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Anstruther RNLI volunteer to study seals thanks to generous grant

Emily Hague
Emily Hague

A Fife-based researcher will investigate the plight of harbour seals thanks to a legacy left by adventurers.

Emily Hague, a research assistant at the Sea Mammal Research Unit in St Andrews, will conduct her work around Orkney and Shetland to investigate the potential role of killer whales in the curious decline of Scotland’s harbour seals.

Emily, 27, who in her spare time is part of the RNLI Anstruther inshore lifeboat crew, is a recipient of an annual grant established in honour of Bill Wallace and Des Rubens, who died in the Alps 10 years apart.

Emily’s dream is to become a marine mammal specialist and hopes this pilot study, a two-week land based observational trip, will help her towards fulfilling that.

“I am both delighted and overwhelmed to be lucky enough to receive a grant from the Des Rubens and Bill Wallace fund,” she said.

“I plan to summon up the spirit of adventure and courage shown by the two men when I set off with my walking boots and camera to the islands to investigate the decline of harbour seals and the role that killer whales may play in this decline.”

She added that as a young researcher in science, funding was difficult to receive and sometimes ideas and dreams can seem too far-fetched to be taken seriously.

“Securing this funding for my first research adventure just proves anything is possible if you are just brave and stubborn enough,” she said.

Rosie Simpson of the John Muir Trust, which administers the grant, said: “We’ve been delighted with the number and quality of applications this year.

“Emily’s passion for the sea came through strongly in her application.

“Des and Bill lived active, adventurous, outdoor lives and would be delighted to know their inspirational lives are now helping to look after the wild places that were so close to their hearts.”

The grant was established to help people gain life-changing experiences in wild places which have scientific or educational value.

Bill died of heart failure at the age of 73 in 2007, while skiing, with two artificial hips, in the Alps.

Edinburgh teacher Des, 63, was killed in 2016 in an Alpine climbing accident.

Since being established, initially in honour of Bill, the grant has supported almost 50 people from all walks of life, from students to scientists and grandmothers to gardeners, in life-changing adventures of educational or scientific value in some of the wildest places in the world.

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