Steve Willis

Development and Engagement Coordinator, BTO Scotland

Steve supports the work of the Development and Engagement Manager primarily in Scotland to offer training and support to both new and existing volunteers and works closely with the Regional Network.

Interests & Responsibilities

Key to this role is the planning and delivery of training to the huge number of survey volunteers across Scotland. The BTO is dependent on its army of citizen scientists and they often benefit from support or guidance in some form, from the logistics of a specific survey to improving their bird identification skills.

We offer training and support to people just starting out and making their first forays into citizen science and also to those existing volunteers who may be looking to expand their survey experience or plug a gap in their knowledge. General promotion of BTO and its projects is another vital part of the job.

This is done through delivering talks, attending shows, meeting bird clubs and local natural history groups, and constant engagement with the Regional Network (the BTO's voluntary regional co-ordinators and ambassadors). This is a year-round activity, and allows Steve to get out-and-about in Scotland on a regular basis. Hand-in-hand with this is constant communication with the many survey organisers in BTO to see if we can help promote their survey or target certain species, habitats, or areas where we could improve coverage.

This can be complex in Scotland given the challenges of geography and a thinly spread human population! This is a diverse role that covers a wide range of topics and different elements from planning large events to helping individual volunteers. A knowledge of Scotland and its diverse landscapes and wildlife is a huge help. A passionate naturalist with a keen interest in Scotland's landscapes and wildlife, Steve is most at home when meeting like-minded souls and enthusing them about their local birdlife.

Other Information

Steve joined the BTO in 2020 having worked in nature conservation for 20 years, the vast majority of that time in Scotland. Upon graduating from University Steve spent some time volunteering with the US Fish & Wildlife Service, first in Alaska and then in New Mexico.

On returning home with a good breadth of experience he got a seasonal contract as a Countryside Ranger with the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park before joining the National Trust for Scotland's Ranger Service, where he worked for over 6 years at a diverse suite of properties.

There then followed a period of working as a freelance walking and and wildlife guide, sharing his knowledge and passion for Scotland all over the country with clients from all over the world. This work was seasonal in nature but luckily in the 'off season' Steve did some short contracts on American Mink and Water Voles, Black Grouse, and Red Squirrels- the latter leading to working for Saving Scotland's Red Squirrels in Aberdeenshire.

Through this time Steve built up his knowledge of birds and other wildlife and helped with various surveys- including a number of BTO ones. Steve joined the Scottish Raptor Study Group in 2013 and has been active with surveying a number of raptor species since then. Steve is also a trainee ringer. Away from birds and wildlife Steve is a keen mountain biker, ski tourer, canoeist, and enthusiastic (but amateur) wood turner.


BSc (Hons) Plant Science, University of Edinburgh, 1994-1998

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