The idea was ambitious, but the inaugural online conference, hosted by The Expedition Project, was epic! The event spanned two days and was full to the brim of captivating talks from a diverse array of speakers.
Straight away, a massive thank you has to go out to Izzy from Nottingham University for investing so much of her time and an immense amount of effort into bring everything together. A round of applause must also go to Roger for keeping us right behind the scenes and was critical to the event going off without even a technical hitch. Every talk was unique and thought provoking which allowed for excellent audience engagement throughout.
I wanted to mention a few of the highlights of the weekend that stood out for me:
We had some particularly brilliant questions from our audience members after a captivating talk by Marine Dynamics. After an influx of live questions, the chat room was brimming with people wanting to talk more with Alison about her work with sharks.
Kellyn from Natures Valley Trust enlightened us on the plight of one of South Africa’s smallest little sea birds, the white-fronted plover. These tiny birds often go unnoticed by beach goers, meaning their nests susceptible to damage. Speaking with Kellyn after, it was clear that public awareness and education would be critical to protecting these birds and this theme repeated throughout the conference.
Zululand Conservation Trust were unable to speak live due to ‘load shedding’ in South Africa, but we were fortunate enough to have a pre-recorded talk by Simoné and footage of some of the animals in their care. To be effective and have a long-lasting impact, it’s vital that conservationists engage with local communities. Zululand not only acts to educate but also supports locals by supplying food to schools and nurseries, organising sports events and baking competitions to bring people together.
We finished up Saturday with a talk from Terry-lee Honiball who gave us an insight into her study of large carnivores. When you think of Africa, people often picture huge expanses of bushland; however, the majority of wild carnivores in South Africa are fenced in protected areas. This creates additional challenges that require accurate ecological monitoring to make appropriate management decisions and maintain stable ecosystems.
Heading into day two, there was no lack of enthusiasm from the team of ambassadors that guided us through the programme of talks. And if anyone was a little tired, we had a fantastic “reawakening” from Sue Swain who gave us a crash course in biomimicry – a concept encourages us to reconnect, learn from and better value nature as a library of solutions for modern problems.
I’ve only mentioned just a few of the exceptional speakers that gave their time so freely over the weekend. So, if you didn’t manage to catch the action, don’t worry – you haven’t missed out! You can still buy a ticket and access hours of content and conservation resources. #WCSA2021