Five environmental expeditions to benefit from Rubens-Wallace Grant

Des and Bill’s legacy to support outdoor scientific explorations from the Hebrides to the Panamanian rain forest

Georgia drew lr detail

The Des Rubens and Bill Wallace Grant, run by the Trust in memory of two respected Scottish mountaineers, will this year support five people  to kayak, camp, climb, cycle and swim through the planet’s  wild places for educational and scientific benefits.

Georgia Drew (pictured above), a 24-year-old PhD student in Liverpool, will combine her love for bugs and mountains through a bike expedition to monitor the effects of climate change on insects at altitude in the Greater Caucasus mountains of West Asia.

Sixteen-year-old Sam Belcher, who is studying for his GCSEs, dreams of pursuing a natural history career. This summer he plans to travel from his home in Cardiff to Thailand to take part in a marine conservation expedition monitoring the impact of fishing and pollution. Sam is keen that this adventure will not only give him the opportunity to make a difference, but also improve his self-confidence.

Seth Ratcliffe, a freelance arborist horticulturalist from Edinburgh, is travelling to the Panamanian rainforest to climb and study emergent rainforest tree epiphyte diversity - described as the ‘big walls’ of tree climbing. The 25 year-old will be working with and learning from staff at the Institute for Tropical Ecology and Conservation Bocas del Toro Field Station.

Lee Schofield lives in Penrith and works locally on a landscape habitat restoration nature reserve. The 38 year-old is planning a two-week visit to South West Norway to compare montane scrub habitats. This camping and trekking trip, supported through a sabbatical from Lee’s current employer, will help him identify  opportunities for upland habitat restoration in Cumbria.

Oban-based Andrew Abraham is currently working towards a PhD at Northern Arizona University in the USA. The 26-year-old is planning to circumnavigate the Isle of Skye in a kayak to better understand how large mammal species shape the world around us. Andrew is motivated to recognise the ecological, economic and social implications of the nutrient movements of seals by collecting samples of faeces for the Scottish Association for Marine Science.

Each of the five applicants will receive a small but significant grant towards the cost of their expeditions from the Des Rubens and Bill Wallace Grant, which is awarded annually.

Bill Wallace, a former Treasurer of the John Muir Trust,  died in 2006 at the age of 73 while skiing the Alps. Des Rubens, a popular 63-year old teacher at Craigroyston High School, was killed in June 2016 in an Alpine climbing accident.

Toby Clark, the John Muir Award Scotland Manager who coordinates the Des Rubens and Bill Wallace Grant said: “This year followed a pattern of extremely high calibre of applications. It’s heartening to hear the range of people committed to caring for our natural environment through adventure, and the scope of ways they will be experiencing, studying and enjoying wild places to help build awareness and understanding.

“We’d like to congratulate Georgia, Sam, Seth, Lee and Andrew and wish them all the best with their adventures.”

Recipients thank the Trust

Andrew Abraham: "I am delighted to be a recipient of the Des Rubens Bill Wallace Grant. The opportunity to undertake my research in the memory of two great Scottish explorers is both humbling and inspiring. I ‘m excited to communicate the ecological, economic and social ways in which our large maammal species benefit  our coastal societies. 

Sam Belcher: “When I signed up for the trip I thought it was a really worthwhile thing to do, and I was really happy to have this view verified by being awarded this grant. It takes a lot of pressure off my fund raising efforts when I also need to devote time to studying for my exams, so thank you very much.”

Georgia Drew: “I am incredibly excited and grateful to receive the Des Rubens and Bill Wallace Grant. Insects are such crucial elements of healthy ecosystems, despite their importance often being overlooked. Through this project I hope to study insect biodiversity across different mountain habitats, and contribute a little to filling the knowledge gaps that surround insect life. I cannot thank the John Muir trust enough for supporting this cause.”

Seth Ratcliffe: “This grant has taken me one step closer to an adventure I have dreamt about since I first started climbing trees. I am humbled that my project was deemed worthy and want to give my most heartfelt thanks to the John Muir Trust and the Des Rubens and Bill Wallace Grant. I hope to do Des and Bill proud.”

Lee Schofield:  "I'm delighted to have been awarded funds from the Des Rubens & Bill Wallace Grant towards a trip to South West Norway. I'm confident that time spent studying upland habitats on the trip will have a big impact on me, both personally and professionally and will help to inform upland habitat restoration projects in my job with the RSPB in the Lake District"    

Find out more about the Des Rubens and Bill Wallace Grant.