Pioneering marine scientist named Outstanding Woman of Scotland

Pioneering marine scientist named Outstanding Woman of Scotland

A distinguished scientist, who has carried out pioneering research into the role of seabirds in marine ecosystems for the past 40 years, has been named as one of the 2018 Outstanding Women of Scotland.

Professor Sarah Wanless – a Fellow of the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) which is funded by UK Research and Innovation’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) – was named as one of the Saltire Society’s 10 Outstanding Women of Scotland 2018.

She joins a list including JK Rowling, Nicola Sturgeon and Annie Lennox – winners in previous years.

The society recognises women from the fields of science, arts, culture, politics and activism, describing Professor Wanless as a “highly regarded scientist with international recognition whose work has been essential to the conservation of marine ecosystems”.

As part of her work with CEH, Professor Wanless investigates the impacts of climate change and other human-driven factors, such as fishing, pollution and more recently offshore wind farms, on marine ecosystem structure and function.

Professor Wanless said: “I am honoured and overwhelmed to receive this accolade.

“There has been an amazing transformation in the prominence of women in science since I started my career in the 1970s. Then, women were in the minority in terms of speakers at conferences but that is no longer the case, due to more women coming into marine ecology and they have greater confidence.”

She added she had been delighted by the success of female marine ecologists in recent years, including her former PhD students, but stressed that she hoped both men and women would take an interest in marine ecology.

Although Professor Wanless retired in 2016, she is still an active researcher for CEH, carrying out seabird observations all-year round, contributing to papers and supervising PhD students.

The ten honorary women were announced at a special event in Glasgow and also include the UK’s youngest MP Mhairi Black, actor Maureen Beattie, who is president of the actors’ union Equity and a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Histories Ensemble, and Chief Executive of Community Justice Scotland Karen McCluskey.

Find out more about CEH and NERC.