Nature's Conscience: the Life and Legacy of Derek Ratcliffe

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Des Thompson, John Birks and Hillary Birks
Langford Press
1st (2015)

Nature's Conscience is written by friends and colleagues and explores the breadth, qualities and legacy of Derek Ratcliffe's work.

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Derek Ratcliffe (1929–2005) was one of Britain's greatest naturalists. He was passionate about nature and used his huge knowledge to good effect. He possessed an intense curiosity which drove him to understand and protect nature. His interests ranged from birds, butterflies and dragonflies, and mountain flora and vegetation to the ecology and biogeography of peatlands and of mosses, liverworts, and ferns. He documented birds, plants, and insects in their habitats and maintained long-term population studies on several birds of prey as well as Raven, Golden Plover, Greenshank, and Dotterel. He documented the decline of the Peregrine Falcon and famously established the role of pesticides as its cause. He led the fight that saved the wild and remote Flow Country of northern Scotland from extensive afforestation. His books have become classics of natural history writing at its very best. Through his employment as a conservationist and his books and articles, he massively influenced our awareness of nature – and its vulnerability.

Nature's Conscience is written by friends and colleagues and explores the breadth, qualities, and legacy of Derek's work. It is far more than a tribute, however, and is written as much for people new to Derek's work as for the many who have enjoyed seeing his status as a legend grow. Nature's Conscience makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the importance of nature, the development of nature conservation in Britain, and how we should study and safeguard nature.

Naturalists, conservationists, academics, painters, photographers, and friends have contributed 25 chapters, with many of the key figures in British ecology, nature conservation, and natural history featuring. Nature's Conscience is profusely illustrated, including many photographs taken by Derek. In addition there is a bibliography of Derek's publications.