Dr Andy McMullen is the Principal Botanist and owner of Botanæco. I undertake the plant, vegetation & habitat-related work myself, and when necessary, engage associates to assist with multi-disciplinary projects, or non-specialist peat-probing or GIS.
I have always been interested in plants and the outdoors. After finding fascination in mosses & liverworts, Professor Jim Dickson at Glasgow University got me to lift my head back up to see how plants could be used to reconstruct ancient climates, cultures & economies. A later PhD, studied remotely from Deeside, Aberdeenshire, with Professor Keith Barber at the University of Southampton, developed this skill further and Aberdeen University was kind enough to 'adopt' me at the same time. Follwing my PhD, Aberdeen University provided the opportunity to lecture in palaeoecology ('ecological history').
Excited by the formation of National Parks in Scotland, I joined the Cairngorms park authority, at its inception in 2004 as a manager and interpreter (‘educator’) of the contested, grouse moor habitat. This was a challenging experience and one that I enjoyed in learning about the machinations & politics of the countryside; and the frustrations of a bureaucracy. The generosity of University of Aberdeen continued my involvement in Greenlandic research with annual field trips throughout this time.
When approached by an environmental consultancy in 2006, I was sceptical at first but have enjoyed the role ever since. The range of outdoor & academic activity is attractive, as is the opportunity to meet different people in various circumstances. The adventures are good too. When your office is the Scottish Highlands, or Greenland, not everything is predictable, other than the need for patience & a sense of humour, and occasional moments of great beauty.
My aptitude, training & experience mean that I enjoy the physically as well as intellectually challenging jobs, and long periods alone in remote places. The same 'get on with it' attitude means that I always strive to produce a quality output above specification and on time. In fact, I am quite proud of the fact that I have never missed a deadline.
When not outdoors looking at plants for work, I am often outdoors looking at plants for fun, enjoying various forms of self-propelled travelling, or fishing. When I have had enough of all that, I enjoy coming home to watch dreadful TV programmes. I really should stay in more often …
Fearn MacColl accompanies me on most of my surveys. He is a collie x huntaway - larger than a collie, with a huntaway's big paws, longer legs and relaxed, keen-to-please attitude. This has made him easy to train with a conversational tone, hand signals & whistles, at heel or at range. With the cleverness and self-discipline of both breeds, Fearn now anticipates commands, by getting off the road and sitting at the approach of a car, for example. However, he remains reluctant to retrieve, or to close doors behind him.
The presence of a dog is genuinely supportive from a safety perspective because they have assisted the location of their injured humans in the often remote locations we work in. It also reduces the pressure that can arise over several days 'alone' and there is of course, the pleasure of working with a well-bonded dog that can function on automatic.
When he's not shadowing me on field work, Fearn enjoys yet more walks, swimming, Grade 1(-2) scrambles, camping, the fireside rug & Dentastix®.