Meet the Team: Trustee Roger Thomas
6th June 2016
Meet a key member of our team: trustee Roger Thomas helps govern our organisation and shares his expertise to protect freshwater habitats, all as a volunteer
Tell me your name…
And your job title?
What does that involve?
Primarily, it is about being part of the team that oversees the charity, ensuring that Freshwater Habitats Trust does what it is intended to do, keeps within the laws governing charities, and manages its finances properly.
What’s so important about that?
Good governance, which is what the above briefly describes, is vital for charities because it gives confidence to funders that their money is being spent for the purposes for which they made the donation or award. Charity governance has been very much in the spotlight in the last 12 months, after some spectacular failures; this has served to remind all trustees everywhere of the significant responsibilities that go with their role.
What is your favourite part of your job?
Meeting the staff and discussing what they are doing. I’m very fortunate to also be a member of the Freshwater Habitat Trust’s Science Advisory Group, where I work with two fellow trustees who have an enormous knowledge of freshwaters. The other members of the group are staff and, together, we explore what the Trust is doing and how we can make the most effective contribution to ensuring that the biodiversity of our freshwaters is understood, valued and cared for.
And least favourite?
As I’m not a finance specialist, I’d say it was poring over the accountant’s reports! But even here, the information is portrayed in ways that make it readily accessible and easily understood…..and given that oversight of the organisation’s finances really is one of the most important duties of a Trustee, I have become competent at reading the key finance reports and spotting the issues.
Why do you do it? What do you get out of it, and what keeps you going through the hard days?
I have always been interested in freshwaters, which I see as ribbons of connectivity in our landscape, and my early career was spent in river authorities. As a society, we are beginning to understand the importance of connectivity between habitats – and that our historic focus on protected areas is not enough. Protected areas can only work in today’s pressurised natural world if they are connected. We know that ditches, ponds and headwaters are the most biodiverse of our freshwater habitats; how we manage these is central to achieving our aims of halting the loss of biodiversity and then restoring the natural quality of freshwaters generally.
What does freshwater wildlife mean to you?
A vast array of species, from the simplest through to the complex, with the some of the most fascinating life cycles imaginable.
What’s your favourite freshwater habitat?
I particularly like upland headwaters, linking me back to a childhood spent exploring the streams and rivers of a south west Wales valley. The anticipation of gently overturning a submerged boulder to see what’s hiding there never goes away……
What got you interested in freshwater habitats?
I was surrounded by them in childhood and they were our playground. My memory is of a much more diverse range of species and a greater abundance of individuals. Under almost every stone we would find an eel or a Penabola (literally, head-and-stomach, but known in England as a Miller’s Thumb), together with myriad invertebrates. The devastation of a 60s land drainage scheme, that turned a river of riffles and pools into a uniformly straight and very shallow channel, angered us kids! 30 years later, that same river was restored – in a process of reverse engineering – to something similar to its historic state…….so we are, albeit too slowly, realising the errors of our ways.
Want to know more?
If you would like to find out more about the Freshwater Habitats Trust team, who we are, what we do, or what a career in freshwater conservation might be like, have a look at our previous Meet the Team posts:
National Coordinator for People, Ponds & Water
River Thame Catchment Partnership Officer
PhD on new ponds
People, Ponds and Water Officer in Wales
People, Ponds and Water Project Administrator