Dr Rita Gardner CBE
Rita Gardner is Director of the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers), the learned society and professional body for geography and geographers in the UK.
She was appointed to this position in 1996. She has led the Society through a period of substantial modernisation; raising £22 million in the process to fund new developments that build on the Society’s renowned history of exploration in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Society has expanded its remit, now supporting research, expeditions and fieldwork, education, policy and wider public engagement with geography. It is widely regarded as one of the leading and most innovative of the learned societies in the UK, engaging with a wide range of professional and public audiences, as well as one of the largest and the most active of the scholarly geographical societies in the world. Since 2004, the Society has also offered the professional accreditation for geographers in the workplace. The Society’s work engages some four million people worldwide each year and its members and Fellows, who number 16,000, are drawn from more than 160 different countries.
Rita has recently served, and continues to serve, on a number of national and international committees, including Non-Executive Director of the British Antarctic Survey; Member of the BIS Working Group on Open Access to Scholarly Publishing (Finch Review Group); Chair of the Academy of Social Sciences Working Group on Open Access Publishing; Chair of the Steering Committee for the International Benchmarking Review of UK Human Geography; Senior Advisor to the British Council; Chair of the Exhibition Road Cultural Group; Secretary General of the European Association of Geographical Societies. She was appointed non-political advisor for Geography to the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, 2006-2010, and continues to be closely involved with the Department for Education on geography curriculum matters.
Prior to joining the Society, she had an academic career as a geographer in London University at Kings College (1979-1994) and then as Reader and Head of Environmental Science at Queen Mary College (1994-1996). She has authored and edited four books, and numerous scientific articles. She has led and participated in major international field research programmes studying environmental change, most notably as director of the DfiD funded (£500,000) Soil Erosion and Conservation Project in the Middle Hills of Nepal (1990-1997); and has advised Channel 4, BBC1 and BBC2 TV series. She was educated at University College London (BSc Geography, First Class Honours, 1976) and the University of Oxford (D Phil, 1981). Her doctoral thesis was on environmental change in South India and for this she spent a year in the field studying the geomorphology of coastal Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka. She is the holder of the Busk Medal in recognition of her academic work.
Rita was awarded a CBE for ‘Services to Geography’ in 2003. She holds Honorary Doctorates from the Universities of Gloucestershire and Southampton, and an Honorary Fellowship of Queen Mary College London.