Graeme’s at helm of TWIC

Graeme Wilson wildlife centre manager with a bat detector.
Graeme Wilson wildlife centre manager with a bat detector.
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WESTRUTHER’s Graeme Wilson is the new man heading up a local wildlife records centre.

The environmentalist started managing The Wildlife Information Centre (TWIC), the biological records centre for the Lothians and Borders, last month.

He said: “I am really looking forward to my future with TWIC, continuing the great work the centre carries out, as well as developing projects that will engage a new audience to get them out looking at wildlife and reporting their sightings to us.

“The information we receive is vital to other organisations in developing new conservation projects and to make sure that planned work does not impact on important habitats or protected species.”

As manager Mr Wilson is responsible for the day-to-day running of the centre and its two full-time staff and three part-time volunteers. But he also will play a key role in its strategic development, as well as work with the volunteers recording wildlife throughout the region.

One of Graeme’s first actions was to set up a Facebook page for TWIC.

He said: “Although we want to encourage everyone to get involved we are especially keen to bring on the next generation of wildlife recorders and for that reason we launched The Wildlife Information Centre Facebook page.

“This is just one of many future planned developments but we hope it will allow us to let a younger group of people know about what we do and how they can get involved in different projects.”

The centre, a not-for-profit company with charitable status, provides data to local authorities for screening planning applications, to consultants for preparing environmental assessments, to conservation bodies for management plans and other project work, including wildlife surveys.

Mr Wilson continued: “We hope to develop new projects to increase the opportunity for people to become involved in wildlife recording. Wildlife recording benefits both the recorder and also wildlife. The recorder benefits from the enjoyment of being outdoors and also gains health benefits, both physical and mental. And wildlife benefits as the records can be used to help organisations ensure any work they have planned does not impact on protected species or habitats.

“We also hope to develop new services to offer to customers and also to expand our customer base.”

Married with two children, Mr Wilson comes to TWIC after more than five years as Midlothian Council’s biodiversity officer.

The BSc (Hons) environmental bioscience graduate started his career with the Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) as a trainee, moving in 1998 to become SWT’s Berwickshire Countryside Project supervisor before gaining promotion in 2001 to be SWT’s education and lifelong learning co-ordinator for the east of Scotland.

After a stint as site manager to an urban wildlife centre and as Paxton House’s environmental education co-ordinator in Berwickshire, Mr Wilson worked for the Scottish Borders Rural Partnership’s Rural Resource Centre before his move to Midlothian.

The Wilsons moved to the Borders in March 1998 and now live near Westruther.

A trustee of the Berwick Swan and Wildlife Trust, Mr Wilson, a keen mammalogist, helped set up the Lothan and Borders Mammal Group in the past year.

“Not surprisingly many of my hobbies are wildlife-related: I am especially interested in bats and badgers,” he said.

Mr Wilson is also a church elder and Sunday school teacher and a Westruther Parish youth group leader.

Ongoing projects at TWIC include a hedgehog survey - the animals are priority species in the UK Biodiversity Plan and TWIC is aiming to get an accurate picture of the situation locally - the first phase of habitat surveying of Borders sites and helping develop a project with the new Lothians and Borders Mammal Group.

Mr Wilson said: “We plan to work with as many organisations and individuals as possible to ensure that we have as much data as is available to ensure that the information we give out is as comprehensive as possible.”

The centre is supported by Scottish Natural Heritage.