Award-winning documentary filmmaker Doug Allan – whose work has featured on The Blue Planet, Planet Earth and Frozen Planet – has returned to the University of Stirling to pick up a special accolade celebrating his illustrious career.
Senior Deputy Principal, Professor Malcolm MacLeod, presented Mr Allan – who graduated from Stirling with a BSc Marine Biology in 1973 – with a Graduate of the Year award in recognition of his achievements, which include eight Emmys, five BAFTAs, two Polar Medals and the Fuchs Medal.
The recognition comes 11 years after Mr Allan received an Honorary Doctorate from Stirling and eight years after he became an Honorary Professor of the University’s Institute of Aquaculture.
Presenting Mr Allan with the award during a special ceremonial lunch, Professor MacLeod said: “Our Graduates and Students of the Year are inspirational role models and fantastic ambassadors for our University. Collectively, they represent a diverse range of backgrounds, academic achievements and personal, professional and sporting accomplishments.
“Doug is a multiple BAFTA and Emmy award-winning wildlife cinematographer, whose credits include the BBC’s iconic Planet Earth and Blue Planet series. He has received a range of plaudits during his illustrious career and it is my pleasure to present this award in recognition of his achievements.
“We hope this Graduate of the Year honour will hold a special place in his affections.”
The award reflects Mr Allan’s work in highlighting – and inspiring people to tackle – the environmental challenges facing the world. As part of his current theatre tour, ‘Wild Images, Wild Life’, he reflects on how pollution and climate change adversely impact the natural world.
The award panel drew parallels between Mr Allan’s work and the world-renowned research carried out by the University in the areas of environment and climate change.
Kerry Bryson, Director for Advancement at the University, said: “Doug’s ability to highlight the impact we are having on the planet and its wildlife is a clear call for us to take action before it is too late. The selection panel chose Doug as one of our Graduates of the Year because of his affinity with our environment and climate change research.”
Accepting the award, Mr Allan said: “It is a great honour to receive this award from the University of Stirling – I’m very grateful to be recognised in this way.”
Doug Allan receives his Graduate of the Year award from Senior Deputy Principal, Professor Malcolm MacLeod.
Reflecting on his time at Stirling, he recalled: “I first came to Stirling in 1969 – just two years after the University was founded – to study marine biology. It was a small, intimate university and I was attracted by both its size; the flexibility of the courses; and, of course, the beautiful campus and location – it was ideally placed for all of the things that I wanted to do. I often enjoyed afternoon walks up Dumyat, and was part of the canoe club and tennis table team too.
“I valued the knowledge gained during my degree and it was a great way to start my career. I had a great relationship with the lecturers – they were doing things that really interested me. When I decided to move away from academia, the lecturers supported me in moving in another direction. They gave me the confidence to write to biological expeditions that were going on around the world – and I ended up in the Red Sea one year later.”
On graduating from Stirling, Mr Allan had a number of diving jobs – taking him to Germany and the Red Sea – before securing the role of research diver on the British Antarctic Survey station at Signy Island, in the South Orkneys, in 1976.
Over the next 10 years, he spent five winters and nine summers working in the region and, during that time, he was awarded the Fuchs Medal and the Polar Medal for his work. It was also during that decade that he had the opportunity to film Emperor Penguins in the wild. The resulting footage featured in BBC series Birds for All Seasons – and Doug’s career took a new direction.
Since then, Doug has filmed at both poles, with his footage contributing to some of the world’s most famous nature documentaries, including The Blue Planet, Planet Earth, Life, Human Planet, Frozen Planet, Expedition Iceberg and Forces of Nature.
Completing more than 100 filming trips, he captured a number of on-screen firsts in the process – including: orcas attacking grey whales off California; polar bears trying to capture belugas in Arctic Canada; and killer whales washing seals off ice floes in Antarctica.
Doug is also a celebrated stills photographer and, in addition to his behind-the-camera role, has worked as a presenter on a number of wildlife documentaries. He has contributed to a number of radio shows and written numerous articles – and his own book – about wildlife and his experiences.
Reflecting on the University today, Mr Allan added: “It’s still a wonderfully inspiring and attractive campus that looks and feels special – I would encourage anybody to consider studying at the University of Stirling.”