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 conservationists-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: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfi_Qsgwyt3OOZzOkI71qHGL_tPmBovHlLX8k4KZ0dFlQ_oog/viewform?fbclid=IwAR2wLCDZk8cihoOHQZw4otMHd554uDjajlRKP9ZChTaiCyxB09Qs_tSGXYc
By Melanie Arp
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
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
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
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
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 http://ffnacademy.org/future-for-nature-academy-report/) and spoke passionately about his experiences, originating from him actively taking part in the FFN Academy Day on 30 March 2017 (http://ffnacademy.org/events-overview/page/3/). 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
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! email@example.com.
By Pauline Buffing
Primatologist, ethologist and anthropologist Dr. Jane Goodall, famous for her pioneering research on chimpanzees, recently visited the Netherlands. The Hogeschool van Amsterdam was lucky to host her for a lecture on the 24th of May, and the Future For Nature Academy organized a livestream of this event in all six locations simultaneously: Amsterdam, Den Bosch, Nijmegen, Utrecht, Velp & Wageningen!
Dr. Jane Goodall first talked about her love for animals from a very early age and about her quest to understand the world around her. One point that she highlighted strongly was her mother’s role in becoming who she is. Dr. Goodall’s mother had a supporting role in her quest of discovery. For example, Jane told us a story how she was hiding in a hen house for hours to understand how hens lay eggs, but her mother would not get mad at the young Jane.
Nowadays, Jane’s work revolves around encouraging people with an interest in making the world a better place through the Jane Goodall Institute and the Roots & Shoots program. As part of the Roots & Shoots program, two Dutch schools presented their work during the lecture. First, two young boys from a local primary school presented about their bee project. They explained how they created a bee friendly environment around their school and how they raised awareness. Then, two high school students presented their class work with the seal rescue center in Pieterburen.
At the end of the presentation, the livestream viewers in all FFNAcademy locations had the opportunity to ask questions through a few lucky FFNAcademy members who were present at the lecture. Moreover, the FFNAcademy decided to present Jane with a special gift. People were invited to write personal messages, quotes, etc. to Dr. Goodall about how she inspired all of us, which were put together in a book and given to Jane on stage, by our own Roos and Maartje! It was an inspiring event and we are hoping to organize such kind of event in future again.
By Esli Han
On the stormy and rainy evening of Friday the 21st of September, a group of about 30 enthusiasts gathered at the Hoge Born in Wageningen for an inspiring evening about the outside life. Koen Arts and Gina Maffey shared their story about their year living outside in a Swedish tipi, or sometimes even without any cover against the elements apart from a tarp. Using photos, a video and live demonstrations the FFN Academy public was drawn into their way of life and inspired by their courage.
Despite thunder and pouring rain, Koen gave a demonstration of how to split wood and make fire (in the rain). In between the showers we roasted marshmallows and brainstormed about how to live more outside ourselves. Cause, truly, how much time do you spend outside? Exactly… it is something to work on. And that’s what Koen and Gina will do in their Nature Experience Foundation that they are setting up. FFN Academy will think along with them on how to strengthen the foundation. We keep in touch with this beautiful initiative. And don’t forget to go outside a bit more!
By Reineke van Tol
Utrecht students joined a citizen science initiative via the Zooniverse web portal in an afternoon dedicated to helping conservation projects around the world.
Volunteering from the comfort of your home is now possible with tools such as Zooniverse, the largest and most popular platform for citizen science, or people-powered research. The idea is simple. Researchers from all over the globe, collect data for their research projects. Sometimes, there is just too much to be analysed by a single person or research team. That is where citizens, like you and me, come in and help these projects, by classifying all sorts of data.
On thursday the 27th September, FFN Academy Utrecht joined efforts with the project “Cheetahs of Central Namibia” via the zooniverse.org portal to help classify thousands of camera trap images collected in the field. After one hour and a half of looking through the images of Namibia’s wilderness, we managed to classify ca 1483 pictures in total! In the end, each of the participants was able to select their favourite image, a memory of their conservation endeavours.
From dozens of antelopes, to a couple of cheetahs and leopards, and even one black rhinoceros in disguise, the zooniverse party was complete in the first ever citizen science effort hosted by FFN Academy. Hopefully there will be many more in the future!
by Monica Vidal