Blog Contributor: Lydia Collas
At the end of the March 2018, I attended the Student Conference on Conservation Science (SCCS) at the University of Cambridge. I was glad to have given myself a bit of recovery time after arriving in the UK from Canada because the conference consisted of three days which were totally action-packed with amazing talks, poster sessions and networking.
As a second-year student in the thesis stream of the SSAS program, I sometimes find my work quite isolating. I’ve being working on my thesis research for the last year or so and whilst I interact with those in my program and my lab group, they’ve heard a lot about my research. So the experience of spending several days amongst 210 students who from all over the world (55 different nationalities were represented at the conference) and whom I had never met before was incredibly eye-opening. These students were in various stages of their careers – from Master’s to PhD to those that were taking some time out of full-time study to work for NGOs. I talked to people that were doing research ranging from studying the Fishing Cat in India, conserving lions while increasing agricultural yields in Zimbabwe, and planning renewable energy infrastructure in the UK. I learnt so much from just talking to these other students and being around such passionate people made me extremely proud of the work that we collectively do.
A personal highlight for me was a Plenary Lecture given by Paula Kahumbu, the CEO of Kenyan Conservation NGO, Wildlife Direct. Paula spoke passionately of her efforts to support the conservation of Kenya’s wildlife whilst ensuring the country continues to develop and provide for its people. Paula spoke of how the wildlife documentaries broadcast in this part of the world that widely feature Kenyan wildlife are never actually made available to watch in Kenya. So one of the many things that Paula had done to engage people in the need to look after the environment was to get a team of people together to make a wildlife TV series in Kenya, for the Kenyan people. Paula also spoke on tackling ivory poaching, addressing conflicts between farmers and wildlife, and the need to improve food security alongside environmental conservation.
I left the conference feeling more inspired, informed and hopeful about the future. I would highly encourage other SSAS students (or any other students that might be reading this!) to apply to attend the conference either in Cambridge or in the other locations around the world where sister conferences are held – these include New York. You can find more information on the website here http://www.sccs-cam.org/.
Exploring Cambridge before the conference started: Photo of the River Cam from which Cambridge takes its name. Photo by Lydia Collas.