About us


Our governance

The governing body of Avon Wildlife Trust is a board of trustees. Trustees play a vital role in all aspects of our work.

Giving their time for free, like all our volunteers, our trustees bring the necessary skills and experience to oversee the strategic development and direction of Avon Wildlife Trust. They take all decisions on matters of Trust policy. 

Meet the trustees

There are currently 10 trustees serving for the Trust:

David Relph – Chair of Trustees

David works on improving collaboration and impact carried out across whole places rather than within organisations. After studying economics he joined the British Army and served for 15 years in a variety of roles before joining the Carbon Trust in 2011. He worked as part of their Policy team advising the UK and other governments on support to innovation in a range of low carbon technologies. David then joined the NHS as the Head of Strategy and Planning at University Hospitals Bristol. He then became the Director of Bristol Health Partners, a city wide collaboration of NHS bodies, universities and local authorities and was awarded an Honorary Degree by the University of the West of England in 2016 for my work in Bristol. David has a strong commitment to the preservation and development of the natural environment and believes that the benefits of access to the natural environment should be available to everyone equally. He is helping the Trust to look at how our work, and the work of the environmental sector, connects with work in the health and planning systems.

David Relph

Katharine Finn – Chair of Finance and Resources Committee

Katharine has been Regional Ambassador of PwC West and Wales and is senior partner in Bristol office specialising financial audits and assurance services. She works with public, private and not-for-profit organisations and is HRH Ambassador for Responsible Business in the South West. Katharine has three young children and enjoys spending time outdoors exploring natural spaces with their two dogs.

Katharine Finn

Malcolm Shepherd - Chair of Governance Committee

Malcolm’s early career was in Industry where he held Finance and Commercial Director roles with several large companies, but for the last 25 years worked within the broad environmental movement as a consultant, employee, trustee and volunteer.

He recently retired as the Chief Executive of Sustrans. He was a founding member of Saferworld, a Director and Trustee of Friends of the Earth (including as Chairman), has been on the Council of the National Trust, and held various roles in the sector and advisory roles to the Department for Transport and the Cabinet Office.

In 2015 Malcolm was awarded a CBE for his contribution over many years to Transport and the Environment, and in the same year received an Honorary Doctorate from UWE for his contribution to Community, Transport and the Environment.

Malcolm Shepherd

Chris Curling

A corporate finance lawyer, Chris led law firm Osborne Clarke for 15 years, overseeing its development from a Bristol-based provincial firm into an international law practice.

Chris was an early member of Friends of the Earth (FOE) and was involved in the formation of Avon FOE in the 1970’s. He has been Chairman of Sustrans, Wildscreen, and the External Advisory Board of the Cabot Institute, the environmental research institute of the University of Bristol. He is passionate about education, having been a member of the governing body of Bristol University and Chairman of Governors of Merchants’ Academy, Withywood, Bristol.

He now chairs a committee which has oversight of nine schools in Bristol under the umbrella of the Society of Merchant Venturers, of which he was Master in 2015. Chris has an honorary Doctorate of Law from UWE for his work in environmental conservation and education in the West Country.

Chris Curling

Zac Nicholson

Zac has been a chartered architect for over 16 years and an associate with Alec French Architects for over 12 years. With an overarching ethos for low energy low impact sustainable architecture, he is a certified Passivhaus Designer and has extensive knowledge of a wide range of construction and building types; community, education, residential, mixed use, sports and leisure projects.  Practicing what he preaches, he manages the office ISO14001 accreditation, has gained Carbon Neutral® company status, undertakes carbon foot printing and plants native broadleaf trees in the local community for carbon offsetting.

He is also passionate about conservation of native wildlife, taking holidays in Northumberland and Cornwall, seal and dolphin watching.  He supports a number of animal and wildlife charities; World Animal Protector, Four Paws, The Brooke, The Donkey Sanctuary, The Woodland Trust and is a volunteer and member of the Friends of the Bath Cats and Dogs Home.


Zac Nicholson

Nathan Rutter

Nathan is a science teacher at an inner-city secondary school in Bristol. His passion for nature and the environment started from childhood, and then he went on to study environmental science at university. From connections made in Plymouth, he self-funded a research trip to Nicaragua for seven months with the help of ENCA (the Environmental Network of Central America); investigating the impact of society and tourism on its environment. Whilst there, he found that education and immersion in the outdoors is key to making people value nature and the positive impact it can have on our lives. He currently run an eco-club for students within his school, trying to encourage a culturally diverse school body to collectively care more about the environment. The benefits of nature on our well being are clear to those of us that immerse ourselves in the outdoors. However, communities which have not had these experiences cannot place value on something they do not relate to. He wants to work with the trust to open these experiences for all communities of Bristol and Bath; creating a welcoming environment for all cultures and a trust that represents its community.

Nathan Rutter

Kate Leahy

Kate qualified as a Chartered Accountant at PwC in Bristol and worked mainly in the Charity and Public Sectors on clients such as Bristol Zoo, National Trust and the Forestry Commission. In 2011, Kate moved to Triodos Bank to help set up their Internal Audit and Risk management function in their UK division, before moving into an Operations role in the Business Banking team. Kate has always loved walking and horse-riding in the Mendips, and discovering the wildlife that inhabits it, since she was six years old. She has two young boys and wants them to enjoy the countryside and wildlife as much as she did as a child. After reading the AWT Magazine this summer, they made a pond in their garden and all of the family were delighted when they found a frog had made it its home.

Kate Leahy

Ped Asgarian

Ped has a huge passion for improving our food and agricultural systems and the natural environment. He is committed to helping to find a way that we can exist on this planet in a way that benefits all flora and fauna. Originally studying environmental sciences at university, Ped spent the next decade mixed between travelling and operational and commercial management of small to medium sized business in the food retail sector. Deciding to combine his degree with his work, Ped has been working at The Community Farm for 6 years and is the Managing Director. The Community Farm is a social enterprise with the aim of improving our local food systems though nature friendly farming. He is also a founding member and sits on the board of Bristol Food Producers, an organisation aiming to upscale local food production and distribution in Bristol. In his spare time Ped enjoys running, football, cycling and being in the sea. And food.

Ped Asgarian

Ross Fairley

Ross is a partner in the law firm Burges Salmon and heads their renewable energy team. Ross has over 25 years experience advising on environmental and sustainable energy and has worked on many of the UK’s key projects in that area. He has always had a love of wildlife and the countryside. Ross was previously a council member of the United Kingdom Environmental Law Association and is a Trustee for Bristol’s “We the Curious.” He is also on the managing Board of Burges Salmon.

Ross Fairley

Mark Steer

Dr Mark Steer works in an academic role at the University of the West of England where he teaches, researches and practices conservation biology. Mark is involved in developing novel conservation monitoring techniques focused on extracting species’ DNA from the environment to understand the distribution and behaviour of elusive species ranging from eels to lemurs. He is also assisting the creation of a new protected area in Madagascar’s central highlands. He has been involved in a number of studies to understand the impact of changing environmental conditions and economic drivers on wildlife-rich habitats in Somerset.

Mark Steer trustee


What is the role of a Trustee?

The role of the Trust’s Board of Trustees is to deal with regular business, with occasional extra meetings to address strategic or special matters. This body has full responsibility for the strategic development and direction of the Trust, and takes all decisions on matters of Trust policy.

How many Trustees does the Trust have, and how are they elected?

The constitution of the Trust provides for a maximum of 12 Trustees - up to six elected directly by Trust members at the AGM, and up to six appointed by the Trustees to ensure an appropriate balance of skills, experience and representation on the Board. The Board can also co-opt Trustees to fill any vacancy between AGMs. The Trust currently has 11 Trustees.

How long does a Trustee serve on the Board?

Trustees serve by election or appointment for three years.

How often does the Board meet?

Avon Wildlife Trust's Board of Trustees meets every three months, with occasional extra meetings to address strategic or special matters.

Securing wildlife - inspiring people

Read our Annual Report and Accounts 2019-2020