Bristol woman scoops top ornithology award
Mary Colwell, producer and author, from Bristol has been awarded the Dilys Breese Medal by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO). The award, which is presented annually, is given to an outstanding communicator who has opened up science and nature to new audiences.
As a producer at the BBC’s Natural History Unit, in both TV and radio, and using BTO science, Mary was responsible for promoting science in the natural world to more than 25 million people. More recently she undertook a 500 mile walk from the west coast of Ireland to the east coast of England to highlight the drastic decline of the Curlew throughout the UK, once a common breeding bird in many areas, its haunting call is seldom heard. Mary powerfully brought this issue to the fore, giving talks and blogging about her intrepid adventure in almost real time and raising funds for research to help reverse the Curlew’s fortunes. She has also set up three national conferences on curlew conservation at which the BTO has been an important contributor.
We have lost almost half of our breeding Curlews during the last twenty years and it is now one of the UK’s most pressing conservation issues. Mary’s walk and subsequent conferences were widely reported in the national and local press, via social media and national TV. By undertaking this incredible challenge, Mary not only highlighted the plight of the Curlew to the communities that she walked through but also reached a potential audience of around 40 million people through her communication activities throughout.
Emma Douglas, Head of Fundraising at the BTO, said:
“The Dilys Breese Medal, created in memory of and named after the great natural history broadcaster, was made possible thanks to a gift in her Will. We are delighted to acknowledge Mary’s amazing support by presenting her with this prestigious award, guaranteeing that Dilys’s legacy lives on through people like Mary, who are determined to communicate the importance of birds and the science of ornithology to everyone. We are incredibly grateful to Mary for raising the profile of BTO and for choosing BTO’s Curlew Appeal as a beneficiary of the funds raised from her epic fundraising trek.”
Mary Colwell, said, “I am honoured to have been awarded this medal. I knew Dilys at the BBC Natural History Unit and am proud to promote her passion for the natural world. The insight into nature provided by the BTO is vital and the BTO’s curlew work will undoubtedly help to protect them.”
The Dilys Breese Medal is presented to outstanding communicators who deliver BTO science to new audiences. The award was presented at a glittering award ceremony at the Society of Wildlife Artists Mall Gallery in London.