Former national Seasearch coordinator receives recognition for spending thousands of hours under the waves

A lifetime of diving and recording recognised with national award for Chris Wood

Chris Wood, who retired as National Seasearch Coordinator in September, has been awarded the David Robertson Adult Award for services to marine and coastal wildlife at the National Biodiversity Network (NBN) 2016 UK awards in Edinburgh (17th November).

Seasearch is the UK-wide volunteer diver programme coordinated by the Marine Conservation Society.

Appointed as National Coordinator in 2003, Chris was tasked with promoting and standardising training, and co-ordinating survey work and data management of the growing network of Seasearch divers. Since then Chris, who lives near Plymouth, has overseen almost 20,000 Seasearch volunteer dive surveys, resulting in 505,000 species and 59,000 habitat records being provided to NBN and publicly available.

Over 600 Seasearch courses have taken place under his tenure with over 800 divers becoming Seasearch qualified. When not at sea, Chris has written the’Guide to UK Marine Life’ and ‘Guide to Anemones and Corals’ and edited a series of other well-respected guides to identifying marine life. Since Chris took the helm, Seasearch surveys have taken place throughout Britain and Ireland from the most northerly rock off Unst in the Shetlands, Muckle Flugga, to the most southerly reef south of Jersey, Les Sauvages.

Many records have been used to inform Marine Protected Area (MPA) site selection and management in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, whilst others have been of species new or rarely recorded in our waters.

Chris’s leadership of the Seasearch programme since its launch has made a significant contribution to the UK’s marine dataset. His leadership has guided increased knowledge of marine life through the improved identification and recording skills of hundreds of volunteer divers, which in turn has played a part in the conservation of the UK’s marine biodiversity.

Despite his retirement from the top job, Chris is still an active volunteer. “I’ve been fascinated by the underwater world ever since I stuck my head under it with a mask and snorkel in the Channel Islands as a ten year old. Moving on from snorkel to SCUBA was a natural progression at University where I wasn’t studying anything remotely relevant but fell in with the biology crowd and I have been diving, both in the UK and overseas, ever since,” says Chris.

What’s so special about UK diving is the diversity. You can move from cold water arctic species in deep Scottish sea lochs to the southerly species in the relatively balmy south-west of England. Over the last thirty years I’ve dived almost exclusively with Seasearch, which includes many people with both a fascination for marine life and unparalleled ‘in situ’ Identification skills. I’ve been proud to co-ordinate Seasearch and handle much of the data all of our volunteers amass. It’s great to have seen and been involved in the whole process from original record to informing the programme of MPAs all around our coasts.” Dr Jean-Luc Solandt, Marine Conservation Society Principle Specialist MPAs, says Chris is amazing: “’I have had the pleasure of working with Chris since 2003 when I first dived with Seasearch. The man is amazing - a great buddy companion diver photographer author leader and is well-respected by the scientific and diving community alike. I like that he never enjoyed being in the office but was always happier at sea ” - never could a more suitable person receive such an award.”

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