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Earthwatch at 50: David Mortimer and Richard Ellis' story

David Mortimer and Richard Ellis both independently went on an Earthwatch expedition to survey Mexico’s forest wildlife after both being awarded Earthwatch Millennium Fellowships in 2001. 

Richard was motivated to apply as he saw an opportunity to combine 30 years’ experience as a Head Warden for the National Trust with his newfound Spanish language skills.

"The Earthwatch trip has been one of the highlights of my environmental career. I loved having the opportunity to do hands-on research again as my career has become increasingly desk-based. The bird life in Mexico was spectacular. Something I’ll never forget”.

David heard a programme about the Fellowships on Radio 4, whilst brushing his teeth and was drawn to the opportunity to learn about wildlife. 

A particularly eventful night saw David encounter a native wildcat known as an ocelot while monitoring the traps that they had set earlier in the day. This prompted the ‘emergency drill’ to minimise stress to the captured animal but as he didn’t have a phone, David had to clamber to the top of a nearby ridge and shout to get the attention of fellow researchers. By the time they arrived, darkness had fallen. The group of eight people had to act quickly to sedate and radio-collar the cat before finding their way back to camp in the pitch black with only one torch between them.

The expedition had a profound effect on both David and Richard.

For David, the trip led to a change in career “The trip actually prompted me to change career and I began working for Sussex Wildlife Trust on my return from Mexico” he said.


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