Remembering Mandy McMath

This article was first published on The Welsh View the decommissioned blog of the Countryside Council for Wales.  The text is republished here with permission from Natural Resources Wales.

A champion of biodiversity, we treasured Mandy for her love of life and sense of fun.  Photo  © C. Duigan.

A champion of biodiversity, we treasured Mandy for her love of life and sense of fun. Photo © C. Duigan.

Our friend and colleague Dr. Amanda Jane McMath died on 30th August 2012 after a distinguished career in marine nature conservation. The Countryside Council for Wales has lost its Senior Marine Vertebrate Ecologist. The Welsh environment is without one of its champions of biodiversity.

Our Mandy was born in Devon and grew up on a farm, which gave her an early appreciation of wildlife and animals.  She did her undergraduate degree at the University of Bangor, her Masters degree in Aquaculture & Fisheries at the University of Stirling and her PhD at the University of Edinburgh on growth variation in wild and cultured populations of the European Eel, Anguilla anguilla.

She joined the Nature Conservancy Council in June 1990 to work with Peter Hope Jones on the WALSIN Project, a records management initiative in pre-computer days.  Mandy was the first (and at the time only) marine biologist in the subsequently formed Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) in 1991.

For over 20 years Mandy commissioned and managed some of the research required to support marine nature conservation efforts in Wales, and provided technical advice to the Welsh Government and others.  She started an ecological survey of the entire Welsh intertidal zone, which is a unique and very valuable national dataset.

Mandy also had an important role during the dark days of The Sea Empress Disaster because she was involved in the assessment of the environmental impact of the oil spill.  She was a key participant in the selection of marine Special Areas of Conservation under the EC Habitats and Species Directive, which can be considered an outstanding conservation legacy.

Mandy was always very supportive of the role and contributions of volunteers and non-government organisations in conservation.  She was very pleased to see the publication of the Atlas of Marine Mammal of Wales, based partly on a collation of data from volunteers.  During her time at CCW she had the satisfaction of seeing the development of marine conservation efforts in Wales generally, and especially within CCW, including the development of a Marine and Earth Science Group under the leadership of Dr. Maggie Hill.


Seal survey bay on Bardsey Island. Photo © W. Kovach.

On a personal level, we treasured Mandy for her love of life and sense of fun.  She was the life and soul of a party, the person you invited to dinner or a concert, and with whom you shared a good book.  She always had time, good advice and kind words for her friends.  If you met her once, you would remember her for her vivacity, enthusiasm and strength of character.  Mandy had an extensive network of friends and colleagues in England, Scotland, Ireland and beyond.  She was a regular contributor to the annual conference of the European Cetacean Society.  She took underwater photographs and she was a qualified scientific diver.  For the past several years she led an annual seal survey on Bardsey Island, which occupied a very special place in her heart.

She played tennis with friends and colleagues until a knee injury frustrated her efforts.  Her annual summer holiday was organised around the Wimbledon fortnight.  When she was ill, we took consolation in her enjoyment of the Olympics, especially the victory of Andy Murray.  Although she was a big Roger Federer fan for many years!

We also appreciate that Mandy was a highly valued member of her local community in Aberffraw on Anglesey.  She was a gifted and prize winning gardener who helped to organise the annual village show.  Her cosy cottage and garden overlook the beach where she walked her English Bull terriers, Egor and Georgia.

Cancer has been an ominous presence in her life.  Despite getting the all clear from a previous encounter her cancer returned in the summer of 2011.  She fought a very courageous final battle and maintained her involvement with work and friends until the end.  She will be greatly missed by all who knew her.

Our sincere sympathy is extended to her mother, her brothers, sister, and nieces and nephews.

See also.
Mandy and Iolo Williams visit the grey seals of Bardsey.
Mandy was interviewed by Iolo in 2011, discussing the unique grey seal population on Bardsey Island and exploring how these fantastic creatures endure after centuries of hunting and exploitation.

Mandy McMath Conservation Award.
The European Cetacean Society has established the Mandy McMath Conservation Award for an outstanding contribution to the field of marine mammal conservation and/or welfare, with particular emphasis on contributions to environmental education and/or to conservation in practice (e.g. leading to improved legislation or management).