Past events

The success story of nature development in the Netherlands

The success story of nature development in the Netherlands

Where agriculture was still to be found a short time ago, the Millingerwaard has developed into a nature reserve with a very high biodiversity and working ecosystem. Sunday the 19th of May, Caroline van der Mark took us on an excursion through the Millingerwaard. We learned about natural processes, the key function of bigger animals in this area such as the Konik horses, Galloway cattle and beavers that shaped this area.

Our tour started in the bus when Caroline gave us a small introduction about ARK Nature Development. When driving on the dyke we had a beautiful view over the surrounding area and the Millingerwaard. This dyke protects several villages from the rising water of the river Waal. After a short drive we entered the nature area where the expedition started by foot. We were lucky with the sunny weather and after a small walk we arrived at the bird observation post and spotted some special bird species. Next, the expedition went ‘off road’ and we visited an old beaver castle. Although the beaver family was not present, we found some beaver tracks and could see how they built their home with an entrance to the water, where a group of frogs lived and started to vocalize when they noticed us. Our expedition through bushes went on and when we reached an open field we came across two Koniks horses.

Halfway we arrived at the Waal. Here a lot of Galloway cattle were resting along the river, under the trees. It was time to have a break ourselves while enjoying the view of the water.

One key message Caroline gave us is that you can do what you love if you follow your passion. The development of the ARK organisation is a great example since it has been expanded to a large organisation while it started with a very small and simple idea. A couple of very passionate people wanted to realize robust nature and created large nature areas with interconnections. Years later they showed that if you allow nature to regulate its own development, different natural processes will result in fascinating and multiple plant and animal species taking over the area. Eventually this all resulted in a very biodiverse landscape. The Millingerwaard is a great example of how nature can return.

After the tour there was time to drink something and to chat at the cafe before the bus took us back. It was a successful sunny day exploring nature!

By Aimy Lankheet

Zero (plastic) waste workshop

It was an interactive and inspiring workshop. The professional Nila Patty guided us through the universe of life without plastic and the way of living zero- or low waste.

The workshop started with a short, informative talk about the origin, use and cycle, of plastic. The speech had an interactive character. For example, Nila made several statements to the group and asked us after each statement whether we agreed or disagreed, and why. For the duration of the workshop, we could ask her anything. All regarded questions were answered truthfully and comprehensively explained. Where to buy pasta? Where to buy milk? How about the plastic you consume indirectly when you, for example, go out to dinner?

Although all we learnt is too much to reiterate, here are a few take home lessons:

  • When you buy a product covered in plastic, you do not only pay for the product but for the plastic cover as well. So when you park your PMD container at the road for the garbage collectors at the end of the week, the container is basically stuffed with products you paid for.
  • Treat plastic like a diamond. Both are blessed with a long life and won’t whither fast. When you lose a diamond, you will pity that, as it is of great value and will not pass into dust for the next decade. When you lose plastic, you might not pity it in the same way but it will also not pass into dust for at least a decade.
  • Remember that plastic is only one of the products we make from crude oil. As long as we need petrol, kerosene, asphalt, and such, we might as well make use of the by product to create plastics.

After the talk, we went to work. Nila presented several creative ideas on-screen on how to transform your plastic bottle. The transformative ideas varied from a plant holder to a piggy bank. Nila inspired and motivated us to start our own low-waste journey, step by step. Very inspirational!

The Plastic discussion

On the 27th of march FFN Academy hosted the plastic discussion in the living room at THUIS in Wageningen. Six young people involved in initiatives to reduce plastic waste were invited to speak to and engage with the audience. All speakers were previous students or young professionals who are very passionate and are coming up with innovate ideas and methods that attempt to tackle the problem in different ways. We aimed for an evening that engaged the audience and tried to form a coherent storyline of the issue and consider how we can coordinate together to solve it.

We covered a broad variety of subjects at different scales. These included personal research into plastic pollution in the oceans, development of citizen science, a social enterprise geared towards local plastic recycling in the heart of Wageningen and evaluations into the claimed sustainability of Wageningen University. Halfway through the talks there was a break to enjoy the snacks and drinks (plastic free of course!). During this time it was clear that the audience was already very excited to start the discussion. Everyone was welcome to chip in and share their concerns, experiences and knowledge with regards to plastic, its use and the way it pollutes our world. It was very interesting to see how people disagreed as to how to solve the problem. The evening was successfully concluded after almost an hour long discussion in which many points of view were addressed.

Bee an elephant conservationist

bee an elephant conservationist

Antoinette van de Water, founder of Bring the Elephant Home (BTEH) and Miami University Dragonfly alumna, invited members of the Future For Nature Academy (FFN Academy) community to help her with an elephant conservation project. Under supervision of Dr. Lucy King (Save the Elephants) and Dr. Kevin Matteson (Miami University), she is looking into methods to reduce human-elephant conflicts. Together with the Phuluang Wildlife Research Station, she collected camera trap data of elephants reacting to beehives in Thailand. The analysis of these videos can contribute to understanding the effect of the beehives on elephant and can give a possible solution to the human-elephant conflicts.

On the 15th of February 2019, more than forty enthusiastic onservationists-to-be came together to take on the task of analyzing the camera videos. Berrie Jurg, the chair of BTEH, was the first one to give everyone an idea of the work that the foundation does while showcasing many photographs of, among others, Antoinette’s adventures during this project. To ensure high quality of the analysis, Vera Praet, who has collaborated with Antoinette, was present as well to introduce everyone to the project and explain the methodology behind the analysis.

Armed with all the new information, the participants took to their laptops and started on the first videos. Though the analysis can be challenging, many were inspired to try their best at investigating the elephant behavior and will continue to do so until all the videos are analyzed. With the help of FFN Academy, Antoinette can hopefully publish a scientific scoop on this topic in the near future!

Note: At the time of writing, over 600 analyses have been performed already but the project runs till April 2019 and any student or professional affiliated with elephant research who is interested to help could sign up through:

By Melanie Arp

Nature Talks – Buying land to protect nature

Nature Talks – Buying land to protect nature

What happens when conservation is part of the conversation? Last Tuesday, 26th February, Future For Nature Academy Utrecht held the first edition of ‘Nature Talks’. Joined by IUCN Land Acquisition Program coordinator in the Netherlands, Marc Hoogeslag, a group of young students and conservation professionals met in a quaint bar in the centre of Utrecht to discuss how nature conservation is done.

Moving between patches of habitat is crucial to maintain healthy wildlife populations in an ecosystem. Sometimes, patches of land can be strategically purchased to assist nature conservation. Land acquisition was the theme of the very first edition of ‘Nature Talks’, an event that hopes to bring conservation topics to young conservationists in a small, informal pub setting. Our guest for the evening, Marc Hoogeslag, has been working for IUCN Netherlands for almost 20 years and shared his experience on how buying land is used as a tool to protect nature.

Marc started off by giving a bit of background on how he ended up at IUCN, but quickly moved on to explain how the land acquisition program works. While awareness campaigns can certainly be effective in the long-term, sometimes, there is simply not enough time to start such long-term programs. When habitats become too fragmented, many species may become critically endangered. That is why land acquisition can be very effective in securing protection in and around natural areas.

However, we cannot just go around and buy as much land as possible. As Marc puts it: “It’s all about location, location, location. Acquiring a strategically chosen forest patch can very well mean the difference between survival and extinction”. So, by purchasing even small pieces of land, we can create corridors between formerly isolated patched of habitat and re-establish their connectivity.

Marc gave several examples all across the world to show how land acquisition works and highlighted the importance of involving strong, local NGOs. The local NGOs work on the frontlines of conservation every day and their involvement plays a critical role for successful conservation.

In the end, everyone got to ask their burning questions and participate in an engaging discussion. It was an inspiring evening spent at the cozy location of café Domkop.

By Nick van Doormaal and Mónica Vidal

Workshop Fundraising for beginners

Workshop Fundraising for beginners

To emphasize the ‘Academy’ part of the Future For Nature Academy, there is a wish to organize workshops exclusively for FFN Academy Members. In these workshops participants learn practical skills that are useful for a career in nature conservation, but are not necessarily part of the university curriculum.

Fundraising is one of those skills. Every conservationist needs funds to do realize their projects.  Therefore, the Academy was very glad Hanneloes Weeda was able introduce this topic to us during a full day workshop. Hanneloes Weeda is Grants and Funding manager at IUCN NL and she has been fundraising for nature conservation projects for the past 10 years.

In this practical and hands-on workshop we were introduced to the why, how and where of fundraising. In preparation for the workshop, participants were invited to think of a conservation dream they wanted to work on during the workshop. Everyone brought very different ideas from a research project on deep sea corals, organizing an event to raise awareness on nature fragmentation in the Netherlands, to a Youth Biodiversity Conference. Working on our own projects we developed a case for support, a basic proposal, made a first budget and learned how to approach donors and how to raise enthusiasm for our projects.

It was a full but very nice day at the cozy location of Thuis Wageningen. We want to thank Hanneloes again for sharing her knowledge and introducing us to this essential skill in conservation.

By Pauline Buffing

Fixing the Foundation of Conservation, Finding the right Tools – Manoj Gautam

Fixing the Foundation of Conservation, Finding the right Tools – Manoj Gautam

We were very fortunate to have Manoj Gautam, FFN Award winner in 2015,  in Utrecht for an inspiring and eye-opening lecture. With some effort and a bit of luck Manoj managed to find a spot in his busy schedule to come to the Netherlands and share his story with the Future For Nature Academy and all other participants.

Manoj started with a bit of background on his home country Nepal and some of its challenges. For example, Australia is approximately 54 times bigger than Nepal, but both countries have approximately an equal human population size. The growing population puts serious pressure on Nepal’s natural resources. So this begs the question: “How can we conserve what is left in a world where things are changing so rapidly?”

Manoj continued on defining the foundation of conservation through four short, but difficult questions: Why to conserve? What to conserve? How to conserve? And whom to conserve for? These questions will help everyone to get a better understanding of what conservation means for us. After that comes the identification of the problem. Interestingly Manoj told us that issues like deforestation and pollution are not the real problems. Those are actually symptoms of a much bigger problem. The real problem is our very own behavior.

Human behavior is the key driver of all major threats to biodiversity. “Problems” like habitat transformation, climate change, invasive species, and over-exploitation of natural resources are all consequences of human lifestyle across the world. Manoj explained that, in his eyes, a true conservation achievement is something that changes the behavior of people. Changing the behavior of the global population may seem like a very daunting task, but similar things have already happened. Manoj gave the example of smoking. Smoking used to be completely normal and cool in the 1960s to 1980s. In today’s world however, smoking has become increasingly unacceptable. Manoj urged that a similar change in other behaviors is needed to protect what is still left of nature.

Manoj concluded that he truly believes that the new generation is able to work to reverse the mentality of today’s consumer. Anyone can make that change regardless of background or nationality. And together we can work on the right solution. Manoj gave us a lot of food for thought and definitely challenged us with his four questions, but he did this for the right reason. He really wants the future generation to succeed in conservation and I think his lecture gave us all the courage to focus on the real problem.

By Nick van Doormaal and Mónica Vidal

City clean-up Nijmegen

City clean-up Nijmegen

Around 80% of marine plastic comes from land-based sources due to improper waste disposal and management. Even further inland, plastic litter can easily effect local environments or enter waterways and be discharged into the ocean.

In the Rhine itself, plastic litter can be found throughout the wholestretch from Basel, Switzerland to Rotterdam, the Netherlands causing damage to riparian systems and acting as a source of marine plastic. Although stopping the tide of plastics will require a combination of approaches, cleanups are organised frequently and serve as a powerful tool to inspire local citizens to help tackle the problem. Every piece of litter that is removed from the environment, and disposed of properly, means one less item that can be swallowed by wildlife or leach harmful substances.

Therefore on November 11th, the Future for Nature Academy Nijmegen hosted a city park cleanup in Kronenburgerpark. Even within a small area of the city, we were able to removea total of almost six bags of trash and a whole lot of cigarette butts from our local environment! Unfortunately cigarette butts are the biggest source of ocean litter simply because they are cast aside so indiscriminately. They moreover are perfect bite-sized items commonly mistaken for food by animals, for instance like many of the birds in our parks.

During our cleanup, this became evident in our locality as many were found around park benches close to trash bins. Although we were hit with bad weather at the end of the event, we will be ready to get out there again when the weather is better, with a goal of raising more awareness to the harm of cigarette litter. See you then!

By Lauren Elliot

A bubbling FFN Academy Scrum 2018

A bubbling FFN Academy Scrum 2018

On October 27th we gathered at camping Ganspoort near the city centre of Utrecht for the second “scrum” (or brainstorm) in the life of FFN Academy. The meeting room at Ganspoort proved to be the best place for an unconstrained free flow of ideas about FFN Academy activities in 2019. The great thing about FFN Academy is that it is young and dynamic: students and young graduates join for shorter or longer times, network, get inspired, and inspire others. We welcomed new members, we learned from things that could have gone better in the past, and we jump into the future with the same enthusiasm.
Our internal structure-and-communication will be improved, making it easier for new people to find their way in how we operate, without compromising the simple and “flat” structure of our movement. This should be operational before 2018 comes to a close.
We listened, thought, talked and discussed past events, and figured out which ones could be replicated at other locations without putting too much pressure on the shoulders of the organisers. Logbooks likely enable us to see more citizen science projects (such as “Zooniversing”), pub quizzes, public lectures with general public involvement and other activities across several locations in the Netherlands. A location calendar will help too, whereas we remain opportunistic. After all, if an FFN award winner or other conservation hero is around, we will create a platform at short notice to meet & mingle. Never waste an opportunity to get infected with their passion!
Another highlight was Ruben’s presentation on his recent travels to South East Asia, where he visited several FFN award winners’ projects in the Philippines (Patricia Davis, C3), Indonesia (Rudi Putra, Forum Konservasi Leuser and Farwiza Farhan, HAkA) and Vietnam (Thai Van Nguyen, Save Vietnam’s Wildlife), concluding with a trip to Iran. Ruben took a year off from his studies, worked to fund for his travels, produced blogs and vlogs (see and spoke passionately about his experiences, originating from him actively taking part in the FFN Academy Day on 30 March 2017 ( How one event changed his life! His experiences rocked our emotions; we were touched by his talk and his concluding video. Ruben’s powerful performance gave rise to discussing how the conservation experiences by other FFN Academy members can also be spread across our networks. We will continue the “Report” section on our website, so stay tuned!
When we created the FFN Academy just over two years ago, we hoped it would inspire young people to focus on the conservation of nature, amidst the adverse conditions of society at large. And to make them feel empowered that they can make the difference. The hope has turned into an exclamation mark. This generation rocks!
By Rascha Nuijten and Ignas Heitkönig

Make your own linen bread bag workshop

Make your own linen bread bag workshop

After the stone-age and the bronze-age, some people call the twenty first century the ‘plastic age’. Plastic is a great product, it is cheap to produce and resistant. However, an enormous amount of single use plastic ends up in the environment and pollutes nature. In order to raise awareness for this problem and to offer an alternative, the Future For Nature Academy organized a plastic reduction workshop: Make your Own Linen Bread bags. Extra special because it was organized in the Seriously Sustainable week of Green Office, and together with Solidez in Wageningen.
The evening started with an introduction by Hugo Hoofwijk of the civil waste reduction initiative Wageningen Schoon (Wageningen Clean). He explained the challenges of plastic pollution, recycling and finding alternatives. It emphasized the importance to reduce the use of plastic! Filled with motivation, the twelve participants were ready to make a difference by sewing their own linen bread bag. For all participants it was the first time behind the sowing machine. It may require some measuring and trial and error but guided by Huib from Solidez, everyone managed to make their own unique bread bag. Everyone was rightfully proud of their end result and can now use it for their bread and to raise awareness on the plastic issue. The baker in Wageningen was enthusiastic and kind enough to give participants a discount when they use their new bread bag!
Do you want to make a bread bag yourself? Email us for the instructions!
By Pauline Buffing

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