An influential Devon conservation charity has announced the appointment of its new Chair of the Board of Trustees.

Dr Peta Foxall is taking over the role at Devon Wildlife Trust. She will head the charity’s Board of Trustees, the body which determines the Trust’s strategic direction.

As with all the charity’s trustee board members, Dr Foxall’s position is an unpaid, voluntary one.

Dr Foxall brings a wide range of experience to the leadership role. Her background is in senior positions in the fields of education, science and health. She holds a PhD in biological chemistry and worked at Great Ormond Street Hospital before gaining a senior lectureship at the University of London. More recently, Peta was Professor and Director of Postgraduate Programmes at the University of Exeter Medical School and Chair of the School’s research ethics committee.

In her personal life Dr Foxall describes herself as a “committed volunteer”. She is a public governor of the Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust and works in her local community village shop. She also owns and manages an ancient woodland on the banks of the River Taw in Devon.

Dr Foxall will lead a 15 strong board of trustees for Devon Wildlife Trust which has more than 31,000 supporters. Its Chief Executive Harry Barton welcomed the news of her appointment:

“I’m delighted to welcome Peta Foxall to the role of Chair of Trustees. To be able to appoint someone of such experience and expertise is wonderful news for our charity.

Peta has been a Devon Wildlife Trust supporter since 2003 and has served as one of our trustees for six years, so she knows us well. We’re looking forward to her sharing her broad experience of senior management with us. For an ambitious and growing charity such as ours her background in fields including health, education and the sciences will be a real plus.”

Dr Foxall looked forward to her new role:

“I have worked with world-renowned hospitals and universities in London and Exeter and know that Devon Wildlife Trust has the same organisational integrity, commitment and courage as those centres of excellence. I am delighted to have the opportunity to translate my professional expertise to the role of Chair. I will focus on providing strategic leadership for the Board of Trustees as well as supporting (and occasionally challenging) the Chief Executive. Fostering an ethos of enjoyment in working together means we will have the insight, flexibility and strength to address the challenges and uncertainties that come our way as a wildlife charity.”

Dr Peta Foxall steps into the role vacated by BBC filmmaker and well-known Devon naturalist Andrew Cooper who stepped down last autumn. It was a position that Andrew had occupied for 11 years.

Harry Barton paid tribute to Andrew Cooper:

“Andrew’s legacy as Chair of our Trustees is a Devon Wildlife Trust which is doing more good work for local wildlife than ever before. Under his stewardship our supporters have grown to more than 31,000 people, our number of nature reserves has grown to 50, we are working with more landowners and farmers than ever before, and we have opened our first visitor attraction in the shape of Seaton Jurassic. It’s a proud record to pass on.”

Dr Foxall’s appointment was confirmed at a recent meeting of Devon Wildlife Trust’s trustees. She said:

“It is truly humbling to have been nominated by my fellow Trustees to be the Chair of Devon Wildlife Trust. Their endorsement means a lot to me because I value highly their tangible sense of responsibility to the Trust and collective knowledge and passion for wildlife and natural landscapes.”