheshire where he is a Trustee of Cheshire Wildlife Trust, the Trust's Living Seas ambassador and a member of the Wildlife Trusts' Irish Sea conservation steering group.
Dr Jay Butler
As a business leader, renewable energy specialist and experienced environmental scientist, Jay has a progressive and varied portfolio to bring to the board. Taken on by Richard Fairbairns in 1996, she was the first CEO of HWDT. Jay is a wholly committed and passionate champion of the organisation with a deep affection for the Hebrides.
With an enthusiasm for cetacean research that has taken her from the Azores to the Americas, she is a committed defender of the marine environment and a staunch conservationist.
Dale has over 20 years’ experience of working with community and charitable groups across the UK. Her love of the outdoors and its wildlife brought her to the Ardnamurchan peninsular in 2012. Since that time she has been self-employed as a consultant to Third Sector voluntary and community groups and most recently has managed the Sunart Community Hydro project which raised over £750,000 in five months through a Community Share Offer. Dale is also the part time manager of Kilchoan Learning Centre – part of West Highland College, and an outpost of the University of the Highlands and Islands.
Dale began work as a Rural Development Worker in North Yorkshire, and went on to hold various roles in regional and national Charities as well as public non-executive appointments in health and education. When she chose to relocate to Scotland in 2012 she was Deputy Chief Executive of the charity, Relate.
Dale’s passion for wildlife brought her into contact with HWDT in 2013, and she joined as a Trustee in 2015; she hopes to bring some of her skills to its Board. She brings experience of successful income generation through funding bids, contracts and community shares, and has managed staff and services, working in partnership with government agencies and the private sector.
Dale has four grown up sons and lives with her partner in Kilchoan on the Ardnamurchan peninsular – a ferry ride from Tobermory.
Leanne joined the Board in 2015 having been involved with HWDT for many years particiating as a volunteer onboard Silurian. In more recent years, Leanne has contributed to the Trust's Education Committee. A recent move to Tobermory to take up the post of Chemistry Teacher at the High School means that Leanne is now a member of the Mull island community and also joined the lifeboat crew.