Freshwater ecologist and conservationist

Born: October 25, 1928;

Died: February 25, 2016

DR Neville Morgan, who has died aged 87, was a freshwater ecologist and conservationist and one of an enthusiastic group of young scientists who were employed at the start of the Brown Trout Research Laboratory at Pitlochry, now the Freshwater Laboratory of Marine Scotland.

Neville Conway Morgan was born in Sheffield, the only child of Emlyn and Gwladys Morgan. Sadly, Gwladys died when Neville was only 11. Some time later, Emlyn met and married Dilys Hughes and Neville gained a step mother and step brother, Michael. Neville attended the local grammar school and later studied at the University of Durham where he graduated in 1950 with a first class honours BSc in zoology. His research dissertation there – on the life cycle of biting midges (Ceratopogonidae) – was later to provide a sound basis for his first job in ecology. Many years later, he was to receive a DSc from the University of Toulouse.

In 1948 the North of Scotland Hydro-electric Board and the Scottish Home Department jointly initiated a laboratory near Pitlochry, with the objective of studying the ecology and production of Brown Trout. By the end of 1949 the Brown Trout Research Laboratory had a core staff of eight and in 1950 started to recruit additional scientists. Neville Morgan was appointed to one of these posts to carry out studies of the invertebrates which were the food of Brown Trout. Before leaving Sheffield for University, he had met Judy Priest and they were married in 1951.

Back at Pitlochry in 1953, he rejoined his former colleagues, and settled down to a series of studies of freshwater invertebrates. Many of the freshwater lochs of Scotland are low in nutrients, thereby limiting the productivity of trout. A series of experiments was initiated from the laboratory, adding nutrients to loch water and thereafter following changes in chemistry, botany, invertebrates and trout food and growth. Dr Morgan played his part in this multidisciplinary team and published his results on the bottom invertebrates in 1966.

His most important work in this period, however, was a five-year study of the insects emerging from a small loch where he was ably assisted by Alix Waddell and a series of summer students, one of them the writer of this obituary. The study, one of the most detailed of its kind carried out anywhere in the world, involved daily trapping of emerging insects at several sites over different habitats in the loch. Many years later, the results were published in book form – The Insects of a Highland Lochan: Loch Dunmore, Near Pitlochry.

In 1961, after much heart searching, Dr Morgan took a promotion to principal scientific officer at the Agricultural Scientific Services Laboratory at East Craigs, near Edinburgh. As well as dealing with nematodes and other crop pests, by arranging for measurements of pesticides in raptor egg shells, he aided the discoveries of Derek Ratcliffe and his colleagues that both peregrine and golden eagle populations were being affected by DDT passing up through the food chain.

In 1965 Dr Morgan accepted a new post in the Nature Conservancy in Edinburgh to lead a new research group – the Wetlands Habitat Team. Initially this mainly involved co-ordination of the International Biological Programme study at Loch Leven. Later, he became involved in another major study – the Nature Conservation Review – the objective of which was to survey the full range of habitats in Great Britain and select the best examples for future conservation.

In 1972, Dr Morgan was appointed as depute director Scotland for the Nature Conservancy. His new post was mainly as an administrator with wide responsibilities such as oversight of the establishment and management of National Nature Reserves and all other designated sites.

After a few years, the temptation to become involved in research again became too strong and in 1976, he was offered and accepted the post of scientific director of the Station Biologique de la Tour du Valat, a prestigious research station in the Camargue area of France. Here, he was responsible for overseeing the ecological research programme and found himself involved in studies of wetlands in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.

In 1980, he and Judy divorced and, after resigning his post at Tour du Valat in 1981, Dr Morgan was asked in 1982 by the University of Wageningen to take over the co-ordination of a project in Mali dealing with the rational utilisation of game animals there. This study ended in 1984 when Dr Morgan finally retired.

Initially, he moved back to France where he restored an old farm house and lived there for some years with his second wife Monique. As well as restoration and gardening there he became involved in several French conservation projects.

In the late 1990s he left France, returned to Scotland and moved into an elegant house at Hangingshaw near Yarrowford, which he designed and had built from scratch in 2001. He had kept in touch with Judy who sadly died in 2002. With substantial grounds and a large mill pond near his new house, he was able to pursue his love of gardening and wildlife. He loved to travel and visited unusual and exotic places at least twice a year to see their flora and fauna. As well as enjoying time with his growing family, he became active in the local community, opposing a proposed local wind farm, playing badminton into his early 80s and joining various clubs and other organisations.

He is survived by his children Diana and Nick, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He has also left a legacy of published research, protected conservation areas in several countries and many friends and colleagues grateful for his counsel and advice over many years.