Scottish Alliance for Geoscience, Environment and Society

Advisory Board

SAGES Advisory Board
Terms of Reference


The Advisory Board (AB) for SAGES is a non-executive body appointed by the SAGES partner Principals (or their nominated representatives). It provides advice and strategic guidance on overall alliance implementation, direction and coherence. It is not required to undertake quality reviews of the research being undertaken within SAGES, but it is asked to comment upon proposals for changing the strategic direction of the alliance.


The Board provides its comments to the Executive Committee of Principals (or their representatives). It comments upon:
1. The quality and delivery of research. In particular it will:
a. Comment upon the strategic direction of the research groupings supported by SAGES;
b. Comment upon the quality of outputs from SAGES-supported groupings;
c. When appropriate, comment upon outputs and the quality of applications for membership and associate membership of the SAGES alliance.
2. The operation of SAGES. In particular it will:
a. Advise on progress towards milestones and objectives;
b. When requested, advise about appointments being made by SAGES;
c. Where appropriate, bring to the attention of SAGES issues that it should seek to address concerning its interaction with stakeholders and the wider community;
d. Provide comment about the development of the SAGES Graduate School;
e. Advise on progress and (re)structuring of the Research Themes and For a;
f. Be responsible for reviewing annual reporting to the SFC.


i. There will be a maximum of 10 members of the Advisory Board, and a minimum of 6.
ii. The Advisory Board will have an independent Chair of such stature and experience in a field relevant to environmental geoscience or social science, education, public policy, industry or public service to command wide respect.
iii. A Deputy Chair from within the Advisory Board will be appointed by the Chair. The Deputy Chair will support the Chair in leading the AB and may chair meetings in the absence of the Chair.
iv. The Director of Research at the Scottish Funding Council, and a senior representative of Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) will be ex officio members of the AB. All other members will serve in a personal capacity and will not act as representatives of any particular organisation or group.
v. Other members of the AB will be drawn from the scientific and science user communities.
vi. The term of the initial appointment will be 3 years with possible extension for up to a further 2 years.
vii. Changes in AB membership will, as far as possible, be phased to ensure that approximately a quarter of the members are replaced each year.
viii. The Chair may request that a member of the AB is replaced should they fail to attend more than three consecutive AB meetings or no meetings over an 18 month period.
ix. A meeting of the AB will be quorate if a minimum of 5 AB members including the Chair or Deputy Chair are present.

Mode of operation

The full AB will meet once per year and will convene interim business via email. The Director, Innovation Manager and Graduate School Convenor of SAGES will attend AB meetings to report and to receive advice. The secretariat for the AB will be provided by the SAGES Administrator. The Scottish Funding Council’s policies on vested interests will apply. The AB will operate in an open and transparent manner. Agendas and minutes of meetings will be published, with redactions where necessary to preserve confidentiality.
Des is the Principal Adviser on Science and Biodiversity with Scottish Natural Heritage, where he works closely with the Scottish Government.

He took his first degree in Biology from Paisley College (now University of West Scotland), and a PhD and DSc from the University of Nottingham (publishing his PhD as the textbook Gulls and plovers – the ecology and behaviour of mixed species feeding groups).

Formerly a University Research Fellow at Liverpool, and Head of Uplands in the Chief Scientist Directorate of the Nature Conservancy Council, Des led some of Britain’s upland nature conservation work for the government and its agencies. He has published 15 books and more than 200 papers, and works with a wide network of colleagues across Europe.

Elected Chairman of the Technical Advisory Group advising the UN Convention on Migratory Species on the conservation of migratory birds of prey in Africa and Eurasia, Des has specialist interests in birds, the uplands and ecosystem dynamics. He is an Associate Editor of the Journal of Applied Ecology, and was elected Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Field Studies Council (the UK’s leading provider of outdoor environmental education), Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management, Senior Research Fellow at Hatfield College, Durham University, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
Professor Spagnolo is a member of the Advisory Committee in his role as SAGES Director.

Matteo is based at the School of Geosciences in the University of Aberdeen.

Matteo gained his BSc in Natural Sciences from Pisa, followed by an MSc in Remote Sensing and GIS from Firenze, and a PhD in tectonic geomorphology from Genova, in Italy. He moved to Sheffield in 2007 for a postdoc on drumlins,and, two years later, to Aberdeen where he has been ever since, except for a year spent at Berkeley in 2017 as a visiting professor.

Matteo has been a vibrant member of the Aberdeen Cryosphere and Climate Change Group and has held various roles including School PGR Director, Elected Senator, and Head of Geography and Environment.
Professor Brice Rea is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Aberdeen in the Department of Geography and Environment.

His research interests include:
Glacial and periglacial geomorphology/geology
Glacial tectonics
Glacier-climate interactions
Long-term landscape evolution in passive glaciated mid- and high-latitude margins.
John Howe is a marine geologist at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS).

A PhD from the University of Southampton was followed by a position with the British Antarctic Survey. He joined SAMS in 1998.

His research interests include seabed mapping for glacial history and depositional environments using both vessel based and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV’s). Principally a sedimentologist his background includes projects studying current-influenced sedimentation, fjordic and shelf sea sediment as archives of climatic change. Much of this work has been based in mid-high latitude seas, notably the Antarctic and the Fram Strait region of the Arctic. Recent work has examined the issue of deep-sea tailings placement (DSTP) for the mining industry and habitat mapping for Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s) in both Scottish and Chilean waters. For SAMS he is BSc (Hons) Marine Science programme leader and leads the geoscience elements of the undergraduate course. John is SAGES Graduate School Convenor.
David joined SEPA in 1996 as a Senior Chemist. He became South West Chemistry Unit Manager in 1999, Chemistry Services Manager in 2001, Head of Chemistry in 2004 and Chief Office for Science and Strategy in 2009. He was appointed Executive Director in March 2012.

His career has included posts with the Water Research Centre, University of Aberdeen and the Clyde River Purification Board.

David has a degree in Chemistry from the University of Aberdeen and a PhD in Environmental Chemistry from the University of Glasgow. He is a Chartered Chemist and a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry.
Educated at the University of St. Andrews and Heriot-Watt University, Stuart pursued research in physics at Heriot-Watt and, with a Marie-Curie Fellowship, in Germany.

Moving back to Scotland, he was part of the founding management team of Helia Photonics in Livingston.

Stuart joined the Scottish Funding Council in 2005 and is currently Director of Research and Innovation. Stuart is a member of the Scottish Enterprise Board.
Ruth leads the delivery of NERC’s Resilient Environment theme by facilitating excellent environmental science and skills to meet society’s needs and to support economic growth. Plans, delivers and oversees NERC’s investments, both UK and internationally focused, and manages relationships with relevant research providers, funders and users.
Jon Rathjen is the team leader of the Water Industry Team in the Scottish Government with policy responsibility for the Scottish Water Industry including sponsorship of the public corporation Scottish Water and the new Hydro Nation agenda. Scotland the Hydro Nation focuses on the economic, social and environmental development of the value of water resources in Scotland and the raising of Scotland’s international profile through its performance on global water issues.

Jon has over 25 years experience as a Public Servant having worked for Customs and Excise and now the Scottish Government. With experience in front line service delivery and then with policy responsibilities from IT security through to Better Public Service Delivery and e-Government, Sustainable Development, and now the Water Industry.

Previously Jon had a role leading on community engagement to support of sustainable development and climate change policy under which Jon had responsibility for the Climate Challenge Fund £27.4m 2008-11 and £10.3 million 2011-12, which is supporting communities to reduce their carbon emissions.

Jon was responsible for Scottish Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) policy and for introducing and overseeing the operation of the Regulations and led the Bill team for the successful introduction of the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005.
Gillian Docherty is chief executive of The Data Lab, one of the eight innovation centres set up by the Scottish Government to enhance innovation and entrepreneurship across Scotland’s key economic sectors.

Integral to delivering this is facilitating partnerships between industry and academia, supporting budding data science businesses and projects as well as funding first class, ground-breaking education programmes.

Gillian is on the Board of Tech Partnership Scotland and is also a Board member of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce. Gillian is also an advisory board member of Previse.
Professor David M. Paterson FMBA holds a personal chair in Coastal Ecology at the University of St Andrews and is Executive Director of the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS). He also Chairs the Sullom Voe Oil Terminal Environmental Advisory Group (SOTEAG).

He has 25 years of experience in research on marine systems and held a Royal Society University Research Fellowship at Bristol before moving to St Andrews. There he established the Sediment Ecology Research Group (SERG) and continued his work on the dynamics and ecology of coastal systems. SERG has an international reputation for innovation and scholarship in marine science and strong national and international funding. Professor Paterson has led many successful interdisciplinary projects (EU and National). He has over 150 peer-reviewed publications, edited four books and successfully supervise >20 doctoral candidates (Google H Index 56). Recent research involves biodiversity, ecosystem function, ecosystem services, and global change biology particularly the effects multiple stressors (ocean acidification, temperature and hypoxia). He also advises industry, academic institutions and Scottish Government (through Marine Science Scotland).
Henry Burgess is the Head of the NERC Arctic Office, hosted by the British Antarctic Survey. The Office supports UK research in the High North; provides advice to policy makers; and develops international scientific cooperation across all aspects of Arctic research. The Office also helps deliver the operation and planning for the NERC Arctic Station.

Prior to joining the British Antarctic Survey, between 2012 and 2016 Henry was the Deputy Head of the Polar Regions Department in the FCO. His responsibilities there included: representing the UK in discussions within the Antarctic Treaty on environmental protection; ensuring the effective governance and administration of the British Antarctic Territory; and liaison and planning with the Royal Navy’s ice patrol vessel, HMS Protector.

Before that he held a variety of posts within the Department for Culture, Media and Sport; Office of the Deputy Prime Minister; and the Cabinet Office. He holds a Law Degree from Oxford University.
Dr Hermione Cockburn has over 20 years’ experience in science engagement and is currently the Scientific Director at Dynamic Earth, the UK’s only science centre dedicated to the story of our planet.

For BBC Radio 4 she has presented documentaries on subjects ranging from lead pollution and lasers to an award winning series on bacteria. Her television presenting credits include the BBC series Coast, Rough Science, and Fossil Detectives for which she wrote an accompanying book. She taught Environmental Science for the Open University for ten years and has worked in Africa, Australia and Antarctica researching landscape evolution. She is passionate about engaging diverse audiences with science and, in particular, inspiring people with stories about the Earth.

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