Professor Stephen de Mora has announced his intention to retire in autumn 2019 as Chief Executive of PML and PML Applications Ltd, posts he has held since September 2008.
Following a distinguished career teaching chemistry, environmental science and oceanography at universities in the UK, New Zealand and Canada, he joined the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Marine Environment Laboratory in Monaco, and later established an environmental consultancy working for various UN bodies and the World Bank, before taking the helm at PML.
During his tenure Professor de Mora has overseen a decade of continued success, building on PML’s existing reputation to mould a highly flexible and resilient research organization showing a 13% increase in its science staff, and growing its research funding to achieve a record level of signed contracts during the financial year 2017-18. In the last ten years, PML has delivered around 800 research projects and led key scientific research programmes, including the UK Ocean Acidification Research Programme and the UK Marine Ecosystems Research Programme; in Europe it led the €16.3M VECTORS project which involved 38 institutes, and on the international stage now leads the Grand Challenges Research Fund Blue Communities £6.6m programme. The Laboratory’s science output receives international recognition through such projects. PML’s scientific expertise is reflected in the quality and number of its scientific publications, which have shown an increase of 33% over the decade, with 2017 being a record year. PML science also has great impact; a significant role for Professor de Mora has involved bringing his expertise and experience together with PML science through active participation at high-level, national and international working groups, committees and ‘think tanks’ concerned with the sustainability of the global ocean. He has encouraged PML staff to become similarly involved and, in the last two years alone, they have contributed to marine environmental decision making, being mentioned in 140 policy documents and have given evidence to parliamentary and other inquiries.
Underpinning PML’s undoubted scientific achievements have been significant improvements since 2008 in its facilities, with the completion of the Lady Isobel Laing Marine Matters Centre lecture theatre in 2011 and the current £5.4M investment in a thorough refurbishment of PML’s laboratories and infrastructure to ensure they stay at the forefront for 21st century science.
Professor Stephen de Mora will miss his PML colleagues, adding, “I’ve been at PML longer than I have in any other job,and every day it has been an honour to work with such skilled and talented people. Some of our science groups are among the best in the world and it is the excellence and relevance of their science that makes it easy to promote PML when I travel abroad. The best part of my job has been to make life as productive as possible for the PML team to do the work at which they excel. There have been many highlights, but success in restructuring our science delivery to give more freedom to Heads of Science in how financial and human resources are best used has really paid dividends – they are a world-beating team. In my time at PML we have increased our computing power to enable us to remain at the forefront globally in ecosystem modelling and Earth observation; we now have a fully equipped world-class, single cell genomics facility; we have built a state-of-the-art lecture theatre and are just coming to the end of a major £5.4M refurbishment which provides the modern facilities that scientists need to carry out their world-class research; I am very proud of that legacy.”
Professor de Mora is looking forward to retirement but that won’t stop him continuing his involvement in marine science. “Retiring doesn’t mean sitting back and relaxing, it will free up some time to follow up on issues and topics that are dear to my heart. I think we all have an obligation, a social responsibility, to improve the state of the environment and I know I can still make a difference. Retirement will give me the opportunity to pursue some of those ideas.”
PML’s Chair of Trustees Admiral Sir James Burnell-Nugent added: “Under Professor de Mora’s leadership, PML has witnessed a growth in its income, in the number of scientific staff and the quantity and quality of its outputs, as well as a diversification of its funding base, and a transformation in the culture of the organization. PML’s trading subsidiary, PML Applications Ltd, of which Professor de Mora is also the Chief Executive has, in recent years, gone from strength to strength. We thank Steve for a job well done, and wish him well in his retirement. We are now actively starting the search for his successor.”