Learn more about Donald's work as a zoologist below!
Since 2015 Donald has been working on a project building a canal through the North-East Caspian Sea into the coast of Kazakhstan. Donald’s role is to monitor all the wildlife found in this area, including the endangered Caspian Seal and the many species of birds which migrate and breed in this area. As the canal gets closer to land, terrestrial mammals such as wolves, foxes and badgers have all been spotted in the area! Donald ensures that no animals are harmed while the canal is being constructed. He also records the animal’s presence and activity in the area. This involves recording the number of seal pups born on the island, and then later in the year the species and numbers of birds nesting, foraging and passing through the area. If seals are observed entangled in material such as fishing nets, which can cause their death, Donald and his team will attempt to catch these animals and cut off this material to allow the seals to survive.
Dates: 2015 up till present time
Location: NE Caspian Sea, Kazakhstan.
Back in his native Scotland, Donald has been involved in the first formal mammal reintroduction to occur in the UK, when working on bringing back the European Beaver (Castor fiber) to the temperate rainforest of Knapdale in the Heart of Argyll. Work involved monitoring how this population survived in the wild, looking for areas they have spread to, trying to spot these secretive animals, along with monitoring how many young (kits) they were producing. Lately Donald has assisted on surveying the waterways (rivers & lochs) within Perthshire to help scientists understand how many and where beavers are found in this area.
Dates: 2013 until 2017
Location: Knapdale Forest, Argyll, Scotland.
Donald spent 6 months working as part of an airplane research team surveying the Cape Cod Bay region, off the eastern seaboard of America. This research aimed to count and monitor the population size of the highly endangered North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis). The whales visit this region from January until June annually and feed on the Copepod Plankton which blooms in large amounts at that time of year. Donald's team carried out daily flights in a small plane and attempted to take photographs of the whales as they broke the water surface with their heads. From these photos it was possible to identify individual whales from their head patterns and body markings. They would also record any other sightings of marine mammals observed during the daily flights. This included other whales (Humpbacks, Fin Whales) and seals.
Dates: January 2010 – June 2010 (6 months)
Location: Cape Cod, Massachusetts, east-coast of the USA.
Donald was part of a small team of 6 people, tracking 4 different wolf packs during the summer of 2009 in the foothills of the Rockies. They were investigating the vast roaming areas of these different packs and the animals they were predating on. Whilst based in the small village of Nordegg, the team would work in pairs to cover the large distances the wolf packs roamed using trucks, quad-bikes and canoes but mostly on foot. They would often camp in the Canadian wilderness and at times would hear the wolf packs howling around them. Donald even crawled inside a wolf den to count the pups inside and had one particularly exciting and scary experience when he realised that a wolf was, in fact, tracking him!
Dates: April 2009 – September 2009 (6 months)
Location: Nordegg, Alberta, Canadian Rockies foothills.
Donald was employed by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) to work as Zoological Field Assistant based for 2 1/2 years at a remote research station, located on the tiny Sub-Antarctic, Bird Island. He was one of only 4 personnel present on the island during 2 winters, with up to 11 personnel on the base during the summer period. Although Bird Island is only small (4.8 km long and less than 1 km in width at its widest) it is a haven for wildlife, and at certain times of the year it may well be one of the most densely populated area for animals anywhere in the world. Bird Island is often featured as a location in BBC wildlife programmes such as Blue Planet (I and II) and Planet Earth.
Dates: 2005 - 2008 (2.5 years)
Location: Bird Island, South Georgia, Sub-Antarctic.
Donald spent 6 months living in numerous remote camps in the forests of Tanzania while carrying out baseline biodiversity surveys of these areas. Working in small teams, Donald and his colleagues would use various techniques such as animal tracking, pitfall traps, Sherman traps and butterfly netting to discover all types of animal. These ranged from amphibians, rodents, butterflies to the much bigger African mammals such as leopards, monkeys and elephants. This work helped discover which animals were living in these uncharted areas, and this data could then be used in their protection and conservation. Whilst working in Africa, Donald also travelled extensively round Tanzania and Zanzibar.
Dates: 6 months (March-August) 2005
Location: Various location around Tanzania, including the Southern Highlands and Kilomobero Valley.
Donald spent the summer period before his final year at Glasgow University assisting on a Mediterranean turtle conservation and research project in Northern Cyprus. The female turtles emerge from the sea onto the beach at night and dig a large pit to lay their eggs. Donald's role was to watch for the females, wait till they started to lay their eggs and then tag and measure them. This provided vital data so scientists could better understand the numbers of turtles remaining and their health and movements. He would also then check for the hatchlings from these nests later in the season.
Dates: June-September 2001 (4 months) then returned in 2005 for around 1 month to help set up for the upcoming season
Location: Society for the Protection of Turtles (SPOT), Aligadi beach, North Cyprus.