Learn about how The UCL Conservation Society is raising awareness and using wildlife to bring people together; find out how you can share your love of nature, whether you live in a sprawling urban city or out in the rural sticks!
Tell us about your roots
The UCL Conservation Group was formed in 2016 by a group of staff and students from the Geography Department, eager to get together and share knowledge and experiences related to the conservation of nature. The group began as a way of bringing people together to enjoy the wildlife around UCL campus, plan events and discussions on current affairs in conservation and sustainability, and to share their love of nature!
The academic year just passed was very successful for the group, with lots of engagement from people within UCL and beyond, well-attended evening seminars and mini-conferences, and a field-trip to Devon as part of the BioBlitz programme. So, we decided to take the next logical step, and become an official Students’ Union UCL society, which will be up and running from September 2018!
What is the porpoise (?!) of the society?
Following on from our original mission, our main aims are:
To raise awareness amongst UCL staff and students on global issues related to sustainability and biodiversity conservation, and local issues related to UK wildlife.
To educate and engage students with nature and wildlife around UCL’s Bloomsbury campus and within London.
To provide an opportunity for people interested in biodiversity conservation around London to get together, learn and have fun!
Why are university conservation societies like yours important?
We want the UCL Conservation Society to be a platform to communicate issues surrounding the protection of wildlife, and help people in a big urban setting such as London to find ways to connect with nature. We believe everyone can benefit from a greater understanding and contact with nature, even -or especially- in big cities, and we welcome students from all departments to join us, not just those from natural science backgrounds! We also want to raise awareness of and create a space for discussing activities around UCL which can have a negative impact on the environment.
So, university conservation societies have a role to play in promoting the importance of and improving the sustainability of their campuses, as well as offering urban-based students a vital opportunity to form a relationship with the wider environment. This is key if we, as a society, are to come to prioritise nature an integral part of our future.
Tell us about some of your planned e(co)vents…
Continuing with a pre-affiliation tradition, we will have fortnightly bird walks to three Bloomsbury squares, where we enthusiastically follow the development of different families and groups of birds. Also in the pipeline are a series of evening talks and events on a range of topics. Women in science; communicating the conservation message effectively; reducing our environmental impact in our day-to-day lives, and getting involved with local food growing communities are just some of our working ideas.
We are also very excited to follow up on the results of our BioBlitz in Devon, in which we categorised hundreds of species of insects, birds, plants and amphibians in just two days!
Events such as these highlight the value of collaborative work, which is something we have been focused on since the beginning of the group. We have worked with organisations such as the Thames Estuary Partnership (TEP), UCL Beekeeping Society, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the London Freshwater Group, eXXpedition, and high-profile naturalists such as Dave Goulson and Nick Baker. And of course, many students, volunteers, and nature enthusiasts from all around the UK.
This year we will have a stand at the UCL Welcome Fair on 29th and 20th September 2018, and we’re looking forward to enlisting many more conservation enthusiasts, veteran or novice!
About the Author: Yara Shennan-Farpon is a PhD student working with ZSL’s Institute of Zoology and UCL Anthropology department on the potential of forest restoration plans in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest. She has always been interested and passionate about wildlife protection, and before her PhD she worked in an international conservation NGO. She is especially interested in the relationship between people and nature in modern societies.
Photos courtesy of Aeli Roberts, Anna MacLaughlin and Juliette Mills.