National Trust staff member Paul
Watler has been promoted to environmental programmes manager designate after
earning his master’s degree recently.
Mr. Watler’s degree programme was
funded through the UK Overseas Territories Environment Programme. He studied
with the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at the University of Exeter’s
The year-long Master’s of Science
in Conservation and Biodiversity afforded him the chance to hone his research
skills while allowing him access to the experience of acknowledged experts.
The fellowship awarded to Mr.
Watler covered his tuition as well as provided a stipend for room and board.
The National Trust also contributed, granting Mr. Watler an additional stipend
and study leave in order to pursue this opportunity.
“OTEP even sponsored my return to
Cornwall for graduation! It was an incredible feeling — almost like winning a
race,” said Mr. Watler.
The programme is a joint effort by
the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International
Development to support environmental management in the UK Overseas Territories.
With an eye to building capacity in
overseas territories, the fellowship required Mr. Watler to return home to
carry out the research portion of the Master’s course.
For his project, Mr. Watler chose
to examine the foraging patterns of bats. His thesis, Effects of Habitat
Modification on the Foraging Activities of Insectivorous Bats, on the Island of
Grand Cayman was published in issue 6 of the Department of Environment’s
monthly bulletin, Flicker.
Mr. Watler found the course very
well suited to the practical work he will have to do in Cayman.
“The master’s course was quite
comprehensive, with a variety of different modules. Experts would tell us
firsthand about the techniques they utilised in the field,” he said. “We were
taught how to assess properties of ecological importance and there was even a
two week field trip to South Africa. I’m glad that I returned home to perform
my research. It’s good to know that my efforts related directly to conservation
in Cayman, and were in some small way supportive of Cayman’s natural heritage.”
Frank Balderamos, general manager
of the National Trust, said the organisation was very proud of Mr. Watler’s
“He’s not only a gifted scientist,
but also serves as a wonderful example of success in a career not traditionally
pursued by Caymanian youth,” said Mr. Balderamos.
According to Brendan Godley, programme
director and associate professor of Conservation Biology at the University of
Exeter, Mr. Watler’s experiences in Cayman brought a unique perspective to
“Paul was a pleasure to have in the
class and always brought good humour and a pragmatic insight into the
difficulties of island conservation into our discussions,” said Mr. Godley “He
has been a credit to the Cayman Islands and the National Trust. I am sure he
will go on to having a great impact into the conservation of the heritage of
the Cayman Islands,” said Mr. Godley.
The National Trust sent Mr. Watler
to Cayman Brac recently, where he assisted Frank Rivera-Milan of the United
States Fish and Wildlife Service with the Brac Parrot Survey. In the coming
months, the National Trust will task Mr. Watler with drafting management plans
for environmental properties and enhancing its recreational areas.