Farewell and best wishes to David Gibbons, Head of RSPB Centre for Conservation Science & CCI Council Member

21st August 2020

Something many of us have had to get used to over the last few months is the strangeness of virtual leaving dos. This week one of the biggest attendances we’ve seen gathered to say an on-line thank you and goodbye to David Gibbons, who is stepping down from his post as Head of RSPB Centre for Conservation Science as well as Council Member of CCI. Almost 150 colleagues past and present gathered to wish him well, and look back over his decades in conservation.

Dr David Gibbons

Among the speakers, the founding Executive Director of CCI, Mike Rands, gave his thanks on behalf of the partnership for all the work David has done for CCI:

“In 2007 the RSPB joined forces with The University of Cambridge and 8 other conservation organisations to create the Cambridge Conservation Initiative; a novel collaboration to better connect research, policy and practice for the conservation of biodiversity locally, nationally and internationally.

Mark Avery, then Director of Conservation, played a key role in developing the vision for CCI as did several others from within RSPB.

However, when David became the RSPB representative on CCI Council, probably almost ten years ago now, he took RSPB’s engagement in, and contribution to, CCI to new heights.

He co-chaired a key CCI Working Group with Bhaskar Vira, which brought together academics and practitioners from across the CCI partnership to develop a large part of CCI’s first Five Year Plan – the section on Research to Inform Policy and Practice.

It outlined, for the first time, the areas where CCI partners wished to collaborate across disciplines to ensure that knowledge and evidence were integral to decision making and practical action on the ground.

It was a broad and ambitious plan that guided CCI in its early years as the CCI community began using the David Attenborough Building as a place to convene, share and collaborate.

David can and should be very proud of his role in developing this part of CCI’s future direction.

A few years later, when CCI began working with Arcadia to create the Endangered Landscapes Programme, David agreed to become Co-Chair of the CCI Landscape Restoration Working Group, along with Bill Sutherland.

Under their combined and skillful coordination, the CCI community played a major part in developing the ELP – a programme that is having a major impact on restoring landscapes for biodiversity across Europe and from which CCI partners, including RSPB’s Cairngorms Connect Project,  have benefited enormously.

In addition to this major contribution to the development of CCI’s programmes, David has been a wonderful Council member, supporting me as ED and the EDO Team and playing a significant role in the governance of CCI.

He has effectively championed CCI within RSPB, working with RSPB staff to develop a wide range of collaborative conservation projects that were funded by CCI’s Collaborative Fund, he has contributed to the Masters in Conservation Leadership in many ways and has made the best use of the DAB for RSPB and for promoting conservation science and practice nationally and internationally.

He served as Chair of Council for a term and most recently, in the middle of a very difficult period of lockdown due to Covid19, served as Interim Executive Director between my stepping down earlier this year and the arrival of Mike Maunder. I know from both the staff and Council members that he did this with great care, kindness and dedication.

Working with David has been a joy. He is highly knowledgeable and committed to conservation, meticulous, modest and both caring and considerate, and has a delightful sense of humour.

He was a really effective Council Chair and Working Group Co-Chair, seeking and finding consensus among a disparate group of people, supporting and gently guiding me and my Team when it was necessary to do so.

He freely gave advice, openly shared his enormous knowledge and  was an outstanding champion of the integration of research, policy and practice for the conservation of nature.

CCI was very lucky to have him on Council for so long and as a key member of the CCI community. He will be much missed but I’m so glad he is returning to the field where I know he will continue to play an important role in biodiversity conservation.

David is enormously patient. I only ever knew of him getting cross twice. Once when we asked him to share a tiny twin room at no notice on the first CCI Council Retreat in Suffolk – instead he chose to sleep on the sofa in the living room, but only later did I discover his displeasure.

The other time was when the great IT bureaucracies of the University and RSPB could not resolve how to support a seconded staff member so they could do their job – I fear that might still be the case…

So, on behalf of all in CCI, and especially the CCI staff and Council, can I say an enormous thank you for everything David. Good luck and do keep in touch with us all. On a personal note I shall forever be grateful for your support, friendship, numerous conservation achievements and serving as a great role model for future conservationists.”