The Trust employs about 50 full and part time staff who are all strongly committed to the work of the charity and its work for Somerset’s natural world.
Some members of staff have been with the Trust for many years, others are employed for shorter periods on specific projects. Our paid staff are often assisted by volunteers who allow us to do things we could not otherwise do.
Senior Leadership Team
Chief Executive Officer
Georgia joined us from The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country, where she was CEO for the past 4 years. She was also Chair of the Birmingham and Black Country Local Nature Partnership and Chair of the Birmingham and Black Country Nature Improvement Area partnership of 50 organisations.
Georgia Stokes has 10 years’ experience of leading charities and, prior moving into the Wildlife Trust movement, was Managing Director of Northfield Ecocentre in Birmingham – a community-based charity focused on finding practical solutions to climate change – which has since been rebranded as ecobirmingham. She began her career working as a fundraiser and has also been a campaigner at Oxfam.
Georgia grew up in Somerset and is passionate about ensuring that Somerset continues to support a thriving, strong countryside and towns that deliver multiple benefits for both Somerset’s people and wildlife.
Director of Fundraising and Marketing & Deputy CEO
Katie leads, shapes and directs the Trust’s fundraising, marketing, communications and supports the CEO in providing effective leadership of the Trust. Having worked in the charity sector for many years, she brings experience of heritage, the arts and education as well as from her previous roles in the commercial sector. Katie is also an experienced charity Trustee. She has yet to see an otter but has, since joining the Trust, counted booming Bitterns, surveyed dormice and created a wildlife pond in her garden. Katie’s mission is to inspire more people to experience and support all that is special about Somerset’s wildlife.
Head of Communications
With more than 20 years experience in the marketing communications arena Kirby brought a breadth of highly strategic communications expertise to the Trust from a more commercial background. She spent much of her earlier career working both in-house and agency side for a range of blue chip software, technology, online and video games businesses, including Electronic Arts and Google. Kirby is responsible for driving the delivery of the Trust’s integrated marcomms strategy, to include responsibility for all digital and social channels, content marketing, print, branding & design, press & promotion. She considers herself a frustrated designer and thinks words are the best weapons in inspiring change for the environment. She also has a passion for raptors of any kind.
Head of Conservation Policy and Biodiversity
Simon joined the Trust from Natural England, where he was responsible for managing six of their National Nature Reserves in Somerset, including those on the Somerset Levels. With this invaluable experience, his role at the Trust is, with the support of its science and data resources, to pioneer the development and delivery of the Trust's Nature Recovery Network strategy - the aim of which is drive county-scale biodiversity net gain by enhancing and connecting species-rich habitats within which wildlife can thrive, that people can connect to, and that restore a healthy and vibrant natural environment capable of adapting to a changing climate. If Simon isn’t managing land for wildlife, he’s running through it. A keen runner, Simon can be found running with his club as the sun rises and is also involved in setting up a community woodland project in his village.
Head of Engagement
Jolyon has been working within the conservation sector for 20 years, most of which have been focussed on helping to protect, restore and celebrate our marine environment. After a three year spell in Italy monitoring global fishing activity for the European Commission Jolyon returned to the UK to work for Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, managing the marine programme across the two counties and the wider South East. For nine years he walked, sailed and dived his way around the area mapping habitats and species, using the data acquired to successfully help implement Marine Conservation Zones to look after our precious marine natural heritage. Following roles at Natural England and on an organic farm in Devon, where he ran child and adult education programmes, he returned to the Wildlife Trust family in 2016, this time in Somerset, to develop and lead the education, engagement and wellbeing programme, believing that people and nature connection are a critical part of the solution for nature conservation at scale.
Head of Nature Reserves and Land Management
Having begun her career in veterinary medicine, Rachael has been working in conservation for around 20 years after undertaking an MSc in Ecology at Aberdeen university. She has worked across the UK in national, regional and local conservation roles covering a range of priority habitats and species that are of increasing conservation concern; from heathland management in Yorkshire to water vole recovery projects across England. As Head of Nature Reserves and Land Management for the Trust, Rachael recognises that there are great challenges ahead if we are to make space for nature in our changing world and enable its recovery across the county both on nature reserves and in the wider landscape. Both in and outside of work, Rachael takes every opportunity to enjoy and encourage the wildlife around us all, including in her own (wild) garden and allotment.
Chair, Graeme Mitchell
Graeme has had a lifetime’s experience in the travel and hospitality industry, having run a highly successful Tour Operating business for 25 years until its sale in 2016. As a hands-on Tour Operator no two weeks were ever the same having to deal with a multitude of deadlines and the necessary logistics that were involved in taking some 8,000 people each year to visit gardens around the world – not to mention the joys of dealing with the fall-out from volcanic ash, ferry strikes, and the odd dead body.
Graeme has been a keen birdwatcher all his life. He cut his birding teeth in the Scottish Highlands, never believing for a minute things could get any better… that is until he moved to Somerset in 2001.
He recently set up a small birdwatching holiday business from his home near Wedmore where he shares his passion for the birds found across the county of Somerset.
Vice Chair, Sarah Nason
Sarah has had a long civil service career working in a range of HQ policy and corporate management roles, including head of Defra’s flood management division, sponsor of the Environment Agency and CEO of the Farming and Rural Conservation Agency which became part of Natural England. She is currently a public appointee on the Wessex Regional Flood and Coastal Committee where she champions sustainable flood risk management which also benefits biodiversity and natural resources. Sarah has had a lifelong interest in the natural world and is passionate about the range of landscape and habitats that Somerset has to explore. She lives in the Quantocks where she enjoys bird watching, walking, wildlife gardening and nature photography.
Treasurer, Richard Atkin
Working as a water engineer in his early career on projects as diverse as Andean hydropower and Thames Tidal defences, Richard then spent most of the rest of career with European private sector businesses, working in operations, general management, finance, strategy and technology. Richard and his family moved to a home above the Avalon marshes in 1988. He put his roots down deep, resisting all attempts at relocation, and watched his children grow up along with the Avalon Marshes. He cares deeply about creating infrastructure that enhances our relationship with the natural environment. Hobbies include walking, managing his cider orchard, cider making, and bees. He volunteers with the Mendip Hills AONB, and his dry walling skills are a work in progress.
Born and raised on a Northumberland farm and trained as a teacher, Helen taught for thirty years in primary schools in Grimsby and Jersey. She moved to Taunton in 2001. During the last sixteen years she has been involved in raising the profile of the environment within Taunton. Already a member of the Trust, Helen chaired the Taunton Deane Area Group Committee, and now helps coordinate a varied programme of events which focus on fostering strong community engagement with the town’s green spaces, and bringing wildlife and natural experiences to young people in an urban setting. She has been very involved in the Routes to the River Tone project and as a result of this work has established a Green Forum which brings together all volunteers who help nurture their local green space.
Melville has spent the majority of his working life as a corporate financier and advisor to the financial services industry and retains therein a number of non-executive roles. Since retiring to the Quantocks in Somerset, he has become involved in a number of local charities. He has, since childhood, been interested in natural history generally, although his main interest was, and still is, in Lepidoptera. He is a strong advocate that the management of our countryside, for the benefit of both the wildlife and people, needs to go beyond the simple accumulation of reserves by the Trust and must involve the wider engagement of all land owners.
Phil brings more than forty years of conservation management and people engagement expertise to the Trust, working for wildlife, landscape and heritage in different parts of the UK for Nature Conservancy Council, English Nature and finally Natural England, until his retirement in 2012 in the role of Senior Reserves Manager South West. One of his particular interests is the protection of birds of prey, and he has been a Trustee for the Hawk and Owl Trust for the last four years. He is also a Voluntary Warden for Natural England at Shapwick Heath, and chaired the Steering Group of the successful Avalon Marshes Landscape Partnership HLF Project.
Matthew Bell MCIM
Matthew Bell is a Chartered Institute of Marketing, and Chartered Institute of Public Relations, qualified communications professional with over 10 years’ experience in the third sector. He is currently Head of Marketing and Business Development at Brunelcare; a charity and housing association providing housing, care and support to older people in the South West. He was previously Head of Marketing and Communications at Bristol’s St Peter’s Hospice, where he was responsible for raising awareness of the work of the charity, and for promoting a large portfolio of fundraising activities. Matthew lives in the Mendips and sits on the panel of the Mendip Hills Fund, which contributes to projects that support the landscape, education and social and economic development of the Mendip Hills area of outstanding natural beauty.
After leaving the army, Simon returned to Exmoor in 1969 from where he undertook forestry, game-keeping, hill farming, nature reserve and national park wardening, while studying for a certificate in field biology. He joined the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers as Field Officer, became first Regional Officer in the SE, finishing as Director. In 1976 he joined the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust in Jersey, where he was responsible for finance, fundraising, memberships and publications, while developing an International Training Centre, species recovery programmes overseas, and the Zoo organic farm. On retirement he chaired a small conservation foundation while studying for an MSc in Responsibility and (Conservation) Practice. He is a volunteer and reserve warden for SWT.
Professor Valerie (Val) Brown
Val has been an active member of Somerset Wildlife Trust since moving to Stawley (nr Wellington) 13 years ago and was a founding member of the Strategic Advisory Board. She is currently a member of Council of the National Trust and a member of its SW Regional Advisory Board. Val’s career was in academia, specialising in ecology and conservation, particularly in the agricultural environment. She was Professor of Agro-Ecology and Director of the Centre for Agri-Environmental Research (CAER) at the University of Reading. Most of Val’s early career was spent at Imperial College, The University of London, from where she moved to become Director of the CABI International Institute of Entomology in London, an inter-governmental organisation, and subsequently its Director of Environment.
Val has served as scientific advisor to Defra and Natural England’s agri-environment research programme for over 10 years. She has been a member of NERC Council, Defra’s Research Priorities Group and Science Advisory Group and English Nature’s Natural Sciences Advisory Group and held positions in various international organisations. She has been Vice President of the British Ecological and the Royal Entomological Societies and Council member of RSPB. She was a member of the UK Government’s ‘Making Space for Nature’ panel, the results of which are now pivotal in landscape conservation goals in the UK. In any spare time, Val enjoys gardens and gardening and is a keen bird watcher and field botanist.
Dr Mark Steer
Mark has been involved with Somerset Wildlife Trust since 2010, when he joined the Trust as a Development Officer working on the Somerset Levels. He has since moved into an academic role at the University of the West of England where he teaches, researches and attempts to practice conservation biology. Mark is involved in developing novel conservation monitoring techniques focused on extracting species’ DNA from the environment to understand the distribution and behaviour of elusive species ranging from eels to lemurs, he is also assisting the creation of a new protected area in Madagascar’s central highlands. He has previously been involved in a number of studies to understand the impact of changing environmental conditions and economic drivers on Somerset’s wildlife-rich habitats.