Chris Wood, who recently retired after 13 years as National Seasearch Co-ordinator, has been awarded the David Robertson Adult Award for services to marine and coastal wildlife at the National Biodiversity Network (NBN) 2016 UK awards in Edinburgh.
Seasearch is the UK-wide volunteer diver programme co-ordinated by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS). Appointed to the role in 2003, Plymouth-based Wood was expected to promote and standardise diver training, and to co-ordinate survey work and data-management of a growing network of Seasearch divers.
In the post until this September, Wood oversaw almost 20,000 Seasearch volunteer dive surveys, resulting in 505,000 species and 59,000 habitat records being provided to the NBN and hence the public, says the MCS.
Many of the records have been used to inform Marine Protected Area (MPA) site-selection and management, while others have been of species new or rarely recorded in UK waters. Since 2003, more than 800 divers have become Seasearch-qualified.
Wood, author of Guide to UK Marine Life and Guide to Anemones & Corals, remains an active Seasearch volunteer. “I’ve been fascinated by the underwater world ever since I stuck my head under it with a mask and snorkel in the Channel Islands as a 10-year-old,” he says.
“What’s so special about UK diving is the diversity. You can move from coldwater Actic species in deep Scottish sea lochs to the southerly species in the relatively balmy south-west of England. Over the last 30 years I’ve dived almost exclusively with Seasearch, which includes many people with both a fascination for marine life and unparalleled ‘in situ’ identification skills.”
Jean-Luc Solandt, MCS Principle Specialist MPAs, said of Wood: “The man is amazing – a great buddy, companion, diver, photographer, author, leader and well-respected by the scientific and diving community alike.
“I like that he never enjoyed being in the office, but was always happier at sea – never could a more suitable person receive such an award.”
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