I’ve been working in technology for a good few years, and started out making websites way back in the mid-nineties when the internet was (for me) just a nifty way to download guitar chords and recipes. After an inspiring year in Australia several years ago, I became passionate about the natural world, and wanted to work more directly with protecting biodiversity and the environment. Working as the Head of IT on the ARKive project is a great mix of technology, science and creativity, and a constant source of inspiration for my wildlife photography hobby.
What are you currently working on?
I’ve been working on a European project (see http://sterna.arkive.org/), bringing together diverse content on birds and exploring ways to add semantic links and create search interfaces. I’ve just helped launch our new Facebook campaign, and we’ve also been working on some great new features for the ARKive website. Watch this space!
What animal skill would you most like to have?
I expect it’s a common answer, but I think moving in three dimensions must be nice. Whether that’s via flight or swimming I don’t mind. Also – maybe it’s not really a skill, but living without conscious thought sounds pretty amazing, and animals are always being described in that way. Just imagine that.
Which three people would you invite to the ultimate dinner party?
A great scientist and a great artist. Finding common ground over a slap-up feast I hope. So let’s say Isaac Newton and Frédéric Chopin, and of course Roger Phillips, whose field guides, websites and other books I still find the most useful. Maybe he can help me forage the right species for the menu as well!
Where in the world would you most like to go?
I have a weakness for islands. They’re all so unique and often overlooked, and you can never run out of islands to visit. So in no particular order, I’d love to visit the Galapagos Islands, Socotra Island, Christmas Island and closer to home, the Isle of Man.
Which celebrity do you most look like?
No idea. Well, being unable to answer this myself, I thought I’d use an ‘image recognition service’ website, which claims to match up your feature set with that of a celebrity. And er… apparently I look like David Soul! I have to say I’m not really aware of his work…
What do you think the next big technological development will be?
It’s hard to say. Personalised digital experiences will make it easier for more people to live in a blinkered way seeing only what they have chosen to see. But with every change comes opposition, and the most interesting things always happen at boundaries. I love the way sometimes the best technologies don’t make it and sometimes the most unexpected ones take hold. Ideas are no longer limited by technology, and I think we’ll see more user-centric innovation of existing technologies, which have so much more potential.
What’s the best wildlife encounter you’ve ever had?
The unexpected ones are the best, like finding a flock of roosting starlings on the M6, or the mud-skippers on Pulau ubin, Singapore. I highly rate the 100% guaranteed (I went two days running) humpback whale experience in Boston harbour.
Maybe what generated the most enthusiasm for me was the sheer numbers and varieties of mushrooms I saw in Slovenian forests in the Autumn of 2009. Finding my first Cep (Boletus edulis) was a pivotal moment!
What’s your favourite thing on ARKive?
That’s a good question. Every time I look I see something new. Old favourites make me smile like the ‘panda falling out of a tree’ and the ‘hidden Bengal tiger’ (seriously, where is it??), and I’m fascinated by what we have preserved of species now extinct, and think it’s amazing that we have footage and images for the quagga, the thylacine and the Laysan crake.
Tell us an animal related joke.
Why did the algae and and the fungus get married?
They took a lichen to each other.