BTO: Thetford, the historic capital of East Anglia and home of the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology), was the perfect place to explore conservation initiatives that protect Britain’s birds. At their headquarters, CEO Andy Clements discussed the recent Atlas project, which has been a massive undertaking. It demonstrated population fluctuations through maps that are easily understandable to the reader. Many groups worldwide use it as a baseline for their own conservation projects that they relay to the public.
After discussing the details of BTO’s broader endeavors, Chris Hewson, an expert scientist working on migratory and forest bird ecology across the world, shared his work about the cuckoo and tracking its movements. This species has seen a serious population decline as a result of some new challenges it faces in its yearly migration. Changing climatic conditions in its Africa destination have been a primary reason for the downfall. To track these challenges and patterns, the scientists attach satellite trackers to the backs of the birds that give constant updates on the cuckoo’s location.
Other experts shared their research in a variety of topics ranging from bird ringing to the archives to invasive species control. Their knowledge and insight taught me a lot about how much goes into all conservation work. Being able to track the nocturnal bats firsthand using an infrared camera and a sound recording system can shed light on the conservation of bats themselves and of birds that have similar feeding habits.
Holme Bird Observatory: The Holme Bird Observatory, located on the North Coast of Norfolk, is a hotspot for bird migrants. Working along with local scientists, we helped collect birds from several nets and learned how they are ringed. By placing a small metal tag on their leg, scientists can track their movements and health. These tags can be collected at other ringing stations across Europe and often are successful
After a morning of bird watching at a local marsh, James Pearce-Higgins, the science director, provided us with more insight on how climate change will affect birds and what that can tell us about other wildlife that depend on birds.
David Attenborough Building: At the David Attenborough building, home to a huge living wall, in Cambridge, Jacques Cousteau’s son Pierre gave a presentation about lessons learned from the ocean’s ecosystems. He mentioned several initiatives in ocean conservation and the importance of MPAs or Marine Protected Areas. The project in Raja Ampat, a small Indonesian archipelago known as the global center for tropical marine biodiversity, has been of the most successful in terms of coral regeneration and protection from overfishing. With the site being regarded so highly by scientists, the protection was important to achieve.
Dafila Scott: One of the highlights of our trip to the UK was meeting with Dafila Scott, a renowned artist and former zoologist, at her home near Cambridge. Her grandfather was Robert Falcon Scott, the first Englishman to reach the Antarctic circle. In fact, her father Peter Scott, is considered by some to be the father of modern conservation. He was instrumental in countless conservation projects, including being a founder of the World Wildlife Fund and influencing the International Whaling Commision.
Scott Polar Institute: We visited the Scott Polar Institute, learning about polar exploration and sciences. Their extensive work in glaciology helps the UK government prepare for climate change effects, like rising water and differences in climate. Political agendas aside, scientists give government the facts, and help to make any necessary precautions before it it too late.
WWT: Our last stop in the UK was back in London. The WWT (Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust) has a reserve located near central London in the suburb of Barnes. Known as the London Wetland Center, it is home to many migratory and resident birds, as well as some other species from around the world.
These captive animals include the Nene or Hawaiian goose, which was once eliminated to 50 birds in Hawaii. Due to many breeding programs, the geese have recovered and now have a population of around 2,000. The wetland center is an unbelievable facility, not only because of what it has accomplished for species like the Nene, but because of its location in Central London. It brings a wild place right into the backyard of a sprawling urban area.
Natural History Museum: At the Natural History Museum, the Whales: Beneath the Surface exhibit gave insight into Cetacean ecology and their protection. With interactive exhibits focusing on everything from feeding to vocals, it had people of all ages engaged in conservation material.
Following the exhibit, many scientists from around Britain set up tables as they tried to educate the public on the ocean’s value to society. One station that stood out to me was from the Britain Geological Survey, which demonstrated some climate change prevention measures. They are planning to pump CO2 back underground where it can’t escape and cause damage to the natural world using a carefully thought out process that could one day be mass produced. I am so appreciative of everyone who made this trip possible not only because of their time but also of the resources they have given me.