After Heriot’s Blog

Next on the blog we have Sophie Mackaness.

Please get in touch if you wish to share your story ‘after Heriot’s’.

Sophie Mackaness, Class of 2006

What is your current role?

Fundraiser, John Muir Trust 

Creating informative and educational materials to promote our fundraising appeals at the Trust. These are all based on conserving wild places e.g. path appeal, peatland appeal, wild waters appeal etc. My role is to convince people to donate by sharing with them the work that we do – it’s important that complex scientific jargon is translated into digestible content so that everyone can feel that issues impacting climate and nature conservation are relevant to them. I work to include everyday people in the conversations around climate/environmental science and make complex content accessible to as many people as possible. 

What was your journey to get there?


Undergraduate degree in marine and freshwater biology at the University of Glasgow, including a year abroad at University of Queensland (Brisbane, Australia). 

From 2018 until present, I have run my own business making chalk bags (for rock climbing) from recycled materials which I sell online. It has been the perfect ‘side-hustle’ throughout my job changes/Covid-19. 


Graduated into Covid-19, a couple years of freelance/random educational and science communication roles:  

  • worked as the scientific advisor for a science festival app on climate change and mindfulness 
  • ran workshops with kids at schools across Scotland about green energy and hydrogen fuel power using Lego models (Scottish Schools Hydrogen Challenge) 
  • worked at the Edinburgh science festival as a science communicator on a workshop about habitat restoration and extinction/reintroduction of species 
  • online tutoring throughout in biology, maths and some chemistry – creating and delivering lesson plans via an online platform 


Education officer at the Firth of Forth Lobster Hatchery; running workshops with kids, redesigning their education centre and writing content to make lobster conservation interesting and inclusive. 


Decided I wanted an adventure, applied for Love the Oceans (Mozambique) and was accepted. 

Offered my role at John Muir Trust and accepted on the condition that I could spend 5 weeks away later in the year. 

What are your achievements?

Setting up and running my own eco business – something that allows me to support myself/pay into my ‘fun fund’ as well as being eco-friendly and a sustainable brand. 

Maintaining my love for nature and finding a group of wonderful people to share outdoor adventures with. Finding a new community was one of the things I was most worried about leaving Heriot’s, and being shy was a huge barrier and worry for me. I worked hard to push myself to be confident enough to say hello and met some brilliant people who still surround me today. 

What are your favourite memories of Heriot’s?

Mr. Ramage drawing triplets of bases on our faces with board markers so that we could match up with a ‘complimentary’ triplet of bases (another pupil) to demonstrate translation of mRNA into proteins. I never forgot how transcription/translation worked. 

Taking part in Ed Watson’s winter skills weekends with Kelda Henderson. Kelda had to come on the trips as I was the only female student amongst 10-15 boys and she was a brilliant role model as a strong woman who enjoyed the mountains and wanted to share it with other women. 

What were the main learning tips from your Heriot’s days?

Use what you have to push to benefit others. Identify your privilege, accept it, find the balance between being aware and not guilty, and use it to help those that don’t hold the same advantages as you.  

Share your knowledge and be curious. If you feel passionately about something or encounter people with different ideas/beliefs/thoughts, focus on helping them understand your points of view. And be curious about their point of view – ask questions, invite interested discussion and aim to fully understand each other. 

Any top tips for current pupils when planning their future?

Choose to do something that you enjoy – and that something doesn’t have to be university. It’s much easier to do something based around a passion you already have than try and shape yourself into something that you don’t like. Feel good about what you’re doing? Great, do more. Don’t really like it or find your core values don’t align with what you’re doing? Change it up – your skills will be valuable wherever you go so make them count somewhere it matters to you.