A tribute to Richard Payne by Roxane Andersen
I first met Richard in Thurso in 2011. It was a rather unusual situation, as we had both been invited to attend an interview for a Peatland Scientist post at the Environmental Research Institute. Clifton Bain, from the IUCN UK Peatland Programme was in fact on the interview panel! On this particular occasion, all the candidates were required to attend a short presentation and offered a tour of the premises prior to the interview. We also all stayed in the same hotel the night after the interview. So it made sense to go for a meal together – we were, after all, there because of a common interest in peatlands!
I liked Richard immediately. He was full of enthusiasm and ideas and talked passionately about peatlands, volcanoes, nitrogen deposition and, of course, mountains. At the time, he was well on his way to complete a first round of all the Scottish Munros, and had bagged a list of impressive summits. So as well as peatlands, we both shared a love of the great outdoors and we were both early career researchers trying to make a difference.
We made a pact then to try to collaborate in the future, whatever the outcome of the interview would be. And so we did… Less than a year later, we were supervising our first post-grad student together. It would be the first of many, as Richard quickly became one of my closest collaborators.
Richard was curious by nature and interested in all sorts of topics. He excelled at setting up new collaborations and bringing disciplines together in sometimes unexpected ways. And I believe one of the reasons why these collaborations lasted and worked has something to do with Richard’s incredible ability to rapidly turn an idea into a proposal, a proposal into a project and a project into a paper… He was a team player, who genuinely cared about making a difference for peatlands through research and by helping to shape the next generation of peatland scientists.
The whole peatland community lost a brilliant scientist when Richard’s journey through life was stopped tragically by an avalanche on the slopes of Nanda Devi. I also lost a very dear friend. Today, I wish to pay tribute to Richard, who helped me in my journey through academia and who has inspired me as a scientist. I wish to thank him for all those years of friendship that have enriched my life. And while the grief will ease away with time, I truly hope we can all keep his memory alive.
Environmental Research Institute UHI