Iris Turner

One of the IES' longest standing members, Iris began her lifelong career in environmental science with the completion of a BSc General Degree of University of London (which covered Mathematics, Chemistry and Geography). She then joined the teaching profession with a view to teaching Chemistry in secondary schools. She taught in two secondary schools whilst simultaneously undertaking research for an MPhil degree as a part-time student. She was subsequently awarded a one year research assistantship with some teaching commitments in order to complete her MPhil degree.

At the end of the year’s research assistantship she gained a lectureship in a teacher training college. The college offered a variety of qualifications leading to the Teachers Certificate and BA, BSc degrees of the University of London. There she rose through the ranks to Acting Head of the Chemistry Department. During this time Iris was continuing to undertake more research while working full-time. In 1973 she was awarded her PhD degree.

In the mid-1970s major changes were occurring in higher education, and the teacher training college where she worked merged with another similar institution to form the West London Institute of Higher Education. When Iris’ department was closed due to the merger, she transferred to the Geography Department where she taught Soil Science and Biogeography. Recognising the need to update the geographical content of her first degree, Iris enrolled on an MSc in Environmental Pollution Science at Brunel University. This was a one day a week commitment and was facilitated by the flexibility (and funding) of her institution.

Being a very keen amateur gardener, Iris undertook the Royal Horticultural Society’s course in Horticulture. At this point in her career Iris was asked to provide part-time teaching in Soils Science at Kew Gardens as part of her full-time appointment in the same higher education institution (now changed its function and name). She was subsequently awarded the Kew Medal by Alan Titchmarsh for her outstanding contribution to the gardens at Kew (see the photograph of Iris after receiving the award above).

Early in her career Iris was given administrative responsibilities, which increased as her job specification changed. Whilst continuing to teach at undergraduate and post-graduate levels, Iris took on whole institutional responsibilities, including CATS (Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme) officer, admissions tutor, schools liaison officer. Iris took early retirement when the institution was subsequently merged with Brunel University in 1995. However she returned part-time to undertake some teaching in Biogeography and Soil Sciences for a further ten years.

Iris’ interest in Environmental Sciences had arisen early in my career. Her particular interest was nitrogen compounds and how they interact with the environment, with all three of her postgraduate degrees dealing with different aspects of nitrogen compounds.

“I joined the IES having become aware that single science subjects were very dependent on other science subjects. I had joined the Royal Science of Chemistry in 1976, Royal Geographical Society in 1983 and the Institute of Horticulture in 1984. Hence it seemed appropriate to join the Institution of Environmental Sciences. I had become much involved in teaching aspects of the environment from different perspectives.”

Joining in October 1985, Iris is now one of the 25 longest standing members of the IES.

Throughout her career Iris has been concerned with the engagement of students, graduates and the public with the environmental field. Key projects in her career include her contribution, with a colleague, to a textbook for undergraduates, postgraduates and the general public, entitled ‘Understanding Environmental Issues’ and a longitudinal study of the careers of ex-students (undergraduate and postgraduate) in the environmental field.

Iris has been an active member of the IES: in 1994 she worked with Roy Waller to produce a report ‘The Environment and the Professions’ on behalf of the IES and, more recently, she joined the IES 40th anniversary celebrations at the AGM in June.

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