Ian L. Boyd

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Ian Boyd
Born Ian Lamont Boyd
(1957-02-09) 9 February 1957 (age 61)[1]
Kilmarnock, Scotland
Alma mater University of Aberdeen and St John's College, Cambridge
Known for
  • Chief Scientific Adviser, Defra (2012-present)
Spouse(s) Sheila Margaret Elizabeth Aitken (m. 1982)
Children one son, two daughters
  • Scientific Medal, Zoological Society of London (1998)
  • W.S. Bruce Medal for Polar Science (1995)
  • FRSE (2002)
  • Polar Medal (2017)

Professor Ian Lamont Boyd FSB FRSE (born, Kilmarnock, 9 February 1957) is a Scottish zoologist, environmental and polar scientist, the Chief Scientific Adviser at Defra, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs[2] and Professor in Biology at the University of St Andrews.

Early life[edit]

He is a son of Dr John Morton Boyd CBE, he attended the independent George Heriot's School in Edinburgh. He went to the University of Aberdeen from 1975-1979 and then to St John's College, Cambridge until 1982, he was a Churchill Fellow in 1980. He was a member of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve from 1975-1978 when he gained a pilot's license.



Professor Ian Boyd’s career has evolved from Physiological ecologist with the Natural Environment Research Council Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, to a Science Programme Director with the British Antarctic Survey, Director at the Natural Environment Research Council’s Sea Mammal Research Unit, Chief Scientist to the Behavioural Response Study for the US-Navy, Director for the Scottish Oceans Institute[3] and acting Director and Chairman with the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland.[4] He has also been the Chief Executive or board member of several companies for the University of St Andrews, he is currently Professor in Biology at the University of St Andrews and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

In parallel to his formal positions he has chaired, co-chaired or directed international scientific assessments; his activities focusing upon the management of human impacts on the environment.

Ian was responsible for establishing the Scottish Oceans Institute at the University of St Andrews and the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS),[4] one of Scotland’s cross-institutional research pools including eight of Scotland’s universities, he established several operating companies for the University of St Andrews and these now operate globally with subsidiaries in the United States, Canada and Hong Kong. As Director of the NERC Sea Mammal Research Unit he was responsible for providing scientific advice to Defra and the Scottish Government about policies related to marine mammals. He has been a member of the Scottish Science Advisory Council and is on the Board of Reviewing Editors of Science. He was Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Zoology from 2006-2008.


Professor Boyd has received numerous honours and awards recognising his contributions to science, including the Scientific Medal of the Zoological Society of London, the W. S. Bruce Medal (awarded once every 5 years) for his research in Polar Science and has been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland’s National Academy, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology.[5] He has held an honorary professorship at the University of Birmingham and was awarded the Antarctic Service Medal of the United States in 1995, he led the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St Andrews to the award of the Queen's Anniversary Prize in 2011. In 2017, he was awarded the Polar Medal and an honorary doctorate from the University of Exeter.


He graduated from the University of Aberdeen with a 1st class Degree in Zoology in 1979 and from Cambridge University with a PhD in 1983. He was awarded a DSc by the University of Aberdeen in 1995 for his research on mammalian physiological ecology, the University of Exeter awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2017 for his contribution to science and policy.[6]


His position at Defra was announced on 24 April 2012[7] and he took up his post on 1 September 2012, he is currently a member of the Board of Fera Science Ltd. In 2017 he announced that he would be leaving Defra after five years as Chief Scientific Adviser but then agreed to stay on following the 2017 General Election when Michael Gove became the Secretary of State for Defra, he explained in a blog [8] that Defra "is responsible for delivering the basics of life – food, water and air – in sufficient quantities and to a demanding quality standard. As a consequence, we have to deal with some of the most difficult questions facing people and the planet" and that "like many others, I cannot easily walk away from these challenges and especially when opportunities are opening up which could ratchet us along the track to improvement."

He regularly writes a blog [9] which often deals with controversial interpretations of scientific studies concerning the environment when he tries to correct misinterpretations or present alternatives to conventional thinking.

Since 2011 most government departments have had their own Chief Scientific Adviser but Defra has had a Chief Scientific Adviser since its creation in 2001. Predecessors had been Sir Howard Dalton (2002-2007) and Sir Robert Watson (2007-2012). Defra was originally formed from the Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and part of the Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions both of which had Chief Scientific Advisers up until the merger.

His appointment is non-political, but he served as scientific adviser to four different Secretaries of State including Owen Paterson, Liz Truss, Andrea Leadsome and Michael Gove.



Ian Boyd has published over 180 peer reviewed scientific papers (H-index 52), 14 books and has been the author/co-author/editor of several major reports including a marine atlas of Scotland’s coastal seas,[10] he has been an author of a number of publications about fisheries management both in connection with his native Scotland[11][12] and globally.[13]

His most significant discovery has been the functional relationship between the performance of marine predators and the state of their food supply, first published in a paper in the Journal of Animal Ecology in 2001,[14] this suggested that there was likely to be a surplus of marine production which could be exploited by fisheries before there were wider effects on marine ecosystems. Although Boyd had made this discovery in the kill-based ecosystems of the Southern Ocean, together with colleagues, he showed that this relationship was general for most marine ecosystems, they published a paper in the journal Science[15] making the point that fisheries needed to leave at least one-third of the biomass in the ocean for other predators like seabirds.

Much of his research has focused on the studying the ecological economics of marine predators, mostly in Antarctica, and using their energy balances and behavioral and physiological responses to understand the distribution and abundance of marine resources,[15][16] he has developed methods of using heart rate as a proxy for measuring metabolic rates in free-ranging animals.[17][18][19][20] He then used these results to estimate the food consumption of whole populations of marine predators like seals and penguins.[21] Other interests have included behavioral optimisation within physiological constraints using diving physiology as an example[22][23] and the evolution of the economy of natural currency (e.g. energy) allocation under uncertainty.[24][25][26][27]

He has also authored many research papers and books about marine mammals,[28] he has studied controversial issues in marine environmental science including the interactions between marine mammals and fisheries in the Northern Gulf of Alaska[29] and the effects of anthropogenic noise on marine organisms.[30][31]


Together with his father, John Morton Boyd, he has written several books about the natural history of the Hebrides include one published in the Collins New Naturalist series.[32]


His most recent article in the journal Science, "Toward pesticidovigilance", called for a new approach to the regulation of pesticides,[33][34] he also published a recent article in Nature, "Taking the long view", which advocated taking a systems approach to understanding the problems which governments have to manage.[35]

In 2015, he wrote an oped in the New York Times titled "Our deadened, carbon soaked seas"[36] with Rick Spinrad who was then the Chief Scientist at NOAA to draw attention to the dangers of ocean acidification. Also in 2015, he wrote an article on environmental forensics [37] where he said "We breathe, eat and drink other people's pollution. The 'tragedy of the commons' has a powerful presence across the environment, it has proved difficult to design market solutions to deal with these issues of equity."

With co-author Sir Mark Walport he has recently produced a report on waste and resource productivity.[38] When giving evidence to the UK Parliamentary Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee he said that it would be sensible to "bury plastic in landfill until science progresses" and that plastic waste should be stored in landfill sites until it can be mined.[39][40]

He has also provided commentary on the use of data in government saying "Across government there may be just about as many definitions of data as there are people".[41]


He is a member of the Council of Management of the Hebridean Trust [42] and has recently become a Trustee of the South Georgia Heritage Trust.[43]


In July 2013, Boyd opined that "the scientific community needs to [be] avoiding suggesting that policies are either right or wrong; and being willing to make the voice of science heard by engaging with the mechanisms already available through science advisory committees, by working with embedded advisers (such as myself), and by being the voice of reason, rather than dissent, in the public arena."[44] The sentiment is seen as controversial by such people as Naomi Klein[45] and George Monbiot, the latter of which described the opinion as "Shut up, speak through me, don't dissent – or your behaviour will ensure that science becomes irrelevant."[46][47]

In October 2013, Professor Boyd rebutted these opinions by Naomi Klein and George Monbiot.[48] Boyd stated that the point he was making in July was that "it is not their (scientists) job to make politicians' decisions for them – when scientists start providing opinions about whether policies are right or wrong they risk becoming politicised. A politicised scientist cannot also be an independent scientist."

He has been Chief Scientific Adviser at Defra through a period of controversy and change. Following the invasion of ash disease in to the UK in 2012, caused by the fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, he wrote a review of the effects of tree disease on ecosystems[49] and he also responded to criticism of some of Defra's methods used in badger culling;[50] in 2013, he called for higher standards in policy-relevant science.[51]

In 2007 and 2008, he was Chief Scientist for the US Navy Behavioral Response Study which examined the responses of whales to naval anti-submarine sonar,[52] this contributed to the case of Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council in the US Supreme Court.

Personal life[edit]

He married in 1982 and has one son and two daughters, he lives in London, St Andrews and on the Isle of Tiree in the Hebrides.


  1. ^ Boyd, Ian Lamont. ukwhoswho.com. Who's Who. 2015 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc.  closed access publication – behind paywall (subscription required)
  2. ^ ‘BOYD, Prof. Ian Lamont’, Who's Who 2013, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2013; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2012 ; online edn, Nov 2012 accessed 5 Sept 2013
  3. ^ "Scottish Oceans Institute - University of St Andrews". soi.st-andrews.ac.uk. 
  4. ^ a b "Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS)". Welcome to Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS). 
  5. ^ "Professor Ian Boyd - GOV.UK". www.gov.uk. 
  6. ^ "Professor Ian L Boyd, BSc PhD DSc FSB FSRE - Honorary graduates - University of Exeter". www.exeter.ac.uk. 
  7. ^ "New Chief Scientist appointed - GOV.UK". www.defra.gov.uk. 
  8. ^ "Opportunities too good to miss". 4 October 2017. 
  9. ^ "Professor Ian Boyd". Professor Ian Boyd. 
  10. ^ ceu@scotland.gsi.gov.uk, Scottish Government, St. Andrew's House, Regent Road, Edinburgh EH1 3DG Tel:0131 556 8400 (8 December 2009). "Marine Atlas". www.gov.scot. 
  11. ^ "RSE Inquiry into The Future of the Scottish Fishing Industry" (PDF). rse.org.uk. Royal Society of Edinburgh. March 2004. 
  12. ^ Scottish Government, St Andrew's House (4 November 2010). "The Future of Fisheries Management in Scotland: Report of an Independent Panel". 
  13. ^ "Little Fish Big Impact" (PDF). lenfestocean.org. 
  14. ^ Boyd, I. L; Murray, A. W. A (2001). "Monitoring a marine ecosystem using responses of upper trophic level predators". Journal of Animal Ecology. 70 (5): 747–60. doi:10.1046/j.0021-8790.2001.00534.x. JSTOR 2693459. 
  15. ^ a b Cury, P. M; Boyd, I. L; Bonhommeau, S; Anker-Nilssen, T; Crawford, R. J. M; Furness, R. W; Mills, J. A; Murphy, E. J; Osterblom, H; Paleczny, M; Piatt, J. F; Roux, J.-P; Shannon, L; Sydeman, W. J (2011). "Global Seabird Response to Forage Fish Depletion--One-Third for the Birds". Science. 334 (6063): 1703–6. Bibcode:2011Sci...334.1703C. doi:10.1126/science.1212928. PMID 22194577. 
  16. ^ Boyd, I.L., Wanless, S. & Camphuysen, C.J. (2006) Management of marine ecosystems: monitoring change in upper trophic levels. Cambridge University Press.[page needed][verification needed]
  17. ^ Boyd, I. L; Bevan, R. M; Woakes, A. J; Butler, P. J (1999). "Heart rate and behavior of fur seals: Implications for measurement of field energetics". The American Journal of Physiology. 276 (3 Pt 2): H844–57. PMID 10070067. 
  18. ^ Green, J. A; Butler, P. J; Woakes, A. J; Boyd, I. L; Holder, R. L (2001). "Heart rate and rate of oxygen consumption of exercising macaroni penguins". The Journal of Experimental Biology. 204 (Pt 4): 673–84. PMID 11171349. 
  19. ^ Green, J. A; Butler, P. J; Woakes, A. J; Boyd, I. L (2002). "Energy requirements of female Macaroni Penguins breeding at South Georgia". Functional Ecology. 16 (5): 671. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2435.2002.00670.x. 
  20. ^ Green, Jonathan A; Boyd, Ian L; Woakes, Anthony J; Warren, Nicholas L; Butler, Patrick J (2009). "Evaluating the prudence of parents: Daily energy expenditure throughout the annual cycle of a free-ranging bird, the macaroni penguin Eudyptes chrysolophus". Journal of Avian Biology. 40 (5): 529. doi:10.1111/j.1600-048X.2009.04639.x. 
  21. ^ Boyd, I.L (2002). "Estimating food consumption of marine predators: Antarctic fur seals and macaroni penguins". Journal of Applied Ecology. 39: 103. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2664.2002.00697.x. 
  22. ^ Boyd, I.L (1997). "The behavioural and physiological ecology of diving". Trends in Ecology & Evolution. 12 (6): 213–7. doi:10.1016/S0169-5347(97)01054-9. PMID 21238044. 
  23. ^ Boyd, I.L; Reid, K; Bevan, R.M (1995). "Swimming speed and allocation of time during the dive cycle in Antarctic fur seals". Animal Behaviour. 50 (3): 769. doi:10.1016/0003-3472(95)80137-5. 
  24. ^ Boyd, I. L (1998). "Time and Energy Constraints in Pinniped Lactation". The American Naturalist. 152 (5): 717–28. doi:10.1086/286202. PMID 18811346. 
  25. ^ Dall, S. R. X; Boyd, I. L (2004). "Evolution of mammals: Lactation helps mothers to cope with unreliable food supplies". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 271 (1552): 2049–57. doi:10.1098/rspb.2004.2830. PMC 1691826Freely accessible. PMID 15451695. 
  26. ^ Houston, Alasdair I; Stephens, Philip A; Boyd, Ian L; Harding, Karin C; McNamara, John M (2007). "Capital or income breeding? A theoretical model of female reproductive strategies". Behavioral Ecology. 18: 241. doi:10.1093/beheco/arl080. 
  27. ^ Stephens, P. A; Boyd, I. L; McNamara, J. M; Houston, A. I (2009). "Capital breeding and income breeding: Their meaning, measurement, and worth". Ecology. 90 (8): 2057–67. PMID 19739368. 
  28. ^ Boyd, I.L., Bowen, W.D. & Iverson, S. (2010). Marine Mammal Ecology and Conservation: A handbook of Techniques. Oxford University Press.[page needed]
  29. ^ Boyd, I.L (2010). "Assessing the effectiveness of conservation measures: Resolving the "wicked" problem of the Steller sea lion". Biological Conservation. 143 (7): 1664. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2010.04.006. 
  30. ^ Tyack, Peter L; Zimmer, Walter M. X; Moretti, David; Southall, Brandon L; Claridge, Diane E; Durban, John W; Clark, Christopher W; d'Amico, Angela; Dimarzio, Nancy; Jarvis, Susan; McCarthy, Elena; Morrissey, Ronald; Ward, Jessica; Boyd, Ian L (2011). "Beaked Whales Respond to Simulated and Actual Navy Sonar". PLoS ONE. 6 (3): e17009. Bibcode:2011PLoSO...617009T. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0017009. PMC 3056662Freely accessible. PMID 21423729. 
  31. ^ http://www.tos.org/oceanography/archive/24-2_boyd_il.pdf[full citation needed][dead link]
  32. ^ Boyd, J.M. & Boyd, I.L. (1990) The Hebrides. Collins (New Naturalist), 416pp.
  33. ^ Milner, Alice M; Boyd, Ian L (2017). "Toward pesticidovigilance". Science. 357 (6357): 1232. Bibcode:2017Sci...357.1232M. doi:10.1126/science.aan2683. PMID 28935789. 
  34. ^ "Energy - Environment". the Guardian. 
  35. ^ Boyd, Ian L (2016). "Take the long view". Nature. 540 (7634): 520. Bibcode:2016Natur.540..520B. doi:10.1038/540520a. 
  36. ^ Spinrad, Richard W.; Boyd, Ian (15 October 2015). "Opinion - Our Deadened, Carbon-Soaked Seas" – via NYTimes.com. 
  37. ^ "FORENSIC SCIENCE AND BEYOND" (PDF). gov.uk. Government Office for Science. 
  38. ^ "From waste to resource productivity - GOV.UK". 
  39. ^ Environment Editor, Ben Webster (2 February 2018). "'Bury plastic in landfill until science progresses'" – via www.thetimes.co.uk. 
  40. ^ "Parliamentlive.tv". www.parliamentlive.tv. 
  41. ^ Boyd, Ian L (2017). "The stuff and nonsense of open data in government". Scientific Data. 4: 170131. Bibcode:2017NatSD...470131B. doi:10.1038/sdata.2017.131. PMC 5604132Freely accessible. PMID 28959451. 
  42. ^ "HOME - The Hebridean Trust - conserving the historical and natural heritage of the Hebrides". www.hebrideantrust.org. 
  43. ^ "South Georgia Heritage Trust – to conserve and protect the natural and human heritage of South Geogia". www.sght.org. 
  44. ^ Boyd, Ian (2013). "Making science count in government". E Life. 2. doi:10.7554/eLife.01061. 
  45. ^ "Naomi Klein: How science is telling us all to revolt". www.newstatesman.com. 
  46. ^ Monbiot, George (30 September 2013). "For scientists in a democracy, to dissent is to be reasonable - George Monbiot". the Guardian. 
  47. ^ "Scientific reason is being replaced by political propaganda - Taipei Times". www.taipeitimes.com. 
  48. ^ Boyd, Ian (6 October 2013). "Scientists do speak up, but politicians decide policy - Ian Boyd". the Guardian. 
  49. ^ Boyd, I. L; Freer-Smith, P. H; Gilligan, C. A; Godfray, H. C. J (2013). "The Consequence of Tree Pests and Diseases for Ecosystem Services". Science. 342 (6160): 1235773. doi:10.1126/science.1235773. PMID 24233727. 
  50. ^ Boyd, Ian L (2015). "DEFRA responds to badger-cull critique". Nature. 527 (7576): 38. Bibcode:2015Natur.527...38B. doi:10.1038/527038b. 
  51. ^ Boyd, Ian (2013). "Research: A standard for policy-relevant science". Nature. 501 (7466): 159–60. doi:10.1038/501159a. PMID 24032133. 
  52. ^ Tyack, Peter L; Zimmer, Walter M. X; Moretti, David; Southall, Brandon L; Claridge, Diane E; Durban, John W; Clark, Christopher W; d'Amico, Angela; Dimarzio, Nancy; Jarvis, Susan; McCarthy, Elena; Morrissey, Ronald; Ward, Jessica; Boyd, Ian L (2011). "Beaked Whales Respond to Simulated and Actual Navy Sonar". PLoS ONE. 6 (3): e17009. Bibcode:2011PLoSO...617009T. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0017009. PMID 21423729. 

External links[edit]

Video clips[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Chief Scientific Adviser for DEFRA
September 2012 –
Succeeded by
Business positions
Preceded by
Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Zoology
2006 – 2008
Succeeded by