Episode 123: MPA Management Plans with Amie Williams, David Stevenson and PJ Maguire

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A Marine Protected Area (MPA) designation is one of the most potent tools for protecting a wide range of marine habitats. A layman interested in marine conservation might think that an MPA would be completely excluded from any activities, either commercial or recreational. The reality is much more complex and, depending on what any given MPA is set to protect, a variety of activities can take place inside its boundaries. That’s why developing MPA management plans based on scientific evidence, as well as feedback from local communities, is critically important.

To discuss this important part of the MarPAMM project our guests today are Amie Williams, Project Officer at Argyll MPA Planning & Data at Scottish Natural Heritage, Dr David Stevenson, MPA Management Policy Officer for Northern Ireland and PJ Maguire, MPA Management Policy Officer for Ireland.
If you’re interested in this topic I would encourage you to check out other episodes of my podcast where we discuss various work packages of the MarPAMM project which is supported by the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme.

Episode 122: Eco Defense Group with Nathan Edmondson

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Once again I had the pleasure to talk with Nathan Edmondson, co-founder and President of Eco Defense Group, an organization that supports frontline wildlife rangers who face danger from direct conflict with poachers. In the episode, we get an update from Nathan about the latest situation in Africa and the state of affairs in wildlife conservation and poaching prevention.

Eco Defense Group doesn’t engage poachers directly but rather acts as a support, training and consultancy organization for anti-poaching operations. Its focus is on developing solutions to the problems identified while working in close cooperation with local communities.

For funding and logistical help they rely on the support of their partners as well as donations. It is important to note that, unlike some environmental organizations, Eco Defense Group, to use Nathan’s words, “is fundraising for solutions, not for problems”.
If you’re interested in the ongoing battle against poachers and wildlife traffickers I’m sure you will enjoy our conversation. And if you want to donate to the cause you can do it by clicking here.

Episode 121: Cries of the Savanna with Sue Tidwell

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In this episode, once again, we’re going to take on the subject of hunting in Africa. Our guest is Sue Tidwell, the author of a wonderful book titled “Cries of the Savanna” that I reviewed in last week’s blog post. And since I really liked the book I was itching for the opportunity to talk with Sue.

We chat about a number of things. Why Sue decided to write and publish her first book. (Yes, as impressive as it is, it was Sue’s first publication even though she had always been, in her own words, a hobby writer.) We also discuss how she researched and marketed the book. Something that, as you can imagine, was a completely new experience for a hobby writer.

However, the bulk of our conversation focuses on stories from the book and the experience of a remote encampment deep in the Tanzanian bush. Sue shares how these events changed her perception of many important issues such as poaching and land management.

Do yourself a favour and buy “Cries of the Savanna” using the link below. And remember, buying books (or any other items) through the links provided here is the best way to support my work on Tommy’s Outdoors podcast.


Waking to her husband’s alarmed whisper, “Honey, get ready to run” was never in Sue Tidwell’s vision of Africa. Nor was skulking through snake-infested terrain or lying terror-stricken as the cries of lions and hyenas cut through the walls of her tent. Tidwell, a non-hunter deeply troubled by the concept of hunting Africa’s iconic wildlife, finds herself a reluctant sidekick on an epic 21-day big game hunting safari deep in the wilds of Tanzania

Tommy’s Outdoors is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk

Episode 120: Seabed Habitat Mapping with Alex Callaway, Chris McGonigle, Andy Wheeler and Ger Summers

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Once again I have the pleasure to host scientists from the MarPAMM project. This time we discuss the Seabed Habitat Mapping and Modelling work package. Our guests are Dr Alex Callaway from the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (who was our guest on episode 104), Dr Chris McGonigle from the School of Geography and Environmental Sciences, Professor Andy Wheeler, Chair of Geology, from the School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences at University College Cork and Ger Summers also from the from University College Cork who is a PhD researcher in the MarPAMM project.

In our conversation, we discuss the importance of seabed mapping with a particular focus on so-called “species of interest”. We explore novel technologies and techniques that are being applied, such as autonomous underwater robots used for gathering data and the artificial intelligence models used for analysing it. We finish with my guests expressing their general views about the future of the oceans and our planet.

To learn more about the MarPAMM project visit their website or follow their Twitter feed.

MarPAMM is an INTERREG VA funded project.

Episode 115: Coexisting with Large Carnivores with John Linnell

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Large terrestrial carnivores, like wolves, bears and lynx, are the poster children for conservation and rewilding efforts. Also, they are usually right in the epicentre of the human-wildlife conflict which always sparks emotions. That makes it easy to use them to politicize conservation.

In many previous podcasts, our discussions about rewilding inevitably led us to talk about the issues surrounding large carnivores. But this episode is solely dedicated to our coexistence with these predators. And that’s because today’s guest is Dr John Linnell, who conducts interdisciplinary research on the interactions between humans and wildlife to mitigate conflict.

John works as a senior scientist at the Department of Terrestrial Ecology at the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research and as a professor at the Department of Forestry and Wildlife Management at the Inland Norway University of Applied Science.

Episode 113: Coastal Processes with Melanie ​​Biausque and Edoardo Grottoli

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If you are a sea angler or just like to walk your dog on the beach, you might have noticed how the coastline changes from year to year. Some of us who have frequented the same spots for years might even have noticed changes that have occurred over a greater time span. Sometimes up to decades.

Whether it is a channel in the sand that deepens each year after the winter storms or a soft sandy beach that becomes increasingly stony, these changes are driven by coastal processes. Understanding these might be important for angling and recreation. But it’s even more important for understanding the economic impact on, or even the very survival of, coastal communities.

To discuss this interesting and important topic I have welcomed two scientists from project MarPAMM which we introduced in episode 104. We had a fun and thought-provoking conversation from which you will learn about their work and the importance of coastal processes.

The Implausible Rewilding of the Pyrenees by Steve Cracknell – A Book Review

I have followed Steve Cracknell’s work for some time and so, as soon as I learned that he was going to publish a new book, I began to wait for the release date. Without exaggeration, I can say that for me it was the most anticipated book of the year. And when I finally got it in my hands, it not only lived up to but exceeded my expectations!

(I obviously couldn’t pass up the opportunity to talk with Steve on my podcast. You can listen to our conversation here.)

The first thing you notice when you hold the book is that it’s heavy! From the high-quality chalk paper, beautifully reproduced photos and careful typesetting to the deliberate font typeface selection, the quality is absolutely top-notch. No detail was left unattended. It is easily the best put-together book I’ve had in my hands for over a decade! As a result, its photos in online bookstores don’t do it justice. Yes, it’s more expensive than your average book, but it’s worth every penny. And now, let’s talk about the content.

As the title suggests, the book is about rewilding. In the late 90s, a rewilding program in the Pyrenees started with the release of a brown bear named Pyros. Over the coming years, more bears were introduced from Slovakia. Predictably, this sparked an ongoing conflict. On the one side, are the anti-bear organizations that consist mainly of shepherds who are sustaining losses to their flocks. On the other side are the environmentalists and the government who are pushing for further rewilding.

One could mistakenly think that this conflict is black and white and without nuance. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are farmers and shepherds who are willing to accept their losses and members of non-farming communities who are not particularly fond of sharing the landscape with large carnivores. And so, Steve’s book takes us into the middle of the conflict through the author’s first-hand experiences, engaging interviews and historical outlines. All that against the background of the beautiful mountain landscapes and culture-rich scenery of rural France.

However, most importantly the book remains balanced and unbiased. And although the author admits that being completely objective is nearly impossible, he goes to great lengths to give all sides a fair opportunity to express their views. So in the end, the book leaves the reader with beautiful pictures in his head and substantial amounts of food for thought.

When I finished the book I felt a sense of loss because I wanted to keep on reading. That’s how I can tell a great book. Whether you are stoked about the rewilding movement or you’re one of its fierce opponents, I would recommend it without any hesitation. Go and buy it now!


The return of large predators might help to reinvigorate nature. But are wild animals like wolves and bears compatible with livestock farming? Will their arrival destroy mountain communities? Unable to decide on the issues, Steve Cracknell climbs up to the isolated summer pastures of the Pyrenees to talk with those most concerned: the shepherds. He also meets hunters and ecologists – and goes looking for bears…

Tommy’s Outdoors is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk

Episode 111: Shepherds of Wildlife with Tom Opre

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Recently I’ve noticed, and sometimes participated, in discussions about the fact that wildlife conservation can never be successful if the needs of local, indigenous peoples are not taken care of first. It becomes especially apparent when Western environmental NGOs move into Africa with poorly designed conservation programs. On my podcast we’ve also pointed out that hunting can provide an excellent alternative conservation approach that equally benefits both locals and wildlife.

Today, I am absolutely delighted to bring you my conversation with Tom (TA) Opre, a film director, cinematographer, television producer, conservationist and the founder of “Shepherds of Wildlife Society.” We discuss his latest critically acclaimed (20 major film festival awards) feature film “Killing the Shepherd.” In it, Tom presents the incredible story of the Soli people living in Shikabeta in Zambia. The film paints a breathtaking and deeply moving story of the fight against poverty and how rebuilding the wildlife population plays a key role.

In our conversation, you will not only hear some backstories about the film but also how making it triggered a chain of positive events that further supports the cause. I highly recommend listening to this podcast. And of course go buy a ticket and watch the film!

Episode 110: StreamScapes with Mark Boyden

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In this episode, once again, we’re going to talk about environmental education. Our guest is Mark Boyden, one of the founders of the Coomhola Salmon Trust. Mark was involved in producing native salmon stocking projects for rivers in the Irish South-West and in the efforts to reintroduce salmon to the great River Rhine. He also participated in successful captive freshwater pearl mussel breeding research. Out of these programs, a biodiversity community engagement project called StreamScapes was born.

My conversation with Mark made me rethink some of my opinions on community engagement and the patterns of communication so often seen among environmentalists. Mark presented a really fresh approach and if you are in any way interested in conservation you should definitely listen to our conversation. I appreciate that you might not agree with everything we say but it is important to recognize that we need a variety of approaches to reach our goal of educating people about the importance of the natural environment and the need to protect it.

Episode 108: Communicating about Nature with Lucy McRobert

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Communication is by far the most important, yet most difficult, factor in any undertaking. Whether managing a business project with many stakeholders or leading a team to accomplish a goal, excellent communication is the key to success. It is no different in the world of conservation and nature-related endeavours. Anyone who has tried to communicate the benefits of hunting for conservation to uninformed people, with a distaste for killing animals, knows what I’m talking about! The complex and highly emotional world of social media doesn’t make communication any easier. But one thing is certain, if we want to find solutions to the problems faced by the natural world we need to communicate with each other to understand our visions, needs and concerns.

It is therefore my pleasure to bring you my conversation with a communications professional and wildlife storyteller Lucy McRobert. Lucy has worked on many campaigns for various environmental organizations and has a deep understanding of issues we might come across while discussing wildlife projects or the natural environment. Along with those topics, in our chat, she also shares with us some secrets of how social media works, including how to use it most effectively for communication while maintaining our own mental health and not playing into the hands of Internet trolls. You will also learn that you might be rejected for a job you wanted because of who followed you on social media! Yes, I know, it’s crazy!

I am sure that you will learn a lot from this episode and that you will improve the quality of your communication as well as gain new social media skills.