Harper Adams University: TV entomologist shares life and career highlights in Harper Adams lecture

An entomologist whose passion for insects led him to a starring role in TV documentaries watched by millions has spoken about his career to Harper Adams students.

Dr George McGavin spoke in the University’s Weston Lecture Theatre for an hour about his experiences being on TV, communicating science to the public and getting people interested in insects and nature.

Dr McGavin is an Honorary Research Associate of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History and an Honorary Principal Research Fellow at Imperial College.

He is also a Fellow of the Linnean Society and the Royal Geographical Society, an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology and an Honorary Life Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society. In 2019 he became the President of the Dorset Wildlife Trust.

During his action-packed talk, he discussed how he moved from his first forays into rockpools on the coast near Edinburgh as a child to his undergraduate Zoology degree – and how, during that degree, a field visit showed him the importance of entomology and the creatures beneath our feet.

He then spoke of his journey from his undergraduate degree to working both in museum collections and academia, and then from academia to the television shows which made him a household name, including Expedition Borneo, Lost Land of the Jaguar, and Lost Land of the Volcano among others.

The engaging talk also featured a series of behind-the-scenes anecdotes, including the story of how a potentially disastrous evening filming Lost Land of the Volcano resulted in some jaw-dropping footage which he described as ‘the reason I’m never impressed by a moth trap in Britain anymore!’

He also shared the motivations which drive him to make his programmes, such as raising awareness not only of the species which he encounters but also their habitats – and the impact that human actions, such as deforestation, can have upon them.

After the talk, Dr McGavin chatted with Harper Adams lecturers and students at a reception, hearing more about their studies and interests – and sharing further anecdotes.

Dr Heather Campbell, Lecturer in Entomology at Harper Adams, said: “George’s talk showed the how important outreach and communication skills are when we talk to people about insects and their conservation.

“It’s something which our entomology students certainly picked up on when they spoke to him afterwards, and it’s great that the strength of both our undergraduate and postgraduate courses can help attract speakers of his calibre to come and speak at Harper Adams.”

And Dr Clara Montgomery, Lecturer in Animal Health, Behaviour and Welfare, who helped to organise the event, added: “It was wonderful for the students to have the opportunity to meet and talk to such a distinguished speaker. He left everyone with a renewed appreciation for insects and awareness of the natural world.”

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