Palm Oil Pictures

I recently attended the Earthwatch Lecture Series to photograph an event discussing the environmental impact of palm oil production.

Earthwatch Palm Oil Lecture, RGS, London
Panel and guests inside the RGS lecture hall
Earthwatch guests disussing palm oil issues
Discussing a hot topic

Palm oil is one of the world’s mostly widely used vegetable oils, but environmental and social concerns surrounding its production make it one of the most controversial crops. Earthwatch speakers examined the challenges we face in conserving biodiversity in rapidly changing landscapes, and the role that science, citizens, and certification can play towards a sustainable future.

Glen Reynolds speaking at an Earthwatch lecure
Earthwatch scientist, Dr Glen Reynolds taking questions
Sue Holden, Earthwatch Executive Director
Sue Holden, Earthwatch Executive Director

Keynote speaker: Dr. Glen Reynolds, Earthwatch scientist and Director of the South East Asia Rainforest Research Programme (SEARRP)
Darrel Webber, Secretary General of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil
Leela Barrock, Group Head of Communications & Corporate Affairs at Sime Darby – one of the largest palm oil producers in the world

Read an Earthwatch article summarising the event and watch highlights below:


Interested in attending an Earthwatch event? This year’s annual debate will focus on the subject of reintroducing native species of wildlife – such as wolves, bear and lynx – to the UK. Rewilding the UK: Living in the Past or Preparing for the Future? will take place at the Royal Geographical Society, London on Thursday 16th October 2014 and is free to attend.


The Earthwatch Debate: Bone of Contention

Speakers for and against the legalisation of trade in endangered animal products

Is it time to reconsider a legal global trade in tiger, elephant and rhino products? That was the subject of this year’s Earthwatch Debate held on 17th October at London’s Royal Geographical Society.

An emotive subject ensured a full auditorium, with international onlookers invited to contribute via webinar. Martha Kearney, BBC broadcaster and journalist, expertly chaired the event as compelling arguments were put forward on both sides…

Mary Rice, Executive Director of the Environmental Investigation Agency, dismissed any plan to combat the poaching crisis with legalised trade. “Legalising the trade of rhino horn and elephant ivory would not stop poaching and illegal trading, and would instead increase the demand for endangered animal products,” she said. Suggestions to introduce a regulated international market were simply “academic postulating” – and in practice, would make it much harder to detect and prosecute illegal trading. By contrast, South African born research fellow, Dr. Duan Biggs said that his home has turned into a war zone between poachers and conservationists, with rhino numbers still in decline. “Anti-poaching efforts in Kruger now involve the national army and the police…the current strategy of persisting with the trade ban on rhino horn is clearly failing.”

When put to a final vote, those against considering legal trade ‘won’ – and I agree. I have been fortunate to see a single black rhino in the wilds of the Masai Mara – but was saddened by the need for armed guards protecting it’s every move. The species had been pushed to the brink of extinction by illegal poaching for horn, and remains critically endangered. I fear that any trade allowance would only increase the traffic in black-market animal products. But what do you think? – learn more by listening to the debate in full or read a summary of the event on the Earthwatch website.

Dr. Glyn Davies, WWF speaking against a proposal for the legal trade of animal parts     Martha Kearney chairing the Earthwatch Debate: Bone of Contention

Why Emotion Matters in Conservation Science

Earthwatch scientists and staff take to the stage at London's Royal Geographical Society     Dr. Wallace 'J' Nichols presents the subject of neuroconservation

It was a pleasure to meet and photograph two world-class scientists last week, at an Earthwatch lecture exploring the theme Why Emotion Matters in Conservation Science.

Earthwatch scientist Dr. Anastasia Steffen highlighted her work studying the landscape and historical use of the Valles Caldera in New Mexico.Her co-speaker Dr. Wallace ‘J’ Nichols, a marine biologist, is leading the emerging scientific field of ‘neuroconservation’.

J is investigating how natural environments could be essential for our well-being, helping reduce stress – a factor that can lead to disease, and encouraging creativity. He noted that every well-executed marketing brand uses neuroscience to create an emotional hook. Music, magic and meditation are just some of areas which have exploited neuroscience – so perhaps it’s time conservationists did the same, he said. To hear the lecture in full visit

TV Presenter Kate Humble chairs Earthwatch Lecture

TV presenter, Kate Humble chairs Earthwatch Lecture, RGS, London

Left to Right: Prof. Yadvinder Malhi, Dr. Dan Bebber and Kate Humble

Climate Change and Forests

Every year Earthwatch hosts a series of free lectures at the Royal Geographical Society in London. Their most recent event brought 3 eminent climate change scientists together to discuss the findings of a 5yr programme between HSBC, Earthwatch, the Climate Group, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and WWF to inspire action by individuals, businesses and governments on climate change.

Visit the Earthwatch website to find out more, including audio of the 3 speakers and the introduction given by TV presenter, Kate Humble.

Earthwatch Lecture, Royal Geographical Society, London, UK