Douglas McKean accepts the Bob Saville Award at the TWIC BRISC Autumn Conference in Stirling, November 2023.

Bob Saville was one of the best-known faces in biological recording in Scotland and a key member of The Wildlife Information Centre staff for many years until his untimely death in 2010. Bob’s own records, as well as his enthusiasm for encouraging and inspiring others, were exceptional. This is commemorated with the annual presentation of the Bob Saville Award, which is awarded to someone who has made an outstanding contribution to biological recording in the TWIC area. This year, the silver quaich was presented to Douglas McKean at the joint TWIC/BRISC Autumn Conference on Saturday 11 November 2023 in Stirling.

Douglas held the post of Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) Vice-County Recorder (VCR) for Midlothian for 30 years, after being appointed in 1980. He played a key role in the ground-breaking Plant Life of Edinburgh and the Lothians project, an initiative to map the distribution of plants in the Lothians which involved over a hundred local botanists. As well as assisting with the project’s organisation, he undertook 100 x 1km field surveys and verified many thousands of records. He later helped to mobilise these 78,000 records for the TWIC, BSBI and NBN databases. Douglas also volunteered as a National Plant Referee for several challenging groups.

Having gained employment at Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh (RBGE) on leaving school, Douglas provided a key link between field botanists and the (RBGE) staff and herbarium. At RBGE he become Assistant Curator, looking after the half a million or so specimens that make up the British Collection. From 2003-2005, Douglas was involved in the working group assessing the status of all vascular plants throughout Great Britain, using IUCN criteria and culminating in a new Vascular Plant Red Data List for GB. Douglas has also contributed to several Local Biodiversity Site steering groups, where local knowledge is key to ensuring designations are based on sound information.

Since ‘retiring’ as VCR in 2010, Douglas has gone on to contribute another 15,000 records for the county and, alongside the current VC83 plant recorder Sue Jury, has submitted more records in 2023 than any other county recorder in Scotland! As of November 2023, the TWIC database holds 30,699 records with Douglas as the named recorder – mainly plants, as you’d expect, but most taxa are represented, including fish and lots of birds!

We are delighted to be able to recognise Douglas’ contributions to recording, not only his personal recording efforts, but also recognising the generous support he has shown to the wider recording community over the years. His engaging personality helps to make botany accessible and his generous sharing of his knowledge and expertise have been a tremendous help to many. To quote Barbara Sumner, VC83 plant recorder from 2010-2023, Douglas is “a great benefit to the botanical world” and a very worthy winner of the Bob Saville Award.

With thanks to Jim McIntosh, Matt Harding, and Barbara Sumner for supplying information.