Paul Collingridge

What subjects do you teach?

I teach a range of science related subjects linked to land-based studies, for example botany, soil science, pests and diseases of plants, ecology, natural history, woodland ecology and conservation and environmental management. I also teach more general subjects that our learners may require: retail management, computer aided design (CAD) and Microsoft Office. I have even toyed with musical composition, arrangement and recording.

How many years have you been teaching?

I have been teaching these subjects at Merrist Wood for 35 years. Before that I worked in the science department in secondary education and before that I was a plant physiologist in the very early days of what is now Kew’s Millennium Seedbank. I thought I had retired in 2019 to pursue personal research projects and family commitments—that doesn’t, though, appear to have stopped the teaching!

What do you enjoy about teaching adults?

The discovery journey. In recent years I have worked primarily with adults in the degree-level courses. The mental stimulation here and the opportunities afforded by the extensive and diverse habitats available on site means that complex topics can be brought to life. Watching learning take place in the environment is something quite special.

What got you into land-based studies?

From my earliest memories I have been outside, fascinated by the living world, collecting, observing, studying and researching. My journey and career have been of no surprise to anyone who knows me!

What other passions do you have?

As expected, most of my hobbies and passions relate to the great outdoors. For many years now, I have run a moth survey from home, catching, identifying, recording and re-releasing the moth species. During my spare time I can also be found walking through habitats and landscapes across Europe, noting and photographing features and species (my family call this “collecting stuff for work”). At other times I might be found playing guitar, bass, piano or singing as part of a local band. I also volunteer as an education-researcher for the Klinefelter’s Syndrome Association, a charity that supports boys and men born with one or more extra chromosome.

Why should someone join your classes?

Give me the right topic and I will exhaust you with enthusiasm and try to pass on to you as much of the joy of learning that I can within the time available.

Who are your heroes?

Professor Dave Goulson: Professor of Biology at Stirling University, inspirational entomologist, environmental apologist and author—wow can that guy write!

Rosalind Franklin: the scientific inspiration for discovering the molecular structure of DNA. She was the unsung star, back-seated by a misogynistic academic scientific community and cheated of her Nobel Prize, yet went on to be applauded as one of the greatest minds of her era and a brilliant communicator of science.

Humphrey Lyttleton: jazz musician and radio host, his humour and timing are yet to be equalled.

Land-based studies tutor