Mark's interest in wildlife took root at an early age when, as a young boy, he was fascinated by the natural world and inspired by his early reading and early natural history documentaries on BBC TV. Mark's first focus was on mammals, and he originally hoped to become a mammalogist, but that was a hobby he soon abandoned for good reason. At the time he lived in the heart of England, and he says, "There were only two mammals in the area near my home--rabbits and sheep. The rest were small, nocturnal rodents and bats, and I soon tired of having just two species to identify during my weekend walks."
With his fledgling career as a mammalogist over before it had begun, Mark turned to ornithology and by 13 was keeping his first notebook on birds. "I could see birds everywhere I went. They were so varied, so colorful, and their behavior was so interesting that I became hooked." This interest eventually led him to study biology at university (alongside English literature), and then to earn a Ph.D for his work on avian ecology and behavior in Iceland, where he studied whooper swans. These field visits were the first opportunities he had to combine his love for the wilderness with working and living abroad.
Mark settled on the other side of the world in Dunedin, New Zealand, and now considers it home. In 1998 he accepted a professorship at Rakuno Gakuen University near Sapporo, Japan, where he currently teaches. With the experience of living in such disparate regions as Western Europe, Oceania, and East Asia, Mark has a unique approach to appreciating the natural world. Not only does he enjoy seeing rare endemics on his world travels, he is intrigued by the commonalities found in places far apart from each other as well.
Of course, his global resume is complemented by numerous trips as staff leader. He started leading trips in 1981, and in recent years has introduced Zegrahm & Eco travelers to destinations world-wide. The Russian Far East from the Sea of Okhotsk to Bering Strait is his favorite area. "It's remote, few people have ever been there, the wildlife, birds, scenery, and people are all fantastic, as is the food—Russian bread, caviar, vodka."
Although travelers know Mark as a naturalist, he is also an accomplished writer. Since 1982 he has contributed a regular natural history column to The Japan Times, Japan's leading English-language newspaper. His first book, The Birds of Japan is considered the definitive text of bird biology and distribution in the Japanese archipelago, and he recently authored The Whooper Swan, the first-ever monograph on that species. In the works are two more books: A Field Guide to the Birds of East Asia and a coffee-table book entitled Kamchatka, Commander and Kurile Islands, an overview of the North Pacific that he is collaborating on with photographer Sergey Frolov.
Although his specialty turned out to be ornithology, Mark has never lost his curiosity for mammals or all facets of the natural world. He pursues this interest passionately, both with travelers and independently. Mark says, though, that the opportunity to experience wildlife with people and to pass on his zeal for it is the greatest reward in his work. "Sharing the thrill of being out in the wilderness with others—magic!"