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I’m not holding out for a hero – I just met loads of them

This week’s title came to me as I was driving away from the conference and listening to my music and the classic ‘Holding Out For A Hero’ started playing, and I realised that in terms of young conservationists – I just met loads of heroes at the conference!

My brain is spinning as I write this, I’ve literally just got back to mid-Wales and somehow need to transform my random notes into an understandable and hopefully quite good blog post. Apologies if I fail, and also for the minimal number of photos – I was too busy taking notes to take many photos!

So why is exactly is my head spinning? Well, on Friday and Saturday I was fortunate enough to attend one of the best conservation events I have ever been to, and I’ve been to a good few events. It was a conference run by A Focus On Nature (website here, Facebook here, Twitter here), which is a network for young conservationists. Imagine the scene, a lecture hall in Cambridge full of passionate, excited and like-minded people … and then you get a tiny inkling of how amazing it was.

Normally when I meet young conservationists, there are normally 1-2 of us (exception being training days back at Dorset Wildlife Trust), so to have a hundred plus was just so fantastic and thrilling.

What actually happened at the conference? There were debates – a highly popular one being Teen Wolf: Unleashing the wild connection in children, a variety of talks (including conservation and politics, and career advice) and my favourite aspect, the workshops. For the latter, I was lucky enough to attend four brilliant ones led by truely inspiring young conservationists and since I enjoyed them so much, I’m giving them a small section each in this blog post.

If you want to read up on what was happening from a variety of people – (a) look at the blogs below, I bet that a number of those will soon have (or already have) a blog post about the conference, and (b) look at the #VisionForNature on Twitter.

Before I delve into the workshops, I just have to say a massive thank you to AFON for the conference, and to Lucy McRobert for founding it. A superb group and the best conference I’ve ever been to! However, minus points to Lucy for pointing me out to EVERYONE in the final stages of the conference (due to all the tweeting I had done). So much embarassment!

Wildlife Filmmaking, with Cain Scrimgeour

I wasn’t sure about attending this, as I’ve never done any wildlife filming (except for videoing zebra for my dissertation, but that didn’t involve worrying too much about the quality of the video). However, I decided that one of the points of coming to a conference was to learn new skills so I put my name down and turned up. I am thoroughly glad I did. First, I got to see some of Cain’s work and it is truely spectacular.

Second, I got to draw out my first ever storyboard! We were partnered up and then set the challenge to come up with a short wildlife film set in the alleyway. The theme of mine was Noticing Nature, with the first shots focussing on small things happening in the alleyway – a dandelion seed caught in a spiders’ web, an insect walking across moss. Then urban elements would start to filter in, you’d see a drainpipe in the background of a fern shot and the double yellow lines next to a feather. Then finally, the shot of the alleyway – which would include everything you’d seen previously. As someone who has never thought about this kind of thing before, I found it rather exciting and enjoyable!

Attitudes and Values in Communications, with Ralph Underhill

Again, I was a little unsure about this workshop, I didn’t know what it would cover. Boy, was my mind blown! Discussions on what values all humans hold and how people prioritise, and how they’re linked together, and how they can be affected by words and other values. It was all very deep, and I’m not entirely sure how much I will remember. However, I will definitely read up on it because I do want to communicate better and inspire more people.

Online Communications, with James Borrell

I was really looking forward to this workshop, I’d come across James Borrell sometime last year and was immediately impressed by all the work he does. In addition, I had noted that he was particularly good at communicating online, so a chance to learn from him was an absolute must! The workshop launched with a discussion on what is science communication and why is it important in conservation? We then went on to talk about the different ways in which to do so and tips for how to do so well. My favourite quote from him was “One person can have a really big impact” because that’s quite inspiring for me to try and become that one person, but also to see if I can inspire others to have an impact.

Waxwinging Lyrical: nature writing and environmental journalism, with Peter Cooper

This workshop was another must for me naturally since I write a blog! As well as discussing the differences between nature writing and environmental journalism, we looked at good examples of both and the benefits of the varying ways in which they can be done. When posed with the question “What can nature writing and environmental journalism do for the conservation movement”, I used a personal example in that my writing this blog and being so enthusiastic in general has meant that friends and family send me photos of things they see. Me being me, I’ve helped them to identify them and then encouraged them to send in their sightings to their local county recorders / national recording schemes! For me, there is almost no better outcome from this blog than inspiring non-conservationists/naturalists to contribute towards conservation.

Coming away from the conference, I feel I’ve learnt a number of things.

(a) I feel utterly inspired. Referring back to the title of this blog post, I met so many fantastic people who are due to be (and many already are) incredible heroes for the natural world. I know that we (yes, I’ve decided to include myself in there) will achieve great things in conservation – both by ourselves and as a group.

(b) Online communications are as important as I thought they were, so that’s a relief.

(c) I have a much greater self-confidence, I know that I have some excellent skills, abilities and ideas. Talking to people reaffirmed this, and I’m excited to continue working within conservation.

(d) Even more excitement, I have an upcoming project in the planning stages that I cannot wait to be launched. Whilst it isn’t ready to be announced publicly quite yet, talking to people at the conference has made me determined to continue with the project as everyone commented that it was a great idea. Watch this space!

(e) That I am getting better at stepping out of my comfort zone. During the conference, I made a real effort to contribute to debates – asking questions and making comments (even in the big lecture hall when everyone was there!), and to network with new people. I can be quite an introvert sometimes, so it was really and incredibly nerve-wracking. I remember tweeting after asking a question in one of the big debates, commenting that I was all shaky from the nerves. But I do have good comments to make and questions to ask, so I made myself do so. Hopefully one day, it will get easier!

As for networking, it’s a vital part of being at a conference. In particular at this one, I’ve made some brilliant contacts – finding people who are interesting in getting involved with my upcoming project, promoting where I work, hearing other people’s comments on something we’ve got in common, and getting offered opportunities!

(f) Finally, I wanted to share my #VisionForNature, shared by Twitter by Beth Aucott. Since my interests lie in engagement, I feel that this is my vision:

Lastly, I wanted to finish with giving you the opportunity to discover some of these amazing young conservationists that I met at the conference, so below is a list of bloggers and then below that, some others who don’t have a blog but at least have a Twitter account, so you can (and should) follow them there). I should note, there is no set order for the people below, I’m literally writing them down as I think of them. And if I have missed out anyone important, apologies.


Lucy McRobert (@LucyMcRobert1): http://www.afocusonnature.org/ *actually slight order preference here as Lucy is the founder of AFON so appropriate that I put her first!

Matt Williams (@mattadamw): http://mattadamwilliams.co.uk/

James Borrell (@James_Borrell): http://www.jamesborrell.com/

Cain Scrimgeour (@cainscrimgeour): http://cainscrimgeour.co.uk/

Findlay Wilder (@WildeAboutBirds): http://wildeaboutbirds.blogspot.co.uk/

Beth Aucott (@BethAucott): http://bethaucott.wordpress.com/

Lucy Radford: http://beinghummingbirds.com/

Josie Hewitt (@josiethebirder): http://blog.josiehewittphotography.co.uk/

Alex Berryman (@ABWildlifePhoto): http://alexberrymanphotography.blogspot.co.uk/?m=1

Amy Robjohns (@amythebirder): http://birdingaroundhampshire.wordpress.com/

Unknown (annoyingly I can’t find the reference of who gave this to me): http://therealark.wordpress.com/welcome-to-noahs-ark/

Sean Foote (@Portland_Nature): http://theportlandnaturalist.blogspot.co.uk/

Ryan Clark (@RyanClarkNature): http://ryanclarkecology.wordpress.com/

Mya-Rose Craig: http://birdgirluk.blogspot.co.uk/

Amy Schwartz (@lizardschwartz): http://southwaleswildlife.blogspot.co.uk/

Peter Cooper (@PeteMRCooper): http://petecooperwildlife.wordpress.com/

A Wildlife Boy (@AWildlifeBoy): http://wildlifeboy.wordpress.com/

Ed Marshall (@edmarshallphoto): http://www.edmarshallwildimages.co.uk/

Stephen Le Quesne (@SLQuesne): *currently won’t load for me, will update soon

Heather-Louise Devey (@feraheather): http://thedenofwildintrigue.blogspot.co.uk/

Other Young Conservationists on Twitter

Joe Stockwell: @Joe_stockwell

Bex Cartwright: @Bex_Cartwright

Sam Manning: @wildlifebloke

Jessica Mead: @jessmeadmarine

Sarah Hudson: @Sludderz

Chloe Goddard: @ChloeMayGoddard

Melissa Spiers: @mcspiers

Nadine Atchinson-Balmond: @nadineatch

Sarah Hodgson: @shodge_7

Emma Ackerley: @EmmaAckerley27

Matt Collis: @MattCollis9

Ricky Whelan: @RickyWhelan

2 replies
  1. Heather Buttivant
    Heather Buttivant says:

    The conference sounds amazing. Keep up the blogging and I hope you get to make your film some day. I’m constantly inspired by the children and young people I meet. I volunteer taking kids rock pooling and it’s a privilege to watch potentially life-long interests and passions forming. Unfortunately lots of young people aren’t getting these opportunities. As you say, we can all make a difference by spreading the message to friends, teachers, parents and policy makers – nature matters. Great work, Megan.


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