BTO Podcast episode 2 - Greg Palmer, Juliet Vickery and Andy Clements

Meet the CEOs: in conversation with Juliet Vickery and Andy Clements

Greg, Youth Advisory Panel

Greg Palmer

Public Engagement Coordinator

Greg is 25 and currently works on science engagement for a biomedical research institute at the University of Cambridge. He is part of BTO's Youth Advisory Panel, and is passionate about making nature more accessible for young people.



It’s not every day you are given the chance to quiz successive leaders of an organisation, especially during a pandemic. So, when the BTO Youth Advisory Panel were given the chance we wanted to take it. 
Fast forward a few weeks and new BTO CEO Juliet Vickery was about to begin her handover period with outgoing Chief Executive Andy Clements. I caught up with them both in a recording studio just outside Cambridge to ask a few questions.
Greg:  “Andy, how are you feeling about leaving a role you love?”
Andy:  “When I took on this role, I used to say to people that it was the dream job for somebody that has had a career in conservation. I still think that now. I’m sad to be leaving, but it’s definitely time for a new challenge for me, but also new challenges for the BTO and I’m really confident that Juliet will be able to lead the BTO in wonderful new and exciting directions.”
Andy, Juliet and Greg
Andy, Juliet and Greg met for a walk at a Cambridge nature reserve ahead of recording the podcast. 

Juliet is no stranger to the BTO, having been hooked on birds since her time at university right up until her recent spell heading up International Science at the RSPB.

Greg: “Juliet, how does it feel to be coming back to the BTO?”

Juliet: “I spent the last 11 years working for the RSPB, another wonderful organisation, leading a team of researchers working on international conservation issues. Before that I actually worked for the BTO, leading their work on farmland birds and farmland bird conservation, so it’s really fantastic to be back.“

After 13 years in charge, Andy had plenty of memories to share; far too many to fit in the podcast. He reminisced about his work with staff and spending time at events, meeting members and volunteers from across the country.

Greg: “Andy, what are some of your favourite memories of your time at BTO?”

Andy: “The memories are always going to be about the people… One of the nice things, and we won’t be doing it this year unfortunately because of the pandemic, is the annual conference that we have at Swanwick. One of my favourite memories from that is that late into the night, you take your jacket off and sit down on the sofas with a group of BTO staff. Out comes the wine and the whisky, and the cheese and the crackers. And sometimes we’re there ‘til 4 o’clock in the morning, just shooting the breeze together. For me engaging with staff in an informal way is a really important thing. “

Andy Clements at Migfest
Andy Clements at Spurn's Migration Festival with BTO staff. 

It is clear that one of Juliet’s major focuses while at the helm will be increasing the impact of BTOs work, wanting to make sure the research makes its way to those who need to act on it.

Greg: “Juliet, what do you think will be a priority for BTO?”

Juliet: “I think the BTO already has huge impact, but it remains maybe a little bit of a well-kept secret... Next year is going to be a huge year for the environment and we need to be centre stage in terms of the data that we deliver. “

The Youth Advisory Panel have been working throughout 2020 to help steer youth engagement work at BTO.

Greg: “What do you both think needs to be done to involve and include a diverse community of young birders?”

Juliet: “I am a fundamental believer that the way in which to engage underrepresented groups, whoever they are… is to talk to those groups to understand their perspectives… What are the barriers to getting involved? How do we overcome those barriers? How do we become more inclusive, relevant and exciting to those groups? That’s why we have a Youth Advisory Panel.“

Andy: “We really think that two things - role models that people can relate to in the sector, and listening to those valuable feelings and experiences of people as they’ve grown up in an underrepresented group - are the most important things we do to enable us to do better in this space.”

I did my best to end with a good question. But also a tough one, courtesy of the Youth Advisory Panel: if you were a bird, what would you be? And, crucially, why? Juliet and Andy had some interesting responses to round off our chat – but naturally, you will have to listen to the podcast to find out what they said.

Listen to the podcast to hear the full conversation and let us know what you think in the comments.

Related content