Sustainable Earth 2016: Biographies

Wendy Darke, Founder of True to Nature Limited (former Head, BBC Natural History Unit (NHU))

Up until June 2016, Wendy was Head of the BBC NHU, responsible for editorial governance for all output and the delivery of around 600 hours of natural history content over a four year tenure. Successes include Landmarks, Africa, Life Story, BAFTA-winning Big Blue Live, and Attenborough's Giant Dinosaurs (2016). Wendy recently set up True to Nature Ltd, a Bristol based Independent Production Company specialising in innovative natural history production. She has an honours degree in geology and zoology from University of Bristol and a PhD in Marine Sciences from James Cooke University of North Queensland. In 2015 she was awarded honorary degrees of Doctor of Science from University of Bristol and Doctor of Arts from University of the West of England. This year she was awarded the RGS, Cherry Kearton Medal and award for cinematography of the natural world.

Anthony Hobley, CEO, Carbon Tracker

Anthony has been Chief Executive Officer of the Carbon Tracker Initiative since February 2014. Previously he was a partner and Global Head of the Sustainability & Climate Finance Practice at global law firm Norton Rose Fulbright. Formerly he was General Counsel to the Climate Change Capital Carbon Fund and Director of Legal Policy for Climate Change Capital which he joined in September 2005.

Anthony specialised in climate change and clean energy law as well as UK, EU and international environmental law. He has played a key role in helping to design the UKs pilot emissions trading scheme and in developing key aspects of the EU ETS.

Dr Lyndsey Withers, Devonport Lifehouse, Salvation Army

Since 2009, Lyndsey Withers has been involved in voluntary activities at Devonport Lifehouse, the Salvation Army homeless centre, supporting health improvement and teaching cooking, gardening and functional skills. She is involved in a number of collaborative activities with Plymouth University, including placements for medical, dental and occupational therapy students, and research on nutrition, motivation and social engagement. Lyndsey's own research background is in agricultural science. She worked at the Universities of Nottingham and Leicester until 1988, when she joined Bioversity International in Rome to design and oversee crop genetic conservation projects and training programmes for developing countries, later serving as Assistant Director General of the institute. From 2005 - 2011, she worked as a science writer in Italy and the UK.

Lyndsey Withers (left) presenting with Clare Pettinger at Cracking Earth 2015

Alistair Macpherson, Plymouth Energy Community

Alistair is Chief Executive for Plymouth Energy Community (PEC), a multi award winning social enterprise aiming to transform how local residents can buy, use and generate energy. Since 2013 he has led the development of PEC from a council initiative, into a big thinking multifaceted venture delivering targeted support to the fuel poor, and community owned alternatives to fossil fuels. 

With a degree in geography from Plymouth University, Alistair has a background in biodiversity and sustainable development projects for local authorities and third sector organisations in the UK and overseas. He currently also manages the Low Carbon City Team at Plymouth City Council.

Matt Healey, Fisheries Officer, Westcountry Rivers Trust

Matt is the land and fisheries project officer at the Westcountry Rivers Trust and has experience of surveying intertidal and estuarine habitats and freshwater habitats on a catchment scale. He also has experience in GIS mapping and management of catchment restoration projects for purposes of fisheries improvements.

Matt is currently working on the second round of the South West Water funded 'Upstream Thinking' project as support officer on the River Fowey which involves reducing pesticides into the watercourse. As well as this, he is also managing a five year gravel augmentation project on the River Avon, South Devon to monitor the hydrology, geomorphology and ecological impacts of the Avon dam on the river.

Matt Harvey, Writer and Poet

Writer, poet, enemy of all that’s difficult and upsetting, Matt’s way with words has taken him from Totnes to the Wimbledon Tennis Championships via Saturday Live, the Edinburgh Festival and the Work section of the Guardian. He is host of Radio 4’s Wondermentalist Cabaret, creator of Empath Man, and author of The Hole in the Sum of my Parts, Where Earwigs Dare and Mindless Body Spineless Mind. Described by The Independent as “Very funny…” by The Guardian as “…not only funny, but tender and true” and by the Cheddar Gazette as “worthy of the West End”. For children he has written Shopping With Dad illustrated by Miriam Latimer, and Beastie and the Boys, illustrated by Chloe Uden. His most recent book is The Element in the Room, poems inspired by renewable energy, written when Poet in Residence for RegenSW.

The Q-dettes

The Q-dettes are a four-piece group of singers performing arresting arrangements of familiar songs: sometimes poignant, sometimes swinging, sometimes funky. Members include Bernardine Artuso, Clare Pettinger, Kate Blackwell and Katie Tokus. Bernardine is the Musical Director of The Q-dettes, with a background in composition, film-scoring and community choir leading. The group describe themselves as having “soulful feminine vocal power”.


Craig Bennett, CEO, Friends of the Earth

Craig Bennett is Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Friends of the Earth and has been described as “one of the country’s top environmental campaigners”. 

Since 2010, Craig led Friends of the Earth’s campaign work as Director of Policy and Campaigns. Under Craig’s campaign leadership, Friends of the Earth achieved a number of notable successes such as securing political commitments to introduce a decarbonisation target for the power sector in 2016, stopping fracking, and securing a National Pollinator Strategy to reverse the decline of bee populations.

Prior to this role at Friends of the Earth, he was Deputy Director at the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, and Director of the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change. 

He is a Policy Fellow at the University of Cambridge, and lectures at several other universities and business schools.

Dr Matthew Fox, Architect and Owner, Thermal Imaging IR

Matthew is partner at Thermal Imaging IR. Established in 2015, Thermal Imaging IR are a professional team of thermographers providing comprehensive thermal imaging surveys on new and existing buildings. Matthew has a PhD from Plymouth University, where he investigated three very different passive building thermography methodologies (walk-past, walk-through and time-lapse) to examine their success at defect detection and characterisation. He is a registered architect and has worked on several low energy, ecological building projects including the completion of a PassivHaus dwelling in Scotland.

Professor Kristín Vala Ragnarsdóttir, University of Iceland

Professor Kristín Vala Ragnarsdóttir is a Professor of Sustainability Science at the Sæmundur frodi Institute for Sustainable Development and the Institute of Earth Sciences at the University of Iceland. She was the Dean of Engineering and Natural Sciences at the University of Iceland from 2008-2012. Prior to moving to Iceland she was a Professor of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Bristol, UK. Educated in geochemistry at the University of Iceland, Reykjavík (BSc) and at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois (MS, PhD) she changed her focus a decade ago from Earth sciences to cross-disciplinary sustainability science. Her research pertains to sustainability in its widest context including nature protection, economics, society, and wellbeing of citizens.

Paul Winterton, Managing Director, Langage Farm

Paul was born in Liverpool and obviously very passionate about Liverpool FC and was fortunate enough to be selected for the LFC schoolboy side during his teenage years. He married at the tender age of 19 and is still with his childhood sweetheart today having had three beautiful daughters and recently a grandson.

Paul moved to Devon to pursue a career in the dairy industry and became very interested in the science behind dairy products and managed to work his way from the shop floor to the position of MD via various organisations. He sat as a Board Director with Food and Drink Devon, and now sits on a Better Business For All (BBFA) Panel to input business ways of thinking to the regulatory authorities.

Paul is undertaking a cycling challenge in July 2016, London – Paris (300 miles in four days) with his wife to support a local charity Jeremiahs Journey... we wish them luck!

Sir Mark Walport, Government Chief Scientific Adviser 

Sir Mark Walport was appointed Government Chief Scientific Adviser (GCSA) and Head of the Government Office for Science in April 2013.
As GCSA Mark is co-chair of the Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology.
His previous career highlights include:

  • Director of the Wellcome Trust
  • Professor of Medicine and Head of the Division of Medicine at Imperial College London
  • member of the India-UK CEO Forum and UK-India Round Table
  • member of the advisory board of Infrastructure UK
  • non-executive member of the Office for Strategic Coordination of Health Research
Mark received a knighthood in the 2009 New Year Honours List for services to medical research and was elected a Fellow of The Royal Society in 2011.

Plymouth University speakers

Professor Judith Petts, Vice-Chancellor, Plymouth University

Professor Judith Petts was appointed Plymouth University’s Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive in February 2016. She joined Plymouth from the University of Southampton where she had been Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research and Enterprise and previously the inaugural Dean of the Faculty of Social and Human Sciences (2010-13). Prior to this she had spent 12 years at the University of Birmingham as a Head of School and finally as Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research and Knowledge Transfer (2007-10). 

Over some 30 years, her research has particularly examined the interface between science and policy-making, and the effective use of evidence in decision-making. Currently she is a member of the Council of BBSRC and of NERC’s Innovation Board. Previous appointments include as a member of the Science Advisory Council of Defra (2011-16); Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (2006-11), the Council of NERC (2000-6), of EPSRC’s Societal Issues Panel and Strategic Advisory Network, the Royal Society’s Science in Society Consultative Committee, and the Advisory Board of Veolia Environmental Services. 

She was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen’s New Year Honours, 2012, for services to Scientific Research.

Professor Iain Stewart, Director of the Sustainable Earth Institute

Iain is Professor of Geoscience Communication at Plymouth University and Director of its Sustainable Earth Institute. His long-standing research interests are in interdisciplinary investigations of geological hazards (earthquakes, volcanism, tsunamis) and abrupt environmental change, and more recently in the communication of ‘contested geoscience’ to the public. As part of his geo-communication he regularly presents Earth science programmes for BBC television, including Earth: The Power of the Planet; How Earth Made Us, How To Grow A Planet, The Rise of the Continents and, most recently, Planet Oil.

Professor Janet Richardson, Professor of Health Service Research, Plymouth University

Janet is a Professor of Health Service Research in the School of Nursing and Midwifery (Faculty of Health and Human Sciences). Her research interests include a) Evidence-informed decision-making in health care: finding, appraising and integrating evidence into decision-making and service development in health and supportive care and b) Sustainability society and health: exploring aspects of healthcare waste and behaviour-change to reduce, re-use and recycle; involving communities in mitigating and adapting to the impacts of climate change and other environmental/community factors on health and well-being.

Dr Clare Pettinger, Lecturer in Public Health Dietetics, Plymouth University

Dr Clare Pettinger is a registered dietitian and registered nutritionist (public health). She is an experienced lecturer and has a proven track record in food choice research, with developing interest in food poverty and social sustainability. Her current project ‘Food as a Lifestyle Motivator’ (FLM) has gained national acclaim as it aims to address social justice - by using creative approaches to empower marginalized communities to engage them in food activities and enhance their wellbeing. Clare frequently acts as an advocate for her two professions by offering expert consultancy and advice on food related health issues to the media and local/regional networks. Clare is also a Director of Food Plymouth CIC.

Dr Mick Hanley, Associate Professor, Biology, Plymouth University

Mick’s research career began at the University of Southampton where he completed doctoral work on seedling/herbivore interactions – which still remains central to his current research interests. Mick maintains an active interest in a diverse range of topics from limpets in the marine inter-tidal to pollinators in Mediterranean-climate shrublands. However, the general aim of his work is to show how ecosystem processes and services are influenced by man’s activities. This is reflected in his recent projects which include the effects of biofuel crops on biodiversity in the arable landscape, and the effects of sea-level rise and flooding on coastal ecosystems.

Dr Katharine Willis, Associate Professor, Architecture, Plymouth University

Katharine Willis is Associate Professor (Reader) in the School of Architecture, Design and Environment. Her recent research is in the area of ICTs and the urban condition, including critically addressing the smart city agenda. Her main area of interest is in the role of digital technologies in the built environment, with a focus on the social and spatial impacts and opportunities for marginalised communities. Recent research projects include of superfast broadband on rural communities in the South West UK and a Plymouth city project that evaluates the potential of crowdsourcing city decision making. Katharine is a trained architect, registered with ARB.

Dr Peter Downs, Associate Professor in Physical Geography, Plymouth University

Peter is a chartered fluvial geomorphologist with teaching, research and consultancy interests focused on the impacts of human activities on the dynamics of river environments and the role of geomorphology in promoting sustainable river management and restoration. Recent projects have involved research into high-resolution monitoring of coarse sediment transport in a lowland river, planning and monitoring of gravel augmentation downstream of dams, the influence of historical land and river management activities on river channel morphology, the development of spatially-explicit sediment budgets to help preserve salmon habitat, the role of baseline data in developing sustainable approaches to river restoration, and strategies for sediment management during dam removal.

Professor Steve Goodhew, Professor of Environmental Building, Plymouth University

Steve is a Professor of Environmental Building and Associate Head of School for Architecture, Design and Environment at Plymouth University. Steve is an expert in the use of thermography and its use in relation to improving the building performance of homes and commercial properties. He also works in the areas of sustainable construction materials, thermal measurements and wider issues in relation to the energy use in buildings. He is a Fellow of the RICS, CIOB and RSA and drafting member of ISO 9869 "Thermal insulation - Building elements - In-situ measurement of thermal resistance and thermal transmittance". His research interests include building science/physics, fire in buildings, sustainable construction, in-situ thermal measurements of building materials, earth buildings, and moisture monitoring.

Dr Victoria Hurth, Associate Professor in Marketing, Plymouth University

Victoria is an Associate Professor in Marketing in the Faculty of Business and Faculty Lead for Student Satisfaction. Victoria is passionate about how businesses can be catalysts and innovators of solutions to societal issues. She is currently researching the role of 'purpose-driven organisations’ in creating societal change and business success. Victoria is also focused on the role marketing has to play in developing and leading a transition to a more sustainable society – and has published a framework for evolved marketing which she is developing with practitioners. She is a regional board member for the Chartered Management Institute, a Chartered Marketer, a UK Lead Expert on Sustainable Development for ISO (Sustainable Cities and Communities) and a board member of the Fleming Policy Centre.

Professor Camille Parmesan, National Marine Aquarium Chair in Public Understanding of Marine Science and Human Health, Plymouth University

Camille's research focuses on the current impacts of climate change on wildlife, from field-based work on butterflies to synthetic analyses of global impacts on a broad range of species across terrestrial and marine biomes. She works actively with governmental agencies and NGOs to help develop conservation assessment and planning tools aimed at preserving biodiversity in the face of climate change.

Camille has been involved at national and international levels in several reports, panels and workshops operating at the interface of science, policy and conservation. Most recently, Camille was a plenary speaker at Our Common Future Under Climate Change, a pre-COP21 scientific conference sponsored by the French government and UNESCO (Paris, July 2015).

Professor Stephen Sterling, Professor of Sustainability Education, Plymouth University

Stephen is Professor of Sustainability Education, Centre for Sustainable Futures (CSF) at Plymouth University. He is chair of the University’s Sustainability Executive Group , and former Head of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). He is former Senior Advisor on ESD to the Higher Education Academy, and has worked as a consultant in environmental and sustainability education in the academic and NGO fields nationally and internationally for many years, most latterly for UNESCO. Widely published, his research interests include transformative learning, systemic thinking, organisational learning and change and sustainable lifestyles.