Conservation | Meet our Editorial Board – Professor Iain Gordon

This week, we are pleased to introduce to you Professor Iain Gordon!

Iain Gordon works as an Honorary Professor at the Australian National University, where his interests lie at the human/environment interface, particularly in the context of biodiversity management, ecosystem services provided by agricultural landscapes and engaging human communities in the management of natural resources.

Born in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, Professor Gordon holds both British and Australian nationality, graduating with a zoology honours degree from the University of Aberdeen. In 1986, he received his Ph.D. degree from the University of Cambridge and has since led interdisciplinary research across 5 continents.

Over the past 30 years, Iain Gordon has published over 200 papers in international, peer review journals and published seven books, with an eighth to be published shortly by Springer! His published research spans a range of areas, including livestock nutrition and health, ecology of natural ecosystems, grazing management to achieve environmental objectives, and community-based conservation.

Alongside his research, Professor Gordon has been employed in senior management positions in both Australia and the UK. He joined the Commonwealth Scientific and Industry Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia in 2003, leading its Building Resilient Biodiversity Assets Theme and the rangeland management programme of the Water for a Healthy Country Great Barrier Reef Theme. During this time, he was Officer in Charge of the Davies Lab in Townsville and lead the co-location CSIRO with James Cook University in the Australian Tropical Science Innovation Precinct.

In 2010, Iain Gordon returned to Scotland, where he was Chief Executive and Director of the James Hutton Institute, the largest agri-environment research institute of its kind in the UK. Whilst residing in the UK, he also worked as Director of the Centre of Expertise for Climate Change, a new knowledge brokering mechanism for providing evidence to support policy, before moving back to Australia in 2019.

We caught up with Professor Iain Gordon to gain some insight into the field of Conservation today!

What encouraged you to enter the field of Conservation?

“I was brought up in the Caribbean & Kenya and as a child I loved nature, especially wild animals. I wanted to watch them and understand and work out what they were doing and why. I was lucky enough to do my undergraduate project on oryx 9a large antelope and my PhD on a nature reserve off the West Coast of Scotland. Very different environments, but all in the interest of getting into the minds of animals and through that work out how they see the world. Only with that in your mind’s eye can you hope to understand what is needed to conserve them.”

Which paper (if any) changed your outlook on the field of Conservation?

“More generally in field biology it was Richard Dawkins’s book The Selfish gene. I read it when I was at university & it opened my eyes into a world of understanding why animals behave in the way they do, from a theoretical point of view. I don’t agree with everything Dawkins’s writes, but I read his books because they make me think differently.”

What advice would you give to young researchers/scientists looking to begin their career in Conservation?

“Get out into nature and get your feet wet and your hands dirty. It is only through experience that we can work out how the world works. Data is merely a window into a room we look into from the outside.”