Lancaster Ecologist takes top award

24 August 2018 01:01
Dr Emma Sayer showcases her research at Glastonbury Festival. The photo on the right shows her engaging with Cat Smith MP.
Dr Emma Sayer showcases her research at Glastonbury Festival. The photo on the right shows her engaging with Cat Smith MP.

An outstanding researcher who brought ‘Sex & Bugs & Rock ‘n Roll’ to the festival masses in her free time has been honoured by the British Ecological Society.

Dr Emma Sayer of Lancaster University Environment Centre was one of eight distinguished ecologists selected by The British Ecological Society (BES) as winners of their annual awards and prizes.

These awards recognise those whose work has benefited the scientific community and society in general.

Dr Sayer was awarded the BES Award, which is made in recognition of exceptional voluntary service to the Society and its community.

Dr Sayer, who has held a number of honorary roles and editorial posts at the BES, was one of the scientists who dreamed up the ‘bugs’ road show as part of a mission to bring science to the community. 

Volunteers from Lancaster and other Universities took a stall to UK music festivals where, accompanied by bees, dung beetles, worms and ladybirds, they set up shop to share their fascination for ecology with festival-goers

She said: “The award is obviously an honour. My first reaction was that I wanted to cry! I get involved in all kinds of things - not because I want or expect recognition, but rather because I think they’re great things to do. So it’s pretty amazing to feel appreciated and to realise that my hard work has been noticed.”

Dr Sayer, moved back to the UK in 2009 after growing up abroad and then spent a further seven years in the tropics. For her, becoming a member of the BES was a way to become part of the UK ecological community and to meet more people in her subject area.

“Being part of that community demonstrated to me that the society is doing a great job in serving its members. And I wanted to give something back.”

Some of her recent work for the BES included instigating ‘Sex & Bugs & Rock ‘n Roll’ to celebrate the Centenary of the BES in 2013. This has since seen over 20,000 members of the public exploring interactive ecology displays at music festivals and other events around the UK.

She also brought the BES and N8 universities together to create a science stall at the BBC Good Food Show this year.

Professor Richard Bardgett, President of the British Ecological Society, said: “Our annual awards honour exceptional ecologists across all career stages, recognising their contributions to advancing and communicating ecological knowledge. I would like to congratulate all winners for their impressive accomplishments.”

The winners will be presented with their prizes during a ceremony held at the Society’s annual conference in December, which will bring together 1,200 ecologists from around 60 countries to discuss the latest advances in ecological research across the whole discipline.

Professor Dame Sue Black, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Engagement at Lancaster University, said: “Emma’s passion for Ecology shines through and her enthusiasm for her subject is utterly infectious. Thanks to her and her colleagues’ creativity and commitment, thousands of people have learned something new and unforgettable about science.”

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