Mark developed his fascination with the natural world, especially birds and mammals, during his childhood in the landlocked English county of Worcestershire. He pursued academic interests in biology while studying in England and Scotland, spending his spare time exploring the coasts and mountains of Britain in search of endemic birds. Mark earned his Ph.D. from Stirling University, Scotland, for his work on avian behavioral ecology in Iceland and Scotland. Ornithological research, natural history consultancy for TV companies, and guiding naturalists and wildlife photographers, have taken him to every continent, but his passion lies in studying and exploring Asia, in all its diversity. Fascinated by island biology, he is a leading authority on the natural history of Japan, where he worked as a professor of biodiversity and conservation at Rakuno Gakuen University, near Sapporo, until 2007. Since 2007, Mark has been a freelance expedition leader and author. In addition to working as a field naturalist, Mark is a scientific editor and a prolific writer with seven books to his name. His Wild Watch column is the longest-running natural history column in the world, appearing in The Japan Times newspaper for 33 years from 1982 until 2015 and continues today on the Japan Nature Guides website. Mark’s books include Wild Asia: Spirit of a Continent, The Birds of Japan (the definitive text of bird biology and distribution in the Japanese archipelago), a monograph entitled The Whooper Swan, A Field Guide to the Birds of East Asia, The Nature of Japan and most recently (2018) A Field Guide to the Birds of Japan. He is already working on his next book. Mark juggles international travel with writing and enjoys spending as much time as possible exploring Hokkaido. A veteran expedition leader, Mark has led well over 50 overland expeditions for Exodus Travels, including India, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, Brazil, Colombia, Mongolia, and of course Japan. Mark and his wife Mayumi live near Teshikaga, in east Hokkaido.
Where are you from and where have you lived?
I am from Worcestershire in the UK, and have lived in Staffordshire, Hertfordshire, and Norfolk in England and in the Stirling area of Scotland. Internationally, I have lived in Dunedin, New Zealand, and since 1998 in Hokkaido, Japan. Since April 2018, Mayumi (my wife) and I have lived in the Akan-Mashu National Park area of east Hokkaido.
Tell us about yourself—what path led you to becoming an Exodus Travels Leader?
I have had careers in biological conservation, TV media (natural history), lecturing at a university (biodiversity, conservation, and ornithology), and have been writing scientific papers, popular nature articles for newspapers (for more than thirty years), and books. I was first approached by Exodus Travels because of my books on the nature of Japan and asked to help initially with pre and post extensions in Hokkaido, then on ship trips, and then as an Expedition Leader for land trips.
What other jobs, positions or credentials do you have?
What other fields are you passionate about?
The outdoors, wildlife conservation, and science generally.
Any awards, publications, appearances documentaries etc. do you have?
No awards, but too many publications to mention, and I was involved in producing many natural history documentaries.
What organizations are you a part of?
I support the Woodland Trust.
What excites you (or what do you enjoy) about working for Exodus Travels?
Sharing the thrill of watching wildlife behavior with like-minded adventurous folk.
Can you tell us about a time that you were on an expedition that ended up taking an unexpected turn or made an unexpected discovery that took you off the planned trail?
An adventure in the Santa Marta Mountains of Colombia when the road was washed out and I had a convoy of vehicles with guests safely off the mountain.
Another extraordinary example was stumbling on a fossil of a dinosaur incubating a clutch of eggs in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia.
What non-for-profits or causes do you support or feel strongly about?
The Woodland Trust.
What are your top three countries or regions in the world to explore?
Antarctica, Russian Far East, and Japan.
What’s left on your explorer’s bucket list/where do you still want to go that you haven’t been yet? Why there?
New Guinea; Melanesia; the South Pacific Islands; the Seychelles; much of Australia; Madagascar; Bolivia; more of Colombia. Why? Because of the amazing wildlife and unique biodiversity to be found in all of those places.
What does being a part of the Exodus Travels family mean to you?
You’ve said it: “family.” The people we work with in the field are not co-workers, they are our friends, our important colleagues, our support network; we look out for each other. So actually, you could say, a lot tighter than many families!
Who is the Exodus Explorer/Traveler?
The inquiring, the inquisitive, the nature-loving, flexible traveler with a sense of humor.