To emphasize the ‘Academy’ part of the Future for Nature Academy, we 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 a school curriculum.
Cooperation is one of those skills. Good cooperation can significantly increase the chances of success for nature conservation projects. Therefore, the Academy was very grateful that Ylva Poelman was willing to show us what we can learn from nature itself, in terms of cooperation. She is one of the Dutch pioneers in the field of biomimicry/bionics/ bio-inspired innovation, a field in which nature is looked at as a source of inspiration for dealing with problems we as humans face. We found out there is much to be learned. After all, nature has been experimenting with what works and what doesn’t work for 4 billion years! More specifically, we looked at how to cooperate effectively for conserving nature. Furthermore, we discovered another reason for conserving nature: there are loads of examples of ‘’proven technology’’!
During the workshop Ylva introduced us to the field of bionics/biomimicry. She explained the principles and showed various examples of bio-inspired innovation. After that we had a taste of what it is like to work from a bionics perspective. In groups, we worked on assignments for which we had to think about and look at nature in a different way. We tried to figure out which underlying conditions are required for different types of cooperation mechanisms. Ultimately, we tried to answer the question: ‘’How can we cooperate effectively with people from different backgrounds with different views and jargon?’’, which happens often in nature conservation. All in all, it was a great, educative day that showed us a different way of looking at nature.
By Marjolein Poelman
Zero waste workshop
Living zero waste is a trend that a lot of people have shown interest in, especially in nowadays times regarding the climate crisis. It is a way of living where all the items you use are made and used in such a way that is eco-friendly for the environment. That means less plastic use, less buying of single-use items, less money spending and using items that are made of natural, compostable products. It also involves a lot of recycling and re-using of items that have already fulfilled their initial purpose, for example, using an old toothbrush to clean the glass of your fish tank. Living zero waste is not hard and, besides it being good for the environment, is money and time saving.
Living zero waste doesn’t happen in a day, it’s a process. With this work shop, we wanted people to take a moment and think about living more zero waste and its possibilities and how they could apply it in their daily life. With a few simple recipes we made people connect with living more zero waste. On request, everyone brought an old T-shirt that could be used and a glass jar.
The work shop started off with a big mind map about living zero waste. People engaged in a big discussion where they expressed their first thoughts about zero waste and the difficulties they experienced.
In the practical park of the work shop, the group was split up in three. There were three stations where people could either make dish soap, disinfectant wipes or they could create something useful of their own thrash. All the stations were adjusted to each other; you could use previously made dish soap in the disinfectant wipes and eventually you could decorate your own glass jar. In between the switch of stations there were small breaks where people could grab drinks and snacks.
The participants were very excited about trying the recipes and eager to participate in the discussion. The goal of the work shop was to make people think about how they, as ordinary citizen, could also help nature a little hand by changing small habits in their life. Together with the discussion and the practical part, we found that it was highly successful and definitely up for a sequel!
By Danielle van der Burg
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.
Leadership is one of those skills. Good leadership skills can significantly increase the chances of success for any nature conservation project. Therefore, the Academy was very grateful that Laurent Hendrickx was willing to share his leadership experience with us during a full day workshop. Laurent Hendrickx has nearly 40 years of experience at the Ministry of Defense, in particular at the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee. Here, leadership is a skill that he needed to have good command of, because without leadership you will not get far in conflict and stressful situations.
During the workshop we were introduced to different aspects of leadership, such as different leadership styles, self-knowledge, and personal and group development. In addition, he told us about his experiences in the field of intercultural communication and skills based on experiences abroad. It was very informative and Laurent provided us with new insights about leadership and the necessity of these skills if you really want to get things done. Also, it was quite inspiring and at times impressive to hear about his experiences and stories in general and in the field of leadership. Some aspects of leadership and group dynamics were also illustrated through games and group discussions. All in all, it was a great, educative day that definitely influenced our perspectives on leadership.
By Marjolein Poelman
You might wonder how dedicating your life to conservation in the field feels like. Or maybe you just want to discuss how to achieve conservation in the world of today. Whichever may be the case for you, being able to share these questions and many more with award winning conservationists is guaranteed to inspire you.
Last Saturday, 26th of October, Burger’s Zoo opened its doors yet again for, not one, not three, but sixteen Future For Nature Award winners to share their visions for conservation with students and young professionals. And as usual, Future For Nature Academy was tasked with gathering a group of enthusiastic youngsters to populate the event and bring their curious minds together.
The afternoon started off promising. As we walked through the hallway into the auditorium, we could read the amazing conservation stories of the awardees as a sign of what was to come. In the Auditorium, the program kicked off with a relaxed atmosphere. Our very own Jannah Boerakkers gave us a word of welcome and soon the first group of winners took the stage.
Four by four, each group of winners was presented with conservation issues to discuss. Meanwhile, the audience was able to vote on popular answers through their smartphones as well as posing their own questions. From more fundamental questions relating to our personal view of conservation we went on to discuss our priorities for the field and the value of staying optimistic. Finally, we even had time to comment on our role as conservationists to set an example with our choices.
As the panel session came to an end, guests and winners had already generated enough food for thought. It was now time to calm the hungry stomachs (and minds) with some snacks, drinks, and of course mingling, as we prepared to join the dynamic workshops planned for the afternoon.
But not without first checking the Job Board set by the Future For Nature Award winners. Here each awardee displayed vacancies within their organization to hopefully be occupied by our VIP guests.
The workshop session then followed, with exciting themed workshops. From more fundamental/ecologic conservation topics such as rainforest conservation and marine conservation to applied topics on human dimensions like human-wildlife conflict and wildlife crime. Surely everyone had something to choose from.
To break the ice, each workshop session started with some speed dating – a fine way to get to know the work and opinions of each other regarding several conservation hot topics. But it was time to get some work done and our winners and guests gathered to discuss the topics of their choice. Hopefully, everyone managed to leave their workshops with something to show for their hard work.
But let it not be all about work! The winners and VIP guests had time for more mingling after their workshops. In the end, we hope everyone had a good time and was able to satiate their curious minds.
By Monica Vidal
“Walk for Wildlife” – Raising awareness towards nature fragmentation
When we think about nature, we may be tempted to imagine luxuriant forests somewhere halfway across the globe, but we more often miss the nature right in front of us. In fact, The Netherlands contains a vast richness of natural landscape and protected areas. At the same time, it is also among the top 10 most densely populated countries in Europe. In such a highly populated country, mobility is a priority. But what about the mobility of wildlife when systems of roads, fences and general human infrastructures cut through large portions of natural habitat?
The “Walk for Wildlife” initiative aimed to draw attention to just that. During the 24th and 25th of August, we set out to hike c.a 50 Km through Dutch landscape to raise awareness to the fragmentation of natural habitats. Along the way, we were joined by specialists who were keen to talk to us about the current management of these areas.
The morning started out at the head offices of WWF NL in Zeist with a warm welcome by the FFNA minds behind this initiative and an introduction by Annemiek Heuvelmans-Driessen of WWF. Then, under the attentive supervision of WWF’s giant panda, Annemiek rang an impromptu bell to mark the start of the two-day hike.
The following hours were met with great motivation from our walkers. Soon we encountered our first obstacles – high fences and roads. After a long morning on the road and a quick lunch break, it was then time to head to our first highlight of the day at Ecoduct Mollebos. Atop the ecoduct, Markus Feijen from Utrechts Landschap told us about the important role of ecoducts and other fauna passages which serve as corridors that prevent roadkill and connect fragmented landscapes.
The hike resumed as planned. Or almost! With only a few hours left to make it to our camping grounds, we stumbled across “someone” in need of our assistance – an injured swallow. In just a few minutes, the Dierenambulance Woutenberg arrived to collect the injured bird and take it to its recovery. As for the rest of us, we rushed to our camp to finally have a much-deserved rest. And so, the evening was completed with a campfire storytelling session hosted by a familiar face, our guest Gina Maffey.
The Second day started off early in the morning after recharging our batteries. We were lucky to walk for a long while immersed in the forest of the Utrechtse Heuvelrug before arriving at the Amerongse floodplains. Our path was cut by a few high traffic streets, but we managed to reach the castle of Amerongen in one piece.
At the castle, we were greeted by our special guest – the enthusiastic Caroline van der Mark from ARK Natuurontwikkeling, another familiar face to the Future For Nature Academy. With Caroline’s guidance, we walked across the Amerongse floodplanes and discussed what is so unique about this place and its management. All in the company of beautiful wild horses, that stared at us as much as we stared at them, which made the moment so much more special.
We then left the floodplains through blooming heather fields and back into the forest. And finally, we reached Willem plantage 3, an old tobacco plantation turned into a nature reserve. Looking over the hill all the way down to the river, it seemed as if we had left the Netherlands for just a second.
At the end of the day, we regrouped at FFNA’s improvised headquarters in Wageningen to enjoy a few slices of (vegetarian) pizza in the company of everyone who participated or helped bringing this initiative to life. A big THANK YOU to everyone involved for making these two days a fun experience.
If our little adventure peaked your interest, here you can explore the Walk for Wildlife section of this website and enjoy the podcasts and photos of the walk. And if that inspires you, why not taking on a hike path through Dutch nature and experiencing it for yourself? Check the websites of our partners to find out where you can hike. And stay tuned around the same time next year!
By Mónica Vidal and Janneke Scheeres
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
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: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfi_Qsgwyt3OOZzOkI71qHGL_tPmBovHlLX8k4KZ0dFlQ_oog/viewform?fbclid=IwAR2wLCDZk8cihoOHQZw4otMHd554uDjajlRKP9ZChTaiCyxB09Qs_tSGXYc
By Melanie Arp
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