H.E. Peter Beckingham (right), then Governor of TCI, receives from Dr Mike Pienkowski a set of UKOTCF/TC National Museum TCI bird guides at their launch and at the opening of the UKOTCF/TCNM wise-water-use garden (with one of its information boards behind). Copyright: Ann Pienkowski

Peter Beckingham was appointed to the Council of the UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum in July 2018. He was Governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands for three years, from October 2013 to October 2016. His previous positions in the Foreign Office included Ambassador to the Philippines (and non-resident Ambassador to Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands), and Deputy High Commissioner in India.

Peter worked closely with UKOTCF personnel and their related organisations on the islands. He helped to launch, and was an enthusiastic advocate, of their series of books on bird-watching in TCI, and supported the Turks & Caicos National Museum, which promoted the island’s environment. Peter and his wife, Jill, participated in voluntary island clean-ups, and they walked some 80 kilometres across all the six populated islands for three consecutive years to raise money for local NGOs, including the Turks & Caicos Reef Fund, of which Peter was a Patron. In the Philippines, Peter was also a Trustee of Coral Cay Conservation, working to protect the country’s superb reefs from damage. In many of his diplomatic appointments, including to the three Pacific Islands, which share many environmental challenges in common with the UK Overseas Territories, and which Peter visited on several occasions, he spent a good deal of time – and occasionally HMG funding – helping to develop environment projects with UK NGOs.

Commenting on his appointment as a Trustee of UKOTCF, Peter said: “I was thrilled to be asked to join this valuable and important organisation. This will give me an opportunity to continue my links to TCI, and some of the other Overseas Territories I have visited, and remain involved in the vital task of helping to preserve and sustain their environmental beauty. TCI’s slogan of ‘Beautiful by Nature’ is one it must work hard to retain”.

Sarita holds a BA in Geography and Linguistics and a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education from the University of the West Indies.

Sarita Francis took up the position of Director of the Montserrat National Trust in 2013 after retiring as Deputy Governor in the Montserrat Public Service.  Her career in the Public Service spans some forty years during which she worked in Education as a Geography Teacher and Deputy Principal until 1993.  She served as Director of Housing from 1999 to 2001, and was appointed Permanent Secretary to the Chief Minister in 2001.  She was promoted to Chief Establishment Officer/Deputy Governor in 2007 and was instrumental in delivering the Public Service Reform Programme across Government.  Mrs Francis played a pivotal role in the implementation of the changes brought about by the New Montserrat Constitution in 2008.

Sarita Francis became involved with the Montserrat National Trust in 1985, and headed the Environmental Education Committee. She was transferred to the Trust to work as Environmental Education in 1994.  She was President of the Trust during the height of the volcanic crisis and had to assume management of the organization and was instrumental in relocating the Trust Office and Museum from Plymouth to its new headquarters in Olveston.

Apart from her years of voluntary service to the Trust, Sarita has served on many Boards including the Montserrat Tourist Board, the Bank of Montserrat and Credit Union Boards, and UWI Guild of Graduates.  She is a member of the Cultural Centre Committee and the Montserrat’s Arts Council.  Sarita has one son, Dion, who is a Civil Engineer and Director of his Company, Engineering Design and Construction (EDC) Ltd, in Montserrat.

Dace McCoy Ground is a Harvard-trained American lawyer. She lived in the UK Overseas Territories from 1985 when she was hired by the Cayman Islands Government as Marine Parks Coordinator, responsible for establishing a marine parks system for those islands. That being achieved, she then worked to establish the National Trust for the Cayman Islands and became its founding Executive Director.

For the following 20 years to 2012 she lived in Bermuda and the Turks and Caicos Islands, being closely involved with the National Trusts of those two jurisdictions.  During that time, she has worked on several Forum projects, such as the Environment Charter implementation, an OTEP-funded project. In 2011, the Bermuda National Trust gave her the Silver Palmetto Award, the Trust’s highest honour, to acknowledge her many years of exemplary service.

In 2012, her husband Sir Richard Ground retired from his post as Chief Justice of Bermuda and they moved to live in Derbyshire, his favourite angling location. Sadly, Richard, a valued supporter of UKOTCF, died in 2014. Lady Ground continues to work closely with the Bermuda National Trust and the Forum.

Nigel retired from the Diplomatic Service in 2014.  His last posting (2010-2014) was in Stanley, as Governor of the Falkland Islands and Commissioner for South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.  His previous postings include Ambassador to Estonia (2003-2007) and Consul-General in Basra (2008-2009).

During Nigel’s time in Stanley he worked to bring together environmental work in the South Atlantic, as a founding director of the South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute (SAERI).  This has proved valuable in developing areas of shared interest, most notably on Geographic Information Systems and fisheries conservation.  His major environmental concern was South Georgia, establishing one of the world’s largest MPAs, and pushing forward, in conjunction with the South Georgia Heritage Trust, one of the most ambitious habitat restorations ever undertaken anywhere.

Nigel has an MSc in Biodiversity Conservation from Bournemouth University, where he is in the process of finalising a PhD on biological and ecological factors in the conservation of the Falkland Islands’ only resident butterfly, the Falkland fritillary.  He is a member of the Linnean Society, the Royal Entomological Society, and the British Ecological Society.

Nigel lives in Corfe Castle in Dorset, in the centre of the most biologically diverse 10 kilometre square in Britain.

Iain Orr acts as UKOTCF’s Honorary Parliamentary Adviser. His long-term interest in islands and their environments came together in his final job at the FCO, towards the end of the 1990s. He joined what soon became the Environment Policy Department, and was responsible for drafting and negotiating the environment chapter of the 1999 White Paper on UK’s relationships with the UKOTs. He established the 1999 London conference A Breath of Fresh Air, and the multi-media educational package of the same name (which received the Geographical Association’s Highly Commended Award in 2002). He negotiated the 2001 Environment Charters between HMG and the Overseas Territories. In all these activities, he worked closely with UKOTCF, leading to several years of very successful collaboration between governmental and NGO bodies – including securing FCO financial support for the seabird restoration project on Ascension Island. In 2000, he set up FCO’s Biodiversity Team, and helped UK negotiate protection for the Basking Shark and oppose the resumption of commercial whaling. He managed project funds of £1m pa, including UK support for the Great Apes Survival Project, and was member of the UK World Heritage Committee.

His career in FCO (1968-2002) had a strong China focus, and Iain speaks and reads Chinese. His overseas postings included China (Beijing, Hong Kong and Consul-General Shanghai 1987-1990), Dublin, Wellington and Accra. In UK Embassy Beijing 1971-4 and later in London, he negotiated several zoological exchanges as well as political links. As Deputy Political Adviser in Hong Kong (1978-81, when Hong Kong was still a UK Dependent Territory), he negotiated new air, ferry, train and road services with China; and the resettlement overseas of boat refugees from Vietnam, as well as helping to launch WWF’s Hong Kong branch.

After retiring from the UK Diplomatic Service, in 2002 Ian established BioDiplomacy, a diplomatic/environmental consultancy, whose roles have included arranging visits for environmental TV teams from China. His island interests include being a Director of the Global Islands Network, and a member of the International Small Islands Studies Association, the IUCN islands taskforce, and the advisory council of the World Land Trust.

Iain is keen to continue to contribute his skills to conservation in the UKOTs through political analysis, reporting, negotiating and networking across governmental, commercial, academic, and campaigning contacts. These skills have been deployed effectively on developing and presenting evidence to House of Commons Select Committees, amongst other roles.

Dr Mike Pienkowski
Dr Mike Pienkowski

Mike served previously as UKOTCF Chairman 1995-2009, 2016- and Honorary Executive Director 2009-16. He believes that the Forum’s main challenges are: to help its territory partners both to secure local understanding of the value of wildlife and heritage and to conserve this; to raise awareness in UK and achieve a proper level of funding from UK Government for conservation in UK territories; and to secure adequate resourcing for the work of UKOTCF and its partners. Tremendous progress has been made in these areas but much remains to be done. He considers that, to achieve this, UKOTCF needs to remain engaged with its member organisations at all levels from policy to on-the-ground projects. To this end, Mike donates most of his time to running the organisation on a voluntary basis.

He has been involved in research and conservation for over 50 years, and in UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies for some 25 years. Early research and conservation work was on waders (shorebirds): organiser and leader of the Cambridge-London Iceland Expedition 1970, the University of East Anglia (UEA) Expedition to Morocco 1971, and the UEA Expedition to Tarfaya 1972, to study migration systems and conservation requirements of coastal birds; joint organiser, scientific co-ordinator and leader of advance party and base-camp team for Joint Biological Expedition to NE Greenland 1974; Chairman of international conference in Ukraine in 1992, resulting in the Odessa Protocol on international co-operation on migratory flyway research and conservation.

He has worked in: applied research (e.g. Durham University 1973-1984; Executive Editor of the Journal of Applied Ecology 1994-9); governmental conservation (e.g. Head of Ornithology Department and Assistant Chief Scientist of the Nature Conservancy Council 1984-91; Head of the Implementation Team (1990-1) and first Director of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee 1991-5; amongst other initiatives:  established and managed the first decade of the Red Kite Reintroduction programme, recently described by the Chair of UK Government’s statutory advisor as “the biggest species success story in UK conservation history.”;

Co-Chairman of international conference on lead-poisoning in wetlands, Brussels 1991; and Chairman of UK Government’s group to end the use of gunshot lead in wetlands); and the voluntary sector (e.g. Head of International Legislation & Funding Department, RSPB 1995-1997; Director, European Forum on Nature Conservation & Pastoralism 1998-2001; and voluntary roles as Vice-President & Council Member of the British Ornithologists’ Union (1991-2003), WWF-UK, Member of Programme Committee (1992-2002), Council of the British Ecological Society (1993-1999), Council of Wetlands International (1988-1998), member of Environment Committee of the Institute of Petroleum (1994-5), Vice-President, Advisory Committee on Agriculture & Environment to Directorate-General Agriculture of the European Commission (1999-2001); Member the UK Executive Committee of IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) (2006-present); Member of Expert Panel advising the Minister in the UK Department of Culture, Media & Sport on UK’s Tentative List of World Heritage Sites (2010-11).

He has managed projects and programmes in support of several of the UKOTs (currently Save Our Special Nature of Montserrat) as well as cross-territory ones, e.g. facilitator to the Governments of the Turks & Caicos Islands and of St Helena on the development of pilot strategies to implement the Environment Charters, with advice given in this regard also to the Falkland Islands, Ascension, Pitcairn, Alderney and others; and undertaken some commissions, for example for the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Consultant to UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to review actual and potential Ramsar Convention Wetlands of International Importance in UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies (2004-5); Expert consultant to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (e.g. Ramsar Advisory Mission report 46: (2001-2). External Examiner, University of Durham BSc degrees in Environmental Sciences (1995-1999); higher degree examiner or consultant for the Universities of Simon Fraser (Vancouver), Cape Town, Durham, Anglia and Wales.

John Randall (Rt. Hon. the Lord Randall of Uxbridge PC) is a member of the House of Lords. He graduated from University College London in 1979 with a degree in Serbo-Croat Language and Literature, before joining and running the family retail business in Uxbridge.  He was elected in 1997 as the Conservative Member of Parliament for Uxbridge.

In 1999 he was appointed Opposition Whip, and at the end of 2005 he was promoted to Conservative Assistant Chief Whip. In 2010 he was appointed the Government Deputy Chief Whip and Treasurer of Her Majesty’s Household in the Coalition Government.

He stepped down from his ministerial position in 2013 in order to give more time to issues such as the environment, conservation and modern slavery. During his political career he firmly opposed the UK’s involvement in the Iraq War (he was the first Conservative MP to resign over it), worked to tackle modern slavery, championed marine conservation and fought to end the wild bird trade. He is a trustee of the Human Trafficking Foundation and in 2016 was appointed Special Envoy on Modern Slavery to the Mayor of London. From 2017 until June 2019 he was Special Adviser on the environment to the then Prime Minister, Theresa May, working in No.10 Downing Street. John joined the House of Lords in June 2018.

John is a life-long birdwatcher.  He was also an ornithological tour leader for many years and has been a member of the RSPB Council. He has always been passionate about wildlife and he works to help young birders and conservationists gain access to the ‘corridors of power’ He has developed a particular interest in the flora and fauna of the UK Overseas Territories and their conservation.

Joan Walley DL is based in Staffordshire. Locally educated, and with an honorary degree from Staffordshire University and membership of the Council of Fellows at Keele University, she studied at Hull University and University College of Wales in Swansea. She went on to represent her home city of Stoke on Trent and Kidsgrove in parliament from 1987 to 2015. She was a member of the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee from 1997 to 2015. She chaired this influential Environmental Audit Select Committee from 2010 until her retirement in 2015, when she gave a Speaker’s Lecture to hand over the environmental ‘baton’ to the next parliament. Public health and the environment were and remain constant threads running throughout her work . 

She was recognised by the Isle of Man Government for her role in securing protected status for the basking shark. Now retired, she remains active with various environmental and local commitments and is as focused as ever on the need for local and global action to protect our planet.

Kathleen is an environmental scientist, with specific expertise in tropical and sub-tropical ecology and 25 years’ experience in environmental impact assessment and related disciplines. Working extensively in Florida, the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands, Kathleen is a native Floridian, who has been working and living in the Caribbean region since 1990. Her life and professional experiences have focused specifically on confronting the resource and capacity limitations of small-island developing states.

Often overseeing groups of consultants from disparate disciplines and cultural backgrounds, Kathleen has conceived, designed, managed and conducted research in all environmental disciplines. Her professional experience includes managing and conducting baseline ecological assessments, classifying and mapping terrestrial, wetland, coastal and marine habitats, preparing comprehensive environmental impact assessments, developing environmental education programmes, advising on environmentally sustainable development and working in association with private and public sector entities to develop environmental partnerships, legislation and policy. 

Most recently, she completed a two-year contract as the Turks and Caicos Islands’ Director of the Department of Environment and Maritime Affairs (DEMA), the country’s agency charged with oversight of protected areas, fisheries, coastal and wetland management, management of all natural resources and maritime affairs. During her tenure as the Director of DEMA, she managed a team of 25 enforcement, scientific, education and administrative professionals, with an annual operating budget of approximately US$3 million. She also independently raised approximately $1.5 million in funding for conservation initiatives. In addition to her scientific and management proficiencies, she is an accomplished author and editor, with numerous publications on the natural history of the Bahamas, Ambergris Cay, Turks and Caicos, and Snake River, Wyoming.

In association with Harvard University, Kathleen developed and is now implementing a multi-criteria environmental evaluation model, which combines remote sensing, rapid ecological assessment, GIS mapping and data analysis. The model is being field tested on East Caicos, the largest uninhabited island in the Caribbean. Methods are standardized, inexpensive, easy to implement and specifically suited to the limitations of small-island developing states (SIDS).

Kathleen is currently working as an environmental consultant, focusing on promoting understanding of the relationships between human culture and the environment and fostering the momentum for paradigm shifts that will be required to ensure resilience in a climactically challenged world.