Conservation events at Cambridge Science Festival

23rd March 2015

The Cambridge Science Festival, an annual event that attracts over 30,000 visitors to hundreds of events across the city of Cambridge, acquired a definite greenish tinge for 2015, with a number of conservation-related events taking place.
The first two conservation events were tucked into the evening of the Festival’s opening night, on Monday 9 March. In the early evening, Dr Chris Hewson, of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), provided insights into the BTO’s experiences of tracking migrant bird species. Using tiny transmitters attached to the birds, researchers have been able to glean a wealth of information about the routes the birds take between their breeding sites in the UK and their over-wintering grounds in the southern hemisphere.

Chris’s talk was followed by an ‘In conversation’ discussion between Ackroyd & Harvey, the artists who have been commissioned to create the art for the refurbished CCI Campus building, Steve Broad, the Director of the wildlife trade organisation TRAFFIC, and Professor Bill Sutherland, the Miriam Rothschild Professor of Conservation Biology in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Zoology. Ackroyd & Harvey’s work has long been influenced by aspects of the natural world, and their discussion with Steve and Bill ranged widely over past influences and their future plans, as well as their perspective on conservation.

Later in the week a third CCI partner, IUCN, hosted an event at the Science Festival. In this early evening slot Caroline Pollock explained the workings of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, a critical tool in the conservation armoury. Underpinned by rigorous assessment against a set of transparent criteria, the Red List is a means of categorizing the global conservation status of animal, plant and fungi species.

The second week featured yet more conservation events, with a lively debate about the Sustainable Development Goals and the role that biodiversity and natural capital will play in the delivery of these goals, followed by a panel discussion examining the issue of gender and conservation. The outputs of the latter session will feed into the work of the Women in Conservation Leadership Network. The last conservation event of the 2015 Cambridge Science Festival, hosted by comedian Robin Ince, brought together a number of artists to reflect on their personal experiences of the interface of art and conservation and how collaborating has altered their work. It was, however, not one of the human speakers who stole the show, but rather sound artist Chris Watson’s haunting recordings of underwater noises, including bearded seals singing under arctic ice and a rare recording of the call of a blue whale – somehow a suitable sound to bring the run of conservation events at the Science Festival to a close.