Perceptions of Naturalists

When people think about naturalists I think the perception is still often rather outdated. Recently Patrick Barkham, a superb natural history writer for the Guardian who has also wrote two great books, wrote an article about the Birdfair. His article in my opinion didn’t help challenge the stereotypes stating ‘The air is thick with beards, floppy sunhats and expensive optics’. This was picked up by Stephen Moss who rightfully challenged this article. I went to the Birdfair this year and was struck but how balanced it was, there was people there from all ages, genders and backgrounds, all united in their love for the natural world. I really wish this fact had been highlighted more as it does put people off if they think only certain people are set out to get involved with natural history.  It is true that in the past natural history may have been the pursuit of the landed gentry but this is by far not the case anymore. There is a surge of young people standing up to make a difference in the conservation sector with support from organisations such as A Focus On Nature and Next Generation Birders. I must point out that natural history is still full of older people who have built up decades of experience and knowledge. This is a great thing and it is often these people who inspire younger naturalists and we can learn a lot from them – as long as knowledge is passed down to younger people and not lost. There is a lot still to be done though, we need more provisions to help young conservationists get on the career ladder, after all we are the future! It also used to be the case that natural history seemed to be the pursuit of men only and not women. I am pleased to say that this is definitely not the case any more and I would say that it is quite balanced now.




5 responses to “Perceptions of Naturalists

  1. Ryan, most of what you have written is true, however, one of the biggest challenges that yourself and the rest of ‘the next generation’ have is to challenge the older generation. Yes you can learn from the vast bank of knowledge that has been built up but, more importantly, learn from the mistakes that have been made, and there has been many. Challenge current methods of conservation and develop new and more productive ones. I know money is important and NGO’s can’t work without it but don’t make it a priority. Take a long hard look at the state of the natural world as it is now and preserve what we have, don’t just concentrate on saving struggling species, look after the common ones before they too start to disappear. I know Ospreys and Sea Eagles are wonderful, they bring in money, but that’s tourism not conservation.

  2. Forgot to mention, I am so encouraged and excited by what I Saw at birdfair, so many young people with so much enthusiasm. Keep up the great work.

    • Thanks for your comments, I totally agree. Just look at house sparrows for instance, once common and now struggling, although thankfully they are still doing well where I live! I think my interest in invertebrate conservation is partly because they are ignored my lots of people because they aren’t all cute and cuddly but are essentially important for the charismatic megafauna that everyone loves.

  3. Many of us who have grown up with the established NGO’s, are eagerly hoping for young conservationists to shake up the status quo. Many of us feel that our organisations have lost at least part of their way. Moreover the official bodies have been cut to the bone.

    Making changes means people swimming against the stream. we need the sort of energetic campaigning we did when we were young.

    • Thank you for reading my blog post and commenting Rob. I totally agree with you. The fact that the RSPB now has a ‘birders’ section because it has become a lot about the money that needs to be raised rather than a passion for birds is testament to what you are saying I think. I don’t think it will be easy swimming against the stream, but when has anything worth doing been easy.

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