Gemma Paterson

Gemma Paterson


Gemma took up the role of Director in September 2014 after more than six years working at HWDT. Starting out as Education Assistant in April 2008, Gemma graduated to the role of Education Officer and was also working in fundraising before taking maternity leave in 2013.

Prior to working with the Trust, Gemma gained an MSc in Ecology at the University of Aberdeen where her studies focused on cetacean ecology and she was employed in the south of England in the field of marine environmental education. She has more recently completed her PGCE in secondary science at the University of Leicester.

The Director post is generously funded by The John Ellerman Foundation.

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Kerry Froud

Kerry Froud

Marine Biodiversity Officer

Kerry graduated from the University of Chichester in 2009 with a BA (Hons) degree in Adventure Education. During her years work placement as a sea kayak guide in Tonga (where she encountered the majestic humpback whales), she discovered her passion for whale and dolphin conservation. Since then she has gained vast experience in marine mammal science volunteering and working on projects worldwide.

Projects have included sailing across the Atlantic on IFAW’s cetacean research vessel Song of The Whale, studying breeding elephant seals on the remote Southeast Farallon island off California, grey seals on the Isle of Man, fur seals and sperm whales in New Zealand, migrating humpbacks in Eastern Australia and recently she conducted a cetacean survey on the Faroe Islands.

Kerry's post is generously funded by Scottish Natural Heritage.

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Mark Whitaker

Finance Officer

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Conor Ryan

Conor Ryan

Sightings and Strandings Officer

Conor joined the HWDT team in June 2014 to expand the community sightings network as part of the Sea Change project. Previously, he worked as a researcher for the Song of the Whale team and as Science Officer for the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group. Conor graduated from University College Cork in 2009 with a degree in zoology, before completing a PhD on the feeding ecology of baleen whales in Irish waters at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology. Conor is a council member of the European Cetacean Society. His interests include whale-watching, surfing, sea-kayaking, and free-diving.

Conor's post is generously funded by the Coastal Communities Fund.

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Morven Russell

Morven Russell

Volunteer Coordinator & Marketing Officer

Morven works on a part time basis as HWDT's Volunteer Coordinator and Marketing Officer.  As well as completing various marketing and admin tasks, Morven recruits and manages both land and boat based volunteers.  She is also responsible for keeping in touch with supporters.     

In 2006 Morven gained a BSc in Environmental Management and Technology from Heriot Watt University.  She has also worked with local marine wildlife operators Sea Life Surveys.

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Philippa Garrard

Education Officer

Pippa graduated from the University of Leeds in 2014 with a BSc in Human Physiology (International). She joined the HWDT team in the summer of 2014 to support the education and outreach programmes. Prior to this position Pippa volunteered in South Africa, Australia and Bali, where she was involved in a number of marine conservation projects, including sea turtle rehabilitation, as well as monitoring manta ray populations in Indonesia. Another of her passions is diving and after qualifying as a PADI Divemaster in 2013, she is keen to explore the waters off Scotland.

The Education Officer post is generously funded by The Robertson Trust and The Ernest Cook Trust.

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Alison Lomax

Alison Lomax

Deputy Director and Education Officer

Alison joined the Trust in September 2015 as HWDT's Deputy Director and Education Officer. Alison has a degree in Marine and Freshwater Biology from the University of Essex and previously worked in marketing and project management.

During a volunteer placement with WDC in 2010 she encountered her first wild dolphin (and loved it!); inspiring her passion for whale and dolphin conservation and a career change. Since then she has worked as Education Officer for ORCA, starting up the charities first community-based education project in the North East of England and as Conservation Officer for WDC based in the Moray Firth. Her interests include wild swimming, diving, wildlife watching and hiking.

The Deputy Director post is generously funded by The John Ellerman Foundation.
The Education Officer post is generously funded by The Robertson Trust and The Ernest Cook Trust.

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Vivi Bolin

Vivi Bolin

Visitor Centre Manager

Vivi first came to the Trust as Sightings and Strandings Intern and has now rejoined the team as Visitor Centre manager after a summer at sea as a wildlife guide for Hebrides Cruises. Vivi has a MSc in Biodiversity and Conservation from Trinity College Dublin and, prior to joining HWDT, has been working for several organisations, including the Zoological Society of London, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group and BirdWatch Ireland. Vivi’s passion for the sea and conservation stems from growing up on the Baltic Sea coast in Finland. After graduating with a BSc in Environmental Biology from Helsinki University, she made the move to Ireland, where she has assisted in humpback whale research and conducted surveys on sea birds and cetaceans.

The Visitor Centre Manager post is generously funded by the Coastal Communities Fund.

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Pauline Massey

Shop Manager

Pauline joined HWDT in 2014 working as a seasonal assistant in the shop and visitor centre. She took over the management role in the summer of 2015. As a long-term supporter of environmental charities, with a keen interest in the natural world, Pauline has taken a change of direction from education to join HWDT. She is currently studying an honours degree with the Open University to complement her work with the Trust.

The Visitor Centre Manager post is generously funded by the Coastal Communities Fund.

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Edward Hewett

Edd Hewett


After qualifying as a Yachtmaster in 2009, Edd took an opportunity to sail on Song of the Whale, observing his first whale in 2010 and later qualifying as an instructor. After a period skippering on yacht deliveries, he went on to work with St Andrews University and the expedition yacht Pelagic Australis in the Southern Ocean in 2012. During this time he visited a number of exciting places, but decided to go back to Song of the Whale after finding he missed the research aspect of the work. Edd’s jobs and hobbies have taken him all over the world, often under sail; he has sailed about 70,000nm! In 2014 Edd worked on board Silurian for the first time and recently completed his WiSe Scheme skipper’s course. Edd will be the main skipper on Silurian in 2015. When Edd is not at sea he is normally working on boat maintenance or on holiday either scuba diving, surfing, rock climbing, snowboarding or mountaineering.

Jonathan Biddle

Jonathan Biddle

First mate

A lover of wildlife, nature & the outdoors, Jonathan's weakness for chips has earned him the nickname ‘Jon Papas’! The blessing of a close encounter with a bottlenose dolphin whilst sea kayaking as a teenager was the beginning of the gift of many sightings over the years, (all of which bring a happy smile and joy to his heart). Seabirds are also something he's always scanning the horizon for and he hopes to make an increasing contribution to marine wildlife surveying, conservation and environmental education. Jonathan has worked extensively overseas, in various roles which include; canyoning guide in the Pyrenees, climbing instructor, surf instructor, TEFL English teacher and a sailor. The search for fresh rocks to climb and waves to surf in wild places has taken him to "meccas" such as the big walls of Yosemite & the "longest left wave" at Chicama, arriving there by sailing to Brazil then a boat trip up the Amazon. In love with the Azores islands and sailing, the wind recently carried him from there to the Galapagos aboard old traditional ships. Jonathan has recently attended the WiSe Scheme skippers course and is looking forward to beginning his first season on Silurian as our new first mate.

Past members of staff

Michael MacKinnon

Michael MacKinnon

Visitor Centre and Shop Manager

Michael MacKinnon joined HWDT in May to become the manager of our Visitor Centre and Shop in Tobermory. Michael left a successful career in retail to study zoology at the University of Glasgow, and since graduating in 2007 he has embarked upon a number of exciting roles within the conservation sector. He has carried out seashore surveys in Ireland, been a volunteer ranger on Lundy Island, worked as a Warden on the Farne Islands, and surveyed for newts and bats in the Midlands and East Yorkshire. Before joining HWDT he was based in Lincolnshire and worked for the Wildlife Trust at a number of nature reserves.

Michael is looking forward to combining his retail skills with his passion for marine ecology and the Western Isles to help promote the work of HWDT.Michael's post is generously funded by the Coastal Communities Fund.

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Eva Varga

Operations Manager

Eva joined HWDT in January 2014. She had done volunteer work for whale and dolphin conservation organizations, including HWDT and has a keen interest in cetaceans.

Until the end of 2013 she was the Director for Portfolio Performance at NESsT, leading the development and implementation of new strategies for a portfolio of social enterprises, capacity building, financing and performance tools/mechanisms. Eva worked for over 10 years at NESsT, developing social enterprises in Central European and Latin American countries. Before joining NESsT in 2003, Eva worked in the field of microfinance, as a Branch Manager of the Micro Finance Bank of Yugoslavia. Prior to that, she worked as an internal management consultant at ABN-Amro Bank in Hungary.

Eva is a member of the European Commission’s Expert Group on Social Entrepreneurship (GECES). She has a master’s degree in international affairs from the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University in the City of New York.

Olivia Harries

Biodiversity Officer

Olivia Harries graduated from St Andrews University where she gained a MRes in Marine Mammal Science. Her interests lie within population biology and ecological and environmental modelling. Her Masters thesis analysed data collected from whale watching operations and assessed whether such platforms of opportunity could contribute to the data required for conservation and management. It was based in the Inner Hebrides and concerned harbour porpoise distributions and densities. She has conducted marine mammal based field work in Honduras, Central America; Plettenberg Bay, South Africa; Florida, USA and in Cardigan Bay, Wales which is her native country.

Nienke Van Geel

Biodiversity Consultant

Nienke van Geel worked for the Trust in 2009 and 2010 as Biodiversity Officer. She is a marine mammal scientist, especially interested in species’ distributions and habitat preferences. She has a M.Sc. (Honours) in Natural Resources Management from Utrecht University (Netherlands), performing her final Masters thesis on whales and dolphins of the Azores in relation to water depth and slope gradient. Before joining HWDT, she worked on IFAW’s RV Song of the Whale on acoustic detections of beaked whales. Currently she is doing a PhD with SAMS on bottlenose dolphin movement patterns in relation to marine renewables and remains working for HWDT as a research consultant.

Susannah Calderan

Susannah Calderan

Biodiversity Consultant

Susannah Calderan is a marine mammal scientist, with a particular interest in cetacean ecology. Having graduated from the University of Wales, Bangor, with an MSc in Marine Mammal Science, she worked on visual and acoustic surveys around the British Isles, including for offshore windfarm sites, before joining HWDT in 2006. She ran the field research onboard Silurian for three years, and now works as a research
consultant for HWDT.

Laura Mandleberg

Sightings Consultant

Laura worked as Sightings Officer with HWDT between 2005 and 2009. She was also the principal photo-identification researcher, maintaining the Trust's catalogues for minke whales, killer whales, bottlenose and Risso's dolphins.

She is an MSc Marine Biology graduate from Aberdeen University and has worked on projects in France and Greece before moving to the Hebrides.

Laura is currently available as a research consultant.