New Year honours for St Andrews academics

Friday 31 December 2021

Three leading researchers at the University of St Andrews have been named in the New Year’s Honours list in recognition of their work helping people with dementia and in animal conservation.

Dr Maggie Ellis, of the School of Psychology and Neuroscience in the University, will be acknowledged with an MBE for her dedication to improving the lives of people with dementia.

Professor Ailsa Hall, Emeritus Professor of Biology and former director of the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) is to receive an OBE for her decades of work in environmental protection and epidemiology.

Professor Anne Magurran

Professor Anne Magurran, Professor of Ecology and Evolution in the Centre for Biological Diversity and the Scottish Oceans Institute (SOI), will receive a CBE for services to biodiversity.

The prestigious accolade of an MBE has been awarded to Dr Ellis for services to dementia care and to the citizens of St Andrews after a lifetime researching methods to help those with the degenerative condition, their families and professional caregivers.

Dr Ellis’s research concentrates on helping people living with advanced dementia to communicate. Developed with her collaborator, Professor Arlene Astell of the University of Reading, ‘Adaptive Interaction’ focuses on developing meaningful ways to communicate with those who have lost speech.

Dr Ellis said: “Sometimes people living with advanced dementia who seem unable to communicate can in fact ‘talk’ to us in other ways.

“It is up to us to realise the potential and capabilities of individuals with advanced dementia and, through Adaptive Interaction, afford them re-entry onto the social world.”

Dr Maggie Ellis

Dr Ellis currently trains professional caregivers and family members to use these techniques to develop and maintain relationships with people who have advanced dementia and aims to, in future, focus on helping teenagers to interact with older people who have advanced dementia.

Dr Ellis set up Dementia Friendly St Andrews in 2016 with an emphasis on taking research into practical use to provide help to those living with dementia. Key aims were to raise awareness, provide training, raise funds and provide activities for those with dementia and their families. This work was conducted and further developed in collaboration with students, local activists and Dementia Friendly Fife.

Professor Hall will be acknowledged for her many years’ service as a Professor of Biology at the University of St Andrews and as Director of its Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) with an OBE.

As SMRU Director, Professor Hall led a team of researchers whose work has been dedicated to preserving and conserving the health and diversity of the many species which live in our seas.

Professor Ailsa Hall

This work has been immensely influential in informing government policy on the protection of marine mammal populations around the UK and has enabled the development of critical renewable energy sources such as wind and tidal energy, as well as allowing the appropriate management of marine resources.

Professor Hall’s work has also made a significant contribution to the identification and understanding of the causes of mass mortality events in marine mammals, particularly focused on the impact that pathogens, pollutants and toxins have had on the seals and whales in our oceans.

Professor Hall said: “I am very honoured to be receiving this award and I would like to thank all the staff and students at the Sea Mammal Research Unit for their support and dedication.  The health of our oceans remains in jeopardy so an understanding of how marine species may respond to future change continues to be crucial.”

Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office.

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