Peter Richardson

Country: UK

Occupation: Species Policy Officer with the Marine Conservation Society (MCS)

Specialty: Jack-of-all-trades at the moment, including public awareness, community and public participation in research and conservation, research into some aspects of turtle ecology and management.

Best part about my job: Joyous moments when experiencing significant change for the better, especially when I see it in someone’s eyes.

Biggest challenges I face: Making ends meet for my family.

The most unusual or exciting thing that’s happened to me while working in the field: I had persuaded Jasmine Parker, a local Conservation Officer, and a couple of her crew to help me attach a satellite tag to a nesting hawksbill on Big Sand Cay, a remote and uninhabited island in the Turks and Caicos. It was October 2005 and Hurricane Wilma was whirling hundreds of miles westwards in the Gulf of Mexico. After a smooth 45 minute crossing from Grand Turk, Jasmine and I patrolled the soft and quiet beach from dusk, searching in vain while enjoying the spectacle of an unexpected and monstrous electrical storm, the outer reaches of the vast hurricane system, rise like a spectre over the distant Caicos Islands. It began to approach, flashing angrily. At midnight the first rain was like a blessing, light and refreshing, but it soon skewed horizontal as the winds raced over us and the heavens opened hellish above. We ran to an abandoned concrete weather station hut to shelter with the geckos, scorpions and cockroaches, while our boat and crew tried to stay afloat in the darkness of Big Sand Cay’s small bay. Inside, the dingy hut was hot and still as the storm raged over the island outside, but soon the deluge soaked the osprey’s nest on top of the hut, leaked through the cracks in the sun-baked roof and trickled brown and vile over us and our safely stowed gear. We crouched like this in the storm for six hours, and we gave up trying to be funny after the first two. The smell of osprey shit on our clothes was overpowering, and when the rain stopped at first light we were glad to see the boat and crew waving, relieved and waiting to take us home. Out of the bay the sea reared up in front of us like a green and white nightmare, and for 3 hours the waves smashed constantly over our small boat, so that we couldn’t see where we were going for the spray in our eyes, navigating only by the diminishing Cay behind. As we hung on the sea washed us clean, and as we hung on there were moments when we weren’t sure we would make it, when I cursed myself for leaving my wife and boy. The police didn’t think we had made it either, and their relieved smiles betrayed their scorn as they greeted us, when bedraggled and exhausted we finally docked back at Grand Turk. They were on their way to the seaplane to find us and were not happy. Jasmine’s father was livid.

Why I like being a member of the MTSG: I enjoy the MTSG meetings at the International Sea Turtle Symposia. They tend to be at the end when members have to relieve themselves of the discontent they have brewed. It’s a pleasure to hear intelligent people speak their mind!

Turtle researcher / conservationist I most admire: Hmmm… there are plenty. I can’t choose one, and these are in no particular order, but if I must choose my top three are probably Brendan Godley, Lisa Campbell and the Turtle Conservation Project (TCP) team.

When I’m not working on turtles I like to: Hang out with my wife Sue Ranger and our boy Ruben, play with my band Cranefly (you can check out a couple of our tunes on http://www.cranefly.org.uk), find peace with my fish.

Ten years from now, I hope I will be doing: The same sort of stuff, perhaps by the sea.

Relevant links to find out more about me and my work: Marine Conservation Society Peter Richardson’s MTRG Profile