An outstanding Hertfordshire naturalist

Jenny Jones, winner of this year's Trevor Jones Award has been our recorder for mammals, amphibians and reptiles for more than 20 years. But that only hints at the scale and extent of her contributions to the study of local wildlife extending across the half century since she moved out of London. The Award not only honours her specialist work with bats, badgers and other vertebrates, but also her commitment to training less experienced mammal recorders and a contribution to the development of biological recording and mapping that encompassed every group of species found in Hertfordshire.

Jenny studied zoology at the University of London and moved to Hertfordshire to the Royal Veterinary College, Brookmans Park for her doctorate, chiefly working on the physiological behaviour of sheep and cows.  Her next move – prompted by a wish to move from physiology to ecology – was to the North Hertfordshire Museums where she worked with the late Trevor James. Her deepening interest in biological recording – unsurprisingly with Trevor for a colleague – –from this time. She became part of the team at the new Hertfordshire Environmental Records Centre where she played an important part arranging the careful transfer of card-indexed data to computer files and devising site descriptions. Her role also expanded to providing protected species advise to planning officers.

In 2005, she left to join the consultancy firm run by Roger (her husband also a zoologist) who specialised in animal bones. The cellar at their Hertford home is full of a collection of skulls and limb bones used to assist in the identification of animal bones from archaeological sites.  The consultancy work expanded to include ecological work specialising in surveys and habitat management for amphibians, reptiles and mammals. 

Jenny played a prominent part in the first survey of mammals, amphibians and reptiles in Hertfordshire for the atlas authored by Michael Clark, published in 2001. She compiled the distribution maps  and organised many ‘mammal blitzes’ to record species. She also became prominent in both the Hertfordshire and Middlesex's Badger Group and Bat Group, chairing the latter for many years. She set up a bat helpline and had a small bat ‘hospital’ where injured animals could be nursed back to health.  Her field work, meanwhile, provided early evidence that Barbastelle bats might not be as rare in Herts as then supposed and helped start the Barbastelle Project in Hertfordshire. She has also assisted the police as an expert witness in potential prosecution cases when her expertise on bats and badgers was required.  

Her work surveying Water Voles in the 1990s, meanwhile, exposed the species’ drastic decline across the county, paving the way for further recording and the eventual reintroduction programme by the Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust. As might be expected, Jenny was also active in planning and implementing the second countywide survey of mammals, reptiles and amphibians (Herts MARA ) that began in 2015 and is due to finish in December 2022. However, in January 2018 a spinal cord injury led to an extended period of hospitalisation and nearly cost her the ability to walk. Her recovery, assisted by physiotherapists at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, has been slow but she is now, mercifully, able to  walk short distances. “I have to tell people that I’m slow,” she says, “but you do see more when you’re walking slowly.”

In the words of Michael Clark, endorsing her award nomination: “Jenny Jones has done an enormous amount to contribute to our knowledge and interest in the vertebrates of our county with professionalism and dedication, so that Trevor James would agree wholeheartedly with the decision.” 

(Adapted from the full award citation read by David Utting at the 2022  HNHS Autumn Meeting)