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About RZSS

RZSS Board


George Brechin, OBE, BSc, CIHM - Chair of the Board

George joined the Board on 1 January 2012 and was appointed Vice-Chair of the Board after the 2015 AGM. He was appointed Chair of the Board after the 2020 AGM.

He retired in 2012 from the post of CEO of NHS Fife, having worked at CEO level in the NHS in Scotland for almost 20 years, including 8 years as Chair of the NHS Scotland Management Side, responsible for HR matters affecting over 100,000 people. He returned to the NHS as interim CEO of the State Hospital at Carstairs between January 2014 and March 2015.  A long-standing member of RZSS, George brings experience to the Board in the following areas: Government and Public Affairs, Finance, Risk and HR.  He has a particular interest in the challenge of balancing the provision of education and information / experience with the demands of conservation and research, and in ensuring that RZSS lives up to its Scotland-wide role. He was for seven years the President of the Zoological Society of Glasgow and the West of Scotland. He is a Board Member of Food Standards Scotland and of the Health and Safety Executive.


Dr Tom Mitchell, CA - Chair of the Audit & Risk Management Committee and Board Member

Tom is a Chartered Accountant who specialises in Corporate Governance and Risk in the regulated organisations.  Tom brings the commercial experience and international perspective he has gained over the past 20 years working in finance, governance and operational roles in Central & Eastern Europe and Asia with KPMG, PWC, Bank of Bermuda and Bank of Scotland.  Coming from a science background, Tom's interests lie in the interaction between plant and animal communities.  He is married and lives in Edinburgh with his wife and two children.


Sandy Batho, MA, FCIPD - Chair of the Nominations & Remuneration Committee and Board Member

Sandy has had a career in HR and has worked at a very senior level in some significant organisations including Babcock International, Royal Mail, TransAmerica, SAPPI and Esso UK.  He was also Director of HR and Change for the National Trust for Scotland, working with another large charity with a significant member base and a large team of volunteers.  Sandy has a keen interest in conservation, has a passion for ornithology and has been a supporter of Edinburgh Zoo since childhood.


Kerry Falconer, MBA, FIOBS - Chair of the Business Advisory Committee and Board Member

Kerry retired in 2015 from The Royal Bank of Scotland Group after 38 years service in a number of areas including Financial Markets, Retail Banking and Group Office. Her most recent role was Managing Director, Banking for Adam & Company a private banking arm of RBS. She graduated from Edinburgh University with an MBA and is a Fellow of the Institute of Bankers. She was, until recently, a Vice President of the Institute of Bankers where she also chaired the Audit Committee. She has been involved with RZSS for 5 years as a Trustee and also chairs the Business Advisory Group. Married to Graham, she lives in Edinburgh.

Kerry joined RZSS board in August 2014


Peter Budd  -  Board Member

Peter Budd is a Director of Ove Arup & Partners Ltd.  Peter graduated from Dundee University in 1971 with Honours in Civil Engineering and pursued a career with Arup designing and supervising construction of civil engineering, structural and multi-disciplinary projects in the UK and overseas.  His experience includes tours of duty with Arup in East Asia, USA, the Middle East and Central Africa.  He participated actively in Manchester's activities in the run up to and during the Commonwealth Games in 2002 and was Chairman of the Commonwealth Games Business Club Initiative.  His affiliations currently include - Chair, Airports Advisory Council, UKTI; Member, University Court, University of Edinburgh.  Peter is married and lives in Fife.


John Fitzgerald BSc FCIPD - Board Member

John is a Human Resources professional with a long-standing interest in wildlife and conservation. John graduated from University College Dublin with a first class BSc Honours degree in Zoology, followed by five years’ post-graduate research study into fish physiology at Dunstaffnage Marine Laboratory. John has spent more than twenty years working in the Financial Services sector. He spent 13 years with AEGON in a variety of departments, starting in Corporate Pensions before moving into Human Resources. During this time he completed his CIPD post-graduate qualification in HR. John is currently Head of Operational Reward at Standard Life Aberdeen, where he manages pay, bonus and incentive arrangements for over 6,000 employees. He has been a member of the RZSS since 2003. He lives in Edinburgh and is a frequent visitor, with his wife, to both Edinburgh Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park.


Prof. Roger Wheater, OBE, D.Univ, C.BIOL, FRSB, FRSGS, FRZSS, FRSE - Board Member

Roger was the Director of Uganda National Parks prior to his appointment as CEO to RZSS in 1972 a post that he held for 26 years until his retirement. During this period and during his retirement he has chaired a wide range of organisations including the World Zoo Organisation, the European Association of Zoo's and Aquaria and the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquaria. He was also a Board Member and Deputy Chairman of Scottish Natural Heritage, Chairman of the National Trust for Scotland and President of the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Association of British Wild Animal Keepers.


Dr Karen Blackport, PhD MBA - Board Member

Dr Karen Blackport is an experienced scientist and businesswoman, with over 20 years of experience in the international life sciences industry, gained from senior roles within private and public organisations in the UK and Australia, including Kyowa Kirin International and the University of Queensland, Brisbane. Karen has recently refocused on environmental sustainability and conservation, establishing an environmental consultancy business, which aims to engage with and support individuals and organisations in reconnecting with the importance of biodiversity and the environment.

Karen is a prior member of the Government's Scottish Science Advisory Council and is a co-founder of Alfacyte Limited (now ILC Therapeutics). She is educated to PhD level (Glasgow: Biochemistry), has an MBA from the University of Edinburgh and is currently studying for a MSc in Biodiversity, Wildlife and Ecosystem Health at the University of Edinburgh.

Karen has been involved with RZSS in some capacity for most of her life, from conducting research into environmental enrichment in Diana monkeys at Edinburgh Zoo as a student, a volunteer and has been a Trustee since 2014.

Karen lives near Earlston in the Scottish Borders with her husband Jamie and their two children.


Prof. Alan Miller, BSc, PhD, CPhys, FRSE, FInstP, FIEEE, FOSA  - Board Member

Alan, born in Dunfermline, is a graduate of Edinburgh and Bath Universities. Following a career in teaching and research in a number of internationally leading research centres in the UK and USA (Texas and Florida), he held appointments as Vice Principal at St Andrews (2003-2008) and Deputy Principal at Heriot-Watt University (2009-2014). He was a member of the Scottish Funding Council Research and Knowledge Exchange Committee (2003-2010). He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), Institute of Physics (UK), Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (USA) and the Optical Society of America (USA), and served on RSE Council as Fellowship Secretary (2011-14).

He has enjoyed regular visits to Edinburgh Zoo since childhood, subsequently with his children, and now with his grandchildren, and played a role in the creation of Living Links while in St Andrews. Now as Emeritus Professor he organises leadership programmes and promotes public engagement of science in initiatives that foster innovative collaborations across all disciplines and between diverse organisations including RZSS. Since May 2015 he was appointed CEO and Graduate School Director of the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance (SUPA), a strategic partnership between 8 Scottish universities.


Professor Mary Bownes, BSc D.Phil OBE FRSE FRES FRSB - Board Member

Mary is Emerita Professor of Developmental Biology at the University of Edinburgh. She has taught genetics, molecular biology and developmental biology at all levels and has supervised 29 PhD students. She was Head of the Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology at the University prior to moving into Vice Principal roles eventually becoming Senior Vice Principal with a wide range of strategic responsibilities. Mary is a trustee of the National Museums of Scotland and a programme convener of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Over her career she has been on numerous committees including chairing a BBSRC strategy panel, a widening access group with SFC and chairing the Young People’s Committee at the Royal Society of Edinburgh. She has completed terms on the Boards of Scottish Association for Marine Science and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

She established and was Director of the Scottish Initiative for Biotechnology Education until 2018 and established and led the Edinburgh Beltane, a public engagement initiative on behalf of all the Universities in Edinburgh which encourages researchers to engage with the public and policy makers until 2017.

Mary was convenor of the Directors of Graduate Schools for Universitas 21, and a member of the graduate group for the League of European Research Universities (LERU) which provides policy advice about developing research students in research intensive universities to the European Union. She most recently focused on setting up strategic partnerships with public facing institutions across the city.


Deborah. J. Long Ph.D. B.A. (Hons). FRSGS - Board Member

Deborah is Head of Plantlife in Scotland and has been with the charity for 12 years. In this time, she has built up the Plantlife Scotland team, a strong reputation with policy makers, partners and wider public audiences and promoted the beauty, value and distinctiveness of Scottish nature. Deborah chairs Scottish Government’s Biodiversity Habitats and Species Group, Plant Link Scotland and Garden for Life Forum. She is a member of BBC Scotland’s Rural Affairs & Agriculture Advisory Committee and a member of Perth & Argyll Regional Forestry Forum.

As a Palaeoecologist, her outlook is based in a detailed understanding of ecological relationships that have developed over millennia and are deeply influenced by human activities. It is her expertise in plant ecology and vegetation history that underpins her contributions to ongoing developments in ecosystem and habitat conservation. She interprets ecology for a wide range of audiences through different media from print to radio, TV and lectures. She lives in Perthshire.


Dr Karen MacEachern, BSc, BVMS, PhD, Cert  EM (Int Med), MRCVS - Board Member

Karen is a veterinary surgeon and academic with a longstanding interest in wildlife management and conservation. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Towson University, Maryland; a Bachelor’s degree in Veterinary Medicine and Surgery and a PhD in Veterinary Pharmacology from the University of Glasgow. Karen worked in the University of Liverpool Philip Leverhulme Equine Hospital as a lecturer for three years before moving back to Glasgow to take up a position at the Weipers Centre Equine Hospital at the university and worked as a racecourse vet for 15 years. She runs the highly successful Outreach Programme at the University of Glasgow School of Veterinary Medicine. Karen is the Programme Director of the University of Glasgow’s Masters in Wildlife and Livestock Management and course leader of several courses in wildlife management and conservation. She leads wildlife field exercises for students in Scotland and Sub-Saharan Africa, where she has research interests in rhino and lion genetics and effects of poisoning in vultures. Karen is also a STEM Ambassador for the university and the Biodiversity Officer for the veterinary school. She is a member of several gender and equality groups within the university and runs health and wellbeing activities for undergraduate and post graduate students. Karen lives with her husband and son in Glasgow.


Dr Richard Rutnagur – BA (Oxon), PhD. (Glasgow) - Board Member

Richard was co-opted onto the Board in December 2017, having previously served on the Business Advisory Committee for RZSS since 2015. With a commercial background of over 30 years, he has worked across manufacturing and professional services both UK and overseas, including a 20 career at professional services firm, KPMG. A zoologist by academic background, Richard completed his undergraduate degree at New College, Oxford under Professor Richard Dawkins before completing a PhD. in the field of evolutionary biology with Professor Michael Hansell at Glasgow University. As a postgraduate, Richard led a 30-person expedition from Glasgow Univ. to undertake a series of conservation projects on behalf of the Ministry of Forestry and Agriculture in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. A lifelong passion for natural history and conservation and a keen SCUBA diver, Richard brings a combination of scientific understanding and commercial acumen to the RZSS Board.