Double celebration for Sandy and Brian

Brian and Sandy Coppins with their awards
Brian and Sandy Coppins with their awards
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Brian and Sandy Coppins have been awarded two top accolades for their research and conservation work.

The husband and wife duo received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the RSPB’s Nature of Scotland Awards

Brian 67, a research associate at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, and Sandy, 69, were also presented with the Bob Saville Award from the Wildlife Information Centre in Bo’Ness.

The East Linton-based pair are lichenologists – people who study the physiology and ecology of lichens, which are composite organisms that arise from algae living among fungus.

Brian said: “We were so honoured to get the RSPB Scotland’s Lifetime Achievement Award and then the Bob Saville Award for biological recording in south east Scotland.

“We knew Bob Saville personally since his earlier days at Scottish Wildlife Trust, often joining him in the field on the specialist recorders’ meetings that he regularly organised.

“Later, he used to visit us at home for discussions about the design of his experiments into the feeding preferences of what became his great specialism, the barkflies, many of which feed on lichens – our specialism. It is a real honour to be formally linked to the name of such an inspirational naturalist as the late Bob Saville.”

The married couple have worked toghether for decades carrying out thousands of detailed surveys and assessments of lichens.

Brian retired from RBGE in 2009 after 35 years. He has around 25,000 preserved collections within the RBGE Herbarium.

In recognition of his work he was made an honorary life member of the British Lichen Society in 1994.

Between 2004 and 2006 Sandy organised and managed a project for Scottish Natural Heritage and the British Lichen Society to build a comprehensive site-based lichen date base for Scotland.

She also trained lichenologists and agency staff under a Lichen Apprentices Scheme. In 2012 she received an award from the Scottish Government for her ‘special contribution to the Species Action Framework’.

Sandy has also contributed to improving public understanding of lichens with her regular contributions to British Wildlife.

She is an active contributor to the Scottish Native Woodland Discussion Group and together with Brian has run courses on lichens at the Kindrogan Field Centre in Perthshire for 11 years.

Dr Chris Ellis, head of cryptogams at the Botanics, said Brian and Sandy were worthy recipients of the two accolades. He said: “Brian spent his career working on lichens at RBGE and with his wife Sandy made a formidable team for biodiversity conservation. Together they adventured to document Scotland’s globally-important lichens, discovered ancient temperate rainforests on Scotland’s west coast and determinedly championed the conservation of previously overlooked lichen species.”