Tributes have flooded in for a world-renowned scientist, ecologist and mountain expert known to all as “Mr Cairngorms”, following his death after a short illness.
Dr Adam Watson, who lived at Crathes in Aberdeenshire, died on Wednesday.
Fellow snow researcher and friend, Iain Cameron announced the news yesterday on behalf of Mr Watson’s family and said he was an “irreplaceable”.
Writer and broadcaster Cameron McNeish led tributes to the scientist saying he was “greatly saddened” by the news.
He added: “Adam was a giant in wildlife and landscape conservation and will be sadly missed.
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“His knowledge of the Cairngorms in particular was quite unsurpassed and his work as an environmental scientist was respected worldwide.
“He was a great supporter of the Gaelic language and as a self-taught speaker he promoted the importance of the language in local culture and the place names of the Cairngorms and in particular Deeside.
“On a personal level, Adam Watson was hugely inspirational and his authoritative books on the Cairngorms have been standard texts for mountaineers and wildlife enthusiasts for many, many years.
“Adam was an absolute giant in terms of wildlife and landscape conservation.”
Dr Watson wrote more than 300 peer-reviewed publications and 35 books on flora and fauna.
One of the foremost authorities on the Cairngorm mountains, he had walked in the area since the age of 16, and had carried out ground-breaking work on Scotland’s red grouse and ptarmigan populations.
Born in Turriff in 1930, Mr Watson went on to marry Jenny Raitt in 1955, and the couple had two children, Jenny and Adam.
Also “saddened” by the news, Alexander Burnett, Scottish Conservative MSP for Aberdeenshire West, paid tribute and said: “I knew Adam and his late wife, Jenny.
“As local residents of Crathes, we had many conversations over our shared interest in conservation.
“My thoughts go to his family at this sad time, who will no doubt have many happy memories to look back on.”
His prolific academic output resulted in him receiving numerous fellowships, honours and awards.
Notably in 2000, he became an Emeritus Fellow of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.
In 2014, he was given an honorary doctorate from Aberdeen University, where he had gained a first class honours in Pure Science (Zoology) in 1952 – making this his fourth honorary doctorate.
He was an honorary life member of the Cairngorm Club and was also honoured by the John Muir Trust with a lifetime achievement award in 2004.
In 1972, he was the chief expert witness for the Crown in the Cairngorm Plateau Disaster fatal accident inquiry – which saw five EDinburgh school students and an adult leader die of exposure and which is still regarded as the UK’s worst mountaineering accident.
Up until his death, Dr Watson gave advice to the Scottish ski centres at the Lecht, Glenshee, Cairn Gorm, Glencoe and the Nevis Range.
Last night Dr Gus Jones, convener of the Badenoch and Strathspey Conservation Group, said: “Dr Adam Watson played a key role in our group in 1975.
“He remained a member and an invaluable source of knowledge and advice for the group throughout his life and will be greatly missed.”