School of Life Sciences


Students wow Sussex Wildlife Trust with report on engaging young people with nature

Left to right - Rebecca O’ Sullivan, Isobel Taylor, Kassandra Giragosian, Ian Orchardson

A team of Masters students at the University of Sussex have received outstanding praise from the Sussex Wildlife Trust after their report, created for a module assessment, was sent to the charity’s CEO.

Rebecca O’Sullivan, Isobel Taylor, Kassandra Giragosian and Ian Orchardson study Global Biodiversity Conservation and Animal Behaviour. They produced a report for the Rewilding and Ecosystem Services module, led by Dr Chris Sandom.

As the collective ‘Wild Brighton’, they looked at how 15-25 year olds in Brighton can become more engaged with nature and its restoration, using the Sussex Wildlife Trust as a hypothetical client.

But when Dr Sandom sent the report on to the Trust, the students were thrilled to find out that their work will be used moving forward to help shape the charity’s engagement with young people.

Kassandra said: “We were delighted that SWT took such a keen interest in the report, and it’s been extremely rewarding to know that our results will have real-world applications.

“Nature engagement is such an important topic to us because it simultaneously tackles problems that face both people and wildlife. Young people represent the future of conservation, and we hope that our data will help SWT and other groups to encourage more teenagers and young adults to get involved with their local environment.”

Ian added: “Creating this report was a fantastic experience, and we really appreciate the support from our lecturer, Dr Chris Sandom. We were really lucky to find a group of like-minded people with different skills who all believe in the importance of involving young people with nature and conservation.”

The 15-25 age group is a notoriously difficult demographic when it comes to engaging with nature but they are also, arguably, the most crucial.

Using an online questionnaire, Rebecca, Isobel, Kassandra and Ian got over 300 respondents to log how often they engage with nature, how they receive environmental information, whether enough is being done to protect the environment and whether they are more concerned with global or local issues.

Izzy explained: “Our questionnaire showed some really interesting trends. In particular, our results suggest that it’s not just about providing more volunteer opportunities for teenagers and young adults.

“Efforts to engage young people with nature need to be socially appealing - which is really exciting when you consider what's happening with the youth-led environmental protests currently happening across the world.”

Mike Murphy, Education Development Manager at the Sussex Wildlife Trust, said: “The arrival of the report is timely, since Sussex Wildlife Trust is currently reviewing the way it engages with young people.

“The report's recommendations will support our efforts to tackle nature disconnection, and we are in discussion with its authors about ways we can remove barriers to living a wilder future.”

Dr Chris Sandom, Lecturer in Biology, said: “I am so excited to see the exceptional work produced by these students taken up and used by the Sussex Wildlife Trust. It is fantastic to see four excellent young conservationists already making a difference.

“Their message is also really important: we need accessible and inspiring wild places that give young people the opportunity to connect with each other and nature.”

The students are now preparing to share their results further.

Rebecca said: “We are hoping to present our results at the ‘Connecting Children and Teenagers with Local Nature’ symposium at the University of Brighton in June and will also try to keep our Instagram running, which you can find at @wildbrighton.”

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By: Stephanie Allen
Last updated: Monday, 8 April 2019