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18 January, 2018

First student starts new environmental PhD in name of Magnus Magnusson

A new PhD studentship funded in the name of renowned journalist and TV broadcaster the late Magnus Magnusson has been awarded to an Edinburgh student looking to connect people, place, and planet. Chris Mackie will spend three years studying the role of nature in supporting learning and development in Scotland.

Throughout his life Magnus Magnusson emphasised the importance of learning and the environment. He was Lord Rector of Edinburgh University in the 1970s and, in 1992, became founder Chairman of SNH. This new doctoral study, The role of the natural heritage in supporting learning and developing in Scotland, has close ties with Magnus’s passion for education, heritage, and nature.

Magnus’s daughter, BBC Scotland presenter Sally, commented on behalf of her family: "My father was passionate about the importance of learning, and adored writing and broadcasting for as wide an audience as he could reach.  How wonderful then that we have a PhD study in his name, in the university of which he was once the proud Rector, researching the role of nature and the natural world in helping us learn and develop.  As founder Chairman of SNH he would have been delighted. We are excited to see what comes out of this, and thrilled to see our father's influence continue - 25 years on from the beginning of SNH."

Mike Cantlay, SNH Chair, added: “Connecting people and nature is vital to the work of SNH and while it’s long been recognised that outdoor learning plays a significant role in children’s development, this PhD will help us to further understand the impacts and develop effective policy. Engaging with nature encourages young people to seek out physical activity, improves social skills, and inspires creativity, all of which benefits them in later life. The research, led by University of Edinburgh PhD student Chris Mackie, aims to deepen our understanding of why outdoor learning is important and examines how it can be further supported by policies in Scotland.”

Throughout his three-year study, Chris Mackie will review the impact of our natural heritage in supporting learning, developing values, encouraging physical activity, and building communities. He will explore teaching and learning in nature and how it impacts health and wellbeing. Chris will also look at how educational and environmental practices in Scotland can be updated to include natural heritage and outdoor learning.

Chris Mackie added: “I have long been passionate about the importance of outdoor learning and connecting young people with nature. People are increasingly disconnected from nature, which could have repercussions for the future of our environment. This study will help us develop a deeper understanding of how we interact with and relate to our natural heritage, which I hope will address this disconnection and increase awareness of the importance and value of nature for our society.”

The study will begin in January 2018, supervised by Professor Peter Higgins and Dr Beth Christie (University of Edinburgh, Moray House School of Education) and Dr Peter Rawcliffe (SNH).


NOTE: Photos available on request. These include:

  • Image of Magnus Magnusson
  • Image of Chris Mackie
  • Image of children learning outdoors

Media queries - contact SNH media & public relations officer Vicki Mowat on 0131 316 2659 or (Tues-Friday) or the Inverness press office on 01463 725022 (Mondays).


Scottish Natural Heritage is the government's adviser on all aspects of nature and landscape across Scotland. Our role is to help everyone understand, value and enjoy Scotland's nature now and in the future. For more information, see or

Scottish Natural Heritage supports several PhD studies each year, many in partnership with the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) or other funders. The PhD studies offer students opportunities to develop observational, analytical, and research skills that provide a foundation for careers related to the environment. For more information on current and previous PhD opportunities funded by SNH, see

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Scottish Natural Heritage is Scotland's nature agency. We work to improve our natural environment in Scotland and inspire everyone to care more about it. We work to ensure that all nature in Scotland - our key habitats and landscapes, all our green space and our native species - is maintained, enhanced and brings us benefits. It is the job of all of us to achieve a balance in the sensitive management of our natural world in order to maintain and enhance biodiversity. For more information, visit our website at or follow us on Twitter at

'S e Dualchas Nàdair na h-Alba buidheann nàdair na h-Alba. Tha sinn ag obair airson ar n-àrainneachd nàdarra ann an Alba a thoirt am feabhas agus a h-uile duine a bhrosnachadh gus barrachd cùraim a ghabhail dhi. Gus am bi an nàdar air fad ann an Alba – ar prìomh àrainnean is chruthan-tìre, ar n-àiteachan uaine gu lèir is ar gnèithean dùthchasach - air an gleidheadh, air an leasachadh 's a' toirt bhuannachdan dhuinn. 'S e an dleastanas a th' oirnn uile co-chothrom ann an stiùireadh faiceallach ar saoghail nàdarra a ruighinn airson bith-iomadachd a ghleidheadh 's a leasachadh. Airson an tuilleadh fios, tadhail air an làraich-lìn againn aig no lean air Twitter sinn aig


Magnus Magnusson - available for one-off use (c) SNH

Magnus Magnusson - available for one-off use (c) SNH

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Chris Mackie (available for one-off use)

Chris Mackie (available for one-off use)

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