Something different for this week’s Wildlife Wednesday. An interview with the wonderful Phil J. Taylor and David Bodenham from Eco Sapien. If you haven’t heard of this fantastic enterprise, let me educate you. They are on a mission to stop biodiversity loss around the world. They are doing this through educational programmes, their Youtube channel and holding events in the UK. Read on and prepare to be inspired.
1.How did Eco Sapien get started and how would you describe your enterprise?
Eco Sapien grew from two journeys to contrasting locations. David headed to North Ronaldsay, in Orkney, a cluster of islands off the north coast of Scotland. Filming migrant birds, seal colonies, and an interesting breed of sheep that eats mostly seaweed, he produced an ambitious three-part documentary about the island’s history and its wildlife. Phil, meanwhile, ventured over five thousand kilometres south to the dry tropical forest of Madagascar, in search of lemurs, chameleons, and the incredible giraffe-necked weevil, and produced a cheap and cheerful series of documentaries that would eventually become Eco Sapien’s video ‘Madagascar: The real King Julian.
On our return home, our respective documentaries caught each other’s attention and David approached Phil with the idea for a new YouTube channel to promote the importance of biodiversity. After weeks of script writing, filming and editing, Eco Sapien went live on YouTube, championing the value of bees.
2. What services do you offer at Ecosapien?
Education: We run interactive workshops for primary schools and adult audiences. Our aim is to make the workshops as interactive and engaging as possible, so in addition to an illustrated talk, we encourage audience participation, question-and-answer sessions, and run various fun activities throughout.
Resources: We offer a variety of free resources, including videos, info packs, infographics and articles. Our videos are one of the core elements of our organisation.
Shop: Finally there is also the Eco Sapien shop where we sell a variety of books, branded clothing, and photographic prints.
2. What is biodiversity and why is it so important?
Biodiversity actually means lots of different things. Biodiversity is short for biological diversity, and the official definition is: “it’s the variety of life on earth and its natural processes.” So what do we mean by that?
Biodiversity can be different ecosystems, from your local pond, to the Great Barrier Reef. Biodiversity can also be genetic variation. And of course biodiversity refers to all the creatures that we find on Earth. That includes your pet dog, dolphins, the mould growing on your bathroom wall, and even the life forms you can’t see with the naked eye, like bacteria. We’re talking about every single type of living creature on Earth.
3. Why is biodiversity important?
Good question! Science is just scratching the surface and we’re now only beginning to realise how important the natural world is, not only for our health and wellbeing, but for our very survival.
We rely on the natural world for countless things; food, resources, medical care, all of which we wouldn’t have, if it wasn’t for the natural processes which create these vital assets. Biodiversity, from ‘biological diversity’ – literally means the number of different living things on Earth and is a crucial component of these natural processes.
But in a world where the human population grows exponentially year by year, we are beginning to lose our natural heritage and the countless organisms which occupy it, and therefore the natural processes they provide.
4, You hold events and talks in schools, how do you go about engaging the kids in Nature and Science?
One of the key things is getting out of the classroom. Simply running workshops outside in the fresh air amongst nature is an amazing change of scenery for most pupils, firing up their imagination and enthusiasm! When we’ve been limited for time, we try to bring the natural world inside with us, showing off our collection of incredible tropical insects, using props from the natural world, or showing as many amazing images of the natural world as possible. A second important aspect is interactivity. We encourage group discussion, run activities such as making homes for bees and of course our ever popular Big Biodiversity Quiz.
5. What are the biggest threats to British Wildlife today?
Probably a combination of ignorance and apathy. If people don’t know or care about wildlife around them, and its importance, there will be no impetus to preserve or help that wildlife. Another problem is that the politicians who represent us have little interest in the environment. With the UK now leaving the European Union, all of our important wildlife legislation protecting the natural environment could be rewritten or scrapped entirely. At this time it is extremely important that people support the U.K.’s conservation organisations, or write to their local MPs, to make sure the environment is not forgotten during the political and legislative shenanigans that are on the horizon.
6. Why should the general public be more interested in their natural surroundings?
Because their natural surroundings are amazing! There are incredible hidden worlds all around us just waiting to be discovered by those who take note. The latest high budget wildlife documentaries, like Planet Earth II are incredible but they are no substitute for the heart-pounding excitement of coming face-to-face with a red fox or the wonder of having a butterfly perch on your arm. Encountering nature also has the power to make you feel better. There is a growing body of evidence that contact with the natural world provides benefits to physical and mental health.
7. Where are some of the best places in the UK to see British Wildlife?
Everywhere! The key is to go outside, open your eyes, and be mindful of what you see. There are marvels to be found everywhere, from weird lichen growing on trees to flocks of migrating birds in the sky. Often the key is a change of perspective. Have you tried taking a really close look at common bird such as a Mallard duck or feral pigeon – you start to notice that they are truly spectacular, picking up on all sorts of details that would normally go unnoticed. If you’re after something a bit more adventurous, I’d highly recommend Scotland, with the Highlands being a particular favourite. You might see golden eagles in the glens, dolphins in the Moray Firth, and if you are extremely lucky (and an early riser) there is always the potential for otters!
9. Do you have any tips for people who might like to go into your chosen field?
Volunteering is a great way to pick up experience in the conservation sector, but be careful of the type of volunteering you undertake. Find out exactly what you’re getting involved with before you start, to make sure it is right for you, and make sure you’re actually doing something worthwhile once you’re volunteering starts.
You might also want to consider specialising in a particular subject. Some of the more obscure fields, for example, molluscs or bryophytes, are often crying out for new experts, so it’s worth investigating avenues such as these. Also learn how to do bat surveys as early as possible, as they are quite well-paid and will see you on your way to doing permanent environment work!
10. Are you holding any upcoming events?
Phil runs a weekly group called Discover Nature at the St Nicks nature reserve in York, which is part of their ecotherapy programme. Although the group is not an Eco Sapien event, Phil uses many of the Eco Sapien resources during his classes. Find more info here
11. What can we look forward to coming up on your show?
We’ve got an episode on the reintroduction of red kites to the UK that has been filmed and needs to be edited but it’s a case of us fitting it into our busy schedules!
I hope you found that interesting. Please do check out the Eco Sapien website here and also their Youtube channel to find out more. Thanks to Philip and David for speaking to me.
Thanks for reading.
London Vegan Bird
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