Meet the team

We are a group of dedicated experts working together towards a common goal to equally support development and the conservation of wildlife. If you would like to learn more about us or if you are interested in joining our team, we would love to hear from you.

Paul Whitby

Managing Director/Principal Ecologist

Paul is a Chartered Ecologist with thirteen years experience working as an ecologist and environmental consultant. His career began in Cheshire working on a number of large projects including gas pipelines, waste recovery centres, Liquid Natural Gas installations and other commercial developments. After a short spell working back in his home town of Petworth, Paul set up Azure Ecology in 2009, a small independent ecological consultancy working with a network of sub-contractors across south east England.

Paul founded The Ecology Co-operation in March 2014 to replace Azure Ecology and accomodate the expanding team of ecologists. Paul has working experience with a wide variety of British terrestrial wildlife and has managed projects of all sizes including writing Ecological Impact Assessments (EcIA), working as an expert witness at planning enquiries and completing 23 Farm Environment Plans as part of Higher level Stewardship applications across 7 different counties. He has survey licenses for bats, dormice and great crested newts and has submitted a number of European Protected Species licenses.

Aside from ecology, Paul’s interests include Rugby, vegetable gardening, free diving and pretending to be good at DIY.


Dan Bennett

Principal Ecologist

Dan joined the Team in April 2017 and has over 20 years’ practical experience working in the ecology profession, starting in the public sector in 1996 as an aquatic biologist and later, as a conservation officer for the Environment Agency. After a year working on conservation projects abroad, Dan worked in the ecology team for Jacobs UK Ltd for ten years, focussing on Environmental Impact Assessments, mitigation design and execution, and delivering protected species licenses for a variety of large infrastructure projects (highways, pipelines, reservoirs and managed realignment schemes) across the UK. Dan holds survey licenses for bats, dormice, great crested newt and white-clawed crayfish. His strengths lie in the field, surveying for the above species, birds (including wetland, wintering and breeding birds), a variety of invertebrates, and providing succinct reports and practical solutions to mitigation issues.


Outside of work, Dan has enjoyed travelling abroad to find exotic wildlife and volunteering for a variety of wildlife organisations. More recently, staying closer to home, growing veggies and pond dipping in the garden with his young family.


Kate Priestman

External Consultant and Proof-Editor

Kate is a Chartered Environmentalist and full member of CIEEM. She has over eighteen years experience as a professional ecologist, working for multinational companies at a senior level, on large, complex, public-realm schemes; she has provided the lead ecology role across a broad range of sectors and a wide range of deliverables. She has also successfully set up and run her own ecology consultancy business. Kate now works as a freelance writer and proof-editor. She undertakes report reviews, and has inputted into the design of our report templates.


More information about Kate’s work and professional services can be found here –


Dr Ryan Walker

Principal Ecologist

Ryan gained his PhD in the study of reptiles in Madagascar and has over 12 years experience working within the commercial ecological management and mitigation field and within the NGO biodiversity conservation sector. His experience extends from consultancy work in the UK to a range of projects internationally across several countries.


Ryan’s strength is in field-based biological surveying . He holds European Protected Species Licenses for bats, dormice and great crested newts and is a Chartered Environmentalist through the Society of the Environment. Ryan’s experience and range of survey skills makes him a highly valued lead surveyor at the Ecology Co-operation.

In his spare time Ryan enjoys hiking, scuba diving and entertaining the worlds most energetic terrier called ‘Otto’.


Jess Burkitt

Consultant Ecologist

‎Jess has worked as an ecologist at the Ecology Co-op for four years, having previously completed 14 months working as a Ranger at the National Trust. With a certification demonstrating her ability to use chainsaws, brush cutters and strimmers, Jess is also skilled at a variety of habitat work required on our projects and has accomplished a significant amount of ecological clerk of works project time on the Rampion cable route near Bolney, overseeing badger, reptile and great crested newt mitigation.


In addition to her ecological clerk of works role, Jess also undertakes reptile dormouse, great crested newt and badger surveys, whilst also assisting on bat activity and emergence surveys. She has experience working on a range of projects, including large scale housing development, organising surveyors, equipment and planning around the weather! Jess has a great crested newt Level 2 survey license and is close to obtaining her dormouse survey license.

Jess loves all wildlife…..except biting invertebrates….she definitely does not like biting invertebrates!


Sam Lunn

Senior Ecologist

Sam is an established member of the Ecology Co-operation Team, having started with us in April 2013. After completing his Masters at Newcastle University, Sam spent two years in South Africa as a Field guide and Ranger dealing with wildlife and habitat management, guided walks and running volunteer projects. Since joining the Ecology Co-operation Sam has become an Associate member of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management and gained practical experience of great crested newt, badger, water vole, bat and Phase 1 habitat surveys. Sam has attained his level 1 great crested newt license and level 2 bat license, whilst he is also working towards also obtaining his dormouse license.

Sam’s role at the Ecology Co-op includes the management of a number of projects with a variety of Phase 1 and Phase 2 survey elements, including large residential development sites.

Away from work Sam plays rugby for Horsham RUFC, enjoys skiing, wakeboarding and the emotional rollercoaster that comes with being a Fulham FC supporter.


Briony Hill

Consultant Ecologist

Briony is an established member of the team at the Ecology co-op and joined after working on a number of projects with the company in 2015. Before joining the company Briony worked on a project with the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife trust investigating the affect of stewardship schemes on bumblebee abundance and diversity, following the completion of a BSc (Hons) degree in Zoology at Southampton University.


Briony is an Associate member of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management and has experience in carrying out reptile surveys and translocations, badger surveys, Preliminary Ecological Appraisals and botanical assessments. Having gained her great crested newt and bat licenses, she also acts as a survey lead for these species, whilst she is also working towards her dormouse license.

Briony has a remarkable ability for report writing and there seems to be a never-ending stream of reports from Briony that require reviewing!


Emma Baker

Assistant Ecologist

Emma joined The Ecology Co-op in March 2018, after completing her Corporate Environmental Management Masters at the University of Surrey. During her degree, she also gained experience in heathland restoration while volunteering for the RSPB at Farnham Heath.


Since undertaking a placement with the company in March 2017, Emma has worked on a range of projects, including residential and commercial developments, quarrying sites, retrospective applications and mitigation schemes. She also has experience in Phase 1 Habitat Surveys, Preliminary Ecological Appraisals and dormouse box checks, whilst she is soon to obtain her Great Crested Newt survey license.

Outside of work, Emma enjoys baking, walking her dog Noah, and attempting embroidery.


Owen Crawshaw

Consultant Ecologist

Owen joined the Ecology Co-op in 2019 having previously worked as an Ecologist in South Oxfordshire for 5 years. He graduated from the University of Bristol in 2014 with a BSc (Hons) degree in Zoology.

Owen is an Associate member of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management with a Level 2 bat survey licence and a Level 1 great crested newt survey licence. He specialises in bird surveying having undertaken wintering bird surveys, breeding bird surveys, wetland bird counts and species-specific surveys, including black redstart and skylark. Other relevant ecological experience includes undertaking Preliminary Ecological Appraisals, preparation of European Protected Species Licences and completing tree climbing surveys for roosting bats.

Owen is an avid birdwatcher and photographer and to date has recorded over 550 species globally involving travel to: Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Sri Lanka. His other interests include cricket and scuba diving.


Jaycee Leddra

Office Manager

Jaycee joined as our office manager in February 2017. After spending many years in the education sector, Jaycee took on this role working around family commitments and has quickly adapted her previous management experience to help the company develop better administrative and accounting systems in a short space of time. As we continue to grow, Jaycee’s role is helping us to ensure that our Human Resources development continues to improve and is also also managing elements of our professional accreditations, including Health and Safety and Quality Control through Achilles and SMAS.

Jaycee is the only person mad enough in the office to run a marathon!


Kate Lewis

Assistant Ecologist

Kate joined the team in April 2018, after recently completing a Conservation masters degree at UCL. Kate has experience in field studies, animal behaviour research, plant taxonomy and gained hands on amphibian survey experience whilst studying terrestrial survey techniques for her masters dissertation.
Kate has already gained heaps of experience in reptile, bat, dormouse, badger and newt surveys whilst working for the Ecology Co-op, and is soon to obtain her great crested newt survey license. She has led Preliminary Ecological Appraisals and Phase 1 Habitat surveys and her role is rapidly developing to include Project Management upon a variety of schemes.
As the most green-fingered person in the office, Kate has set about turning the office into a tropical paradise!


Sophie Bradfield

Assistant Ecologist

Sophie is a new member of the team having joined in April 2018. Since graduating in 2016, Sophie has built up a varied repertoire of experience, primarily in consultancy but also the conservation sector; working with aquatic invertebrates and wetland birds.

Sophie is experienced in carrying out reptile surveys and translocations, dormouse and great crested newt surveys, bat emergence/re-entry surveys and and transects. Sophie enjoys seeing her phase 2 work through by helping produce reports.  In her spare time, Sophie enjoys taking opportunities to go bird ringing with the BTO and hopes to one day obtain a C permit. She is also plugging away at dormouse and great crested newt experience to work towards her licenses when time allows.

Aside from ecology work, Sophie enjoys modern jive dancing, and has been a social dancer for the past 7 years coming top three in several competitions.