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Fred Slater

Dr Fred Slater

Honorary Senior Research Fellow (formerly Director of Llysdinam Field Centre)

School of Biosciences


Research overview

I am currently an Honorary Senior Research Fellow in the School of Biosciences, Cardiff University having been employed as Director of the Llysdinam Field Centre within the same School from 1974 until December 2010, a role involving management, teaching and research. I am still involved in environmental consultancy, in teaching and research within the School, and with teaching courses for Aberystwyth University’s School of Lifelong Learning.

In the early 1990s I established what has now become the internationally recognised Cardiff University Otter Project, and, after supervising her PhD and early post-doctoral work, appointed Dr Liz Chadwick to head the Project. I continue my interest in the Project’s work and in October 2019, attended the 33rd European Mustelid Colloquium in Lisbon presenting work on its background and origins. I contribute lectures to the new MSc in Global Ecology and offer my assistance in the supervision of any projects within my areas of expertise.

I first came to the Llysdinam Field Centre in 1974 with a PhD in peatland ecology, an interest which has continued as I presented and chaired sessions at the International Peat Society Symposium in Kuching in 2016 and am running a  course on  Peatlands for Aberystwyth University in 2021.

However, in 1974 the predominant interest of the then Department of Applied Biology in UWIST was in aquatic systems which led to the establishment of the Craig Goch Research Group at the Field Centre. This five strong post-doctoral team investigated the impact of the proposed enlargement of the uppermost reservoir in the Elan Valley. I had both management and research input into the group, the latter mainly through a PhD study into the effects of river regulation on aquatic and riparian vegetation and supervising projects for students on the then MSc (Applied Hydrobiology) course.

A study of road mortalities in migrating toads begun in 1976, led to over 30 years of amphibian research at the Centre, elevating amphibian research at Llysdinam to an international status with some forty publications and five PhD studies related to amphibians.

Later, in collaboration with RSPB, Welsh Water and the then NCC, my students examined ways of grading rivers using a range of biological criteria. Several classificatory systems which have been used both nationally and internationally such as River Habitat Surveys, HABSCORE and SERCON can be traced back to the work done at Llysdinam under my overall management.

This freshwater theme, lead, in the 1980s, to the supervision of a PhD study on native white clawed crayfish, which itself created an excellent baseline for a subsequent PhD study of the same species as environmental pressures on the species increased. Llysdinam’s work on crayfish has been presented at, at least five, international conferences. More recently I supervised a PhD study of the ephemeral ponds of mid-Wales and assisted in the supervision of a PhD on American Signal Crayfish in Wales. In 2017 I presented at the XXII International Association of Astacologists Symposium in Pittsburgh and in 2018 at the 8th European Pond Conservation Network Workshop in Torroella de Montgri, Spain.

I also worked extensively on biomass crops, particularly Willow and Miscanthus, as wells as biofiltration systems, providing the Wales Biomass Centre with national recognition e.g. being invited to give evidence on the subject of biomass crops to a House of Commons Select Committee.

I have been collecting and analysing long-term data on Pied Flycatchers throughout my time at Llysdinam, 17 years of which I worked in collaboration with the late Prof Mike Kern of University of Wooster, Ohio.


From 1970 I worked in the then Department of Botany and Microbiology at what is now Aberystwyth University where I investigated the surface ecology of mid-Wales peatlands. In 1974 I crossed the Cambrian Mountains to take up the position of Director of Llysdinam Field Centre, an integral part of the Cardiff School of Biosciences until its clusure in 2010.

Over the years my research interests broadened from the purely botanical of my Aberystwyth days but even so I have been involved in the description of the only distinct species of native flower plant to be added to the flora of England and Wales in the twentieth century; the description of a new plant association from ephemeral upland pools, and also research into biomass crops such as will and Miscanthus.

Some opportunistic research in the 1970's made it clear how little was known of amphibian distribution and ecology and lead me, with numerous postgraduate and post doc assistants, to explore this avenue of zoology, contributing significantly to the literature in this field. With the River Wye flowing almost at the Field Centres' door the "charm" of two both threatened and protected creatures of the river, the otter and the native white-clawed crayfish have, with the aid of several postgraduates and post docs., been subject to considerable investigative attention. My interests have also ranged from wildlife road casualties, to environmental impact assessment, from river habitat restoration, to Indus River Dolphins, and from ecotourism to biofiltration.

My pre-retirement research interests included the production and biodiversity of willow and perennial rhizomatous grasses for biomass; amphibian, otter and crayfish ecology and conflicts between biodiversity and ecotourism. I am the author of over 150 reports and publications mainly about the ecology of mid-Wales, including two books and chapters in several more.


Lecture to MSc in Global Ecology students


A Blackcountryman by birth, I have lived and worked in Wales for over 50 years. After gaining my BSc (Hons) in Botany from The University College of Wales Aberystwyth, I returned to the West Midlands to teach Biology at the then Darlaston Grammar School. Having concurrently gained my Post-Graduate Certificate in Education (University of London) and an MSc in Peatland Ecology (University of Wales) I returned to Aberystwyth as Demonstrator (Assistant Lecturer) in Ecology in the Department of Botany and Microbiology allowing me to study for a PhD into the ecology of Cors Fochno (Borth Bog) and other Welsh peatlands.

In 1974 I left Aberystwyth and crossed the Cambrian Mountains to Newbridge-on-Wye to become Director of the newly opened Llysdinam Field Centre, then belonging to UWIST, but which, after mergers and institutional name changes, became part of the Cardiff School of Biosciences.

I list below some examples of my research experience:

  • I have worked with foreign partners on several projects including a study of the Indus River Dolphin with the University of Sindh (as Visiting Professor) and the Sindh Wildlife Department, providing an holistic approach to conservation on the Indus using lateral natural biofiltration areas – an idea subsequently taken up by conservation authorities on the Ganges.
  • I worked closely with the Government of the Cape Verde Islands on ecological issues related to local fisheries and turtles and tourist development.
  • I worked in Majorca as an ecological consultant with Richard Rogers Associates on a major development near Palma.
  • In New Zealand I have surveyed Paranephrops planifrons (one of NZ’s native crayfish) with Dr Stephanie Parkyn and Astacopsis gouldii (the world’s largest freshwater crayfish) in Tasmania with Tod Walsh.
  • I have undertaken a Welsh Government funded visit to Australia to develop academic links with Decapod experts there.
  • I was the first to record in the literature the crayfish Procambarus clarkii in Majorca and has made crayfish related visits to Austria, Spain, Italy, Norway, Germany, Mexico, USA, Canada, Japan and South America.
  • I visited Sabah to advise on managerial aspects of the Danau Girang Field Station prior to its opening to Cardiff students.
  • I have produced some 200 reports and publications including three books and numerous chapter contributions to other books.
  • My ecological status is reflected in the fact that he is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Ecology & Environmental Management and one of the first Chartered Ecologists in the UK.
  • I have been an Associate at Herpetofauna Consultants International.
  • I have worked collaboratively on biomass crops with Massey University in North Island, New Zealand.
  • Working on ephemeral ponds in Wales has also taken me to present work in this field in Portugal, Germany, Australia, Balearics and Brazil.
  • In his capacity as an ecological consultant I have worked on major wind-farm projects including Carreg Wen, in north Powys, with NPower Renewables which included proposals to convert some 30km2 of conifers on the Llanbrynmair moors, post wind-farm construction, back to acid grassland and dwarf shrub heath. I have undertaken similar work on the smaller Bryn Titley windfarm in mid Powys and proposed wind farms in Pembrokeshire, Newbridge Gwent, and the Lake District.
  • I advised on the restoration of the 6 Bells Colliery spoil site in South Wales, from mine waste to acid grassland, dwarf shrub heath and Birch/Rowan woodland.
  • I had design input into several schemes creating wetlands using natural vegetation (reed or willow beds) as filters to improve water quality, including for the National Trust along the Conwy River, for Powys County Council and on the River Indus in Pakistan for river dolphin conservation.
  • I have also worked on the ecological/environmental aspects of woodland creation; developments in the New Forest; water abstraction from the Hampshire Avon; site developments from Newcastle upon Tyne to Sandringham and west to Devon; ecological surveys of the M4 from near Bristol to the M25 and the Heads of the Valleys road in South Wales in relation to road widening.
  • I also have considerable experience working and advising on grassland issues e.g. I co- supervised a PhD study into the effects of liming upland grasslands; I have studied Pied Flycatchers in nest boxes for over forty years and have estate  nest box data back to pre-First World War; similarly I have extensive interests in amphibians, bats and small mammals.

Honours and awards

Although currently an Honorary Senior Research Fellow within the School of Biosciences I am also:

  • Fellow of the Royal Agricultural Societies
  • Silver medallist & Honorary Life Vice President, Royal Welsh Agricultural Society (RWAS)
  • Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management
  • Chartered Ecologist
  • Chartered Environmentalist.

I am currently or have been:

  • Holder of government licences to study bats, native crayfish, freshwater pearl mussels, Chirocephalus, (fairy shrimp), great crested newts and is an “A” class licensed bird ringer and trainer
  • External PhD/MSc examiner.
  • External moderator for Masters’ courses for Bangor University and the University of South Wales
  • A Board Member of the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society, Chair of its Spring Festival and Chair and Assistant Honorary Director for Horticulture at the Royal Welsh Show
  • For 10 years he was the Professional/Scientific member on the statutory FERAC committee of the then Environment Agency (Wales)
  • Served on the Agricultural Research Advisory Committee of the National Assembly for Wales
  • A member of WAG Woodland and Biomass Strategy Group
  • A member of the University’s Cardiff Foundation for Environmental Research
  • A member of WERC (Welsh Energy Research Centre), a steering group established to co-ordinate energy research in Wales
  • A founder member of the Chartered Institute of Ecology & Environmental Management and previously vice convenor of the CIEEM committee for Wales
  • Part of IBERS Willows for Wales management team
  • Board member of Mid-Wales Energy Agency
  • Independent Assessor for DTI’s Energy Technologies Programme (biomass)
  • He established the Wales Biomass Centre based at Llysdinam Field Centre
  • He chaired and managed the Radnorshire section of the Herefordshire and Radnorshire Nature Trust to the point where it was sufficiently viable to become the independent Radnorshire Wildlife Trust, an organisation with which he still has close connections
  • 1970s and’80s a regular broadcaster for the BBC (Radio 4, Radio Wales, World Service, Television) regarded (so he was told!) as one of the top 20 natural history communicators broadcasting at this time
  • A member of the RSPB Committee for Wales
  • A member of the Editorial Board of Nature in Wales.

Over more than 35 years I gained considerable experience in the management of people, organisations and projects. I managed the University’s Llysdinam Field Centre, with, at any one time, up to 22 staff, and potentially 40 visitors in residence, and in addition ran numerous large, mainly EU funded projects with budgets of up to approximately £3,000,000. Other significant funders included the Llysdinam Charitable Trust, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, DTI, Statutory and Governmental bodies.