Q&A with CCI’s newest staff member, Shelley Bolderson

15th September 2014

Shelley Bolderson has recently joined the CCI team as the joint Development Coordinator for CCI and the Museum of Zoology. In this interview Shelley explains her previous role organising the Cambridge Science Festival, and gives her first impressions of CCI – and of the building that will become home to the new CCI campus.

You’ve been in post with CCI and the Museum of Zoology for about a month now, but you’re familiar with the University of Cambridge through your work with the annual Science Festival – can you tell me a little bit about the Festival and your involvement in it?

Prior to my role here I organised the Cambridge Science Festival, which features over 250 events focussing on topics ranging from astronomy to zoology, reaching around 35,000 individuals of all ages for two weeks each March. Working within the Public Engagement Team of the University of Cambridge’s Office of External Affairs and Communications, I managed the delivery of the Festival and consequently I was involved in absolutely everything, ranging from programming speakers and events, on the ground logistics, providing training for contributors, and fundraising, marketing and publicity. It has been (and continues to be) an absolute pleasure to work in such a vibrant and enthusiastic research community and I am committed to delivering activity that inspires the next generation of researchers.

As someone who’s familiar with the University museums in Cambridge, what for you are the biggest opportunities for closer collaboration between the Museum of Zoology and CCI?

I guess from the perspective of the new conservation campus [which will be located in the same building as the Museum of Zoology], the main opportunity for collaboration will come from the design of the displays in the shared spaces, which will highlight how the Museum collections inform current research in conservation science, with direct relevance to the work of the partners involved in CCI. I think it’s really important both for the people who will work in the campus building and the public to feel like there is a coherency between CCI and the Museum, and to seize this opportunity to highlight the wealth and diversity of work going on in the conservation campus and its link to the collections in the Museum.

There is also endless scope for joint public engagement activity, which extends far beyond the building. This is an exciting challenge as I am passionate about changing perceptions towards museums from places that are seen to look to the past to places that continue to contribute to inform the future. Co-location between CCI and the Museum of Zoology is a great opportunity to show the evolution of perspectives on biodiversity and the natural world, and how this informs the choices we make and lives we lead.

As you know, CCI is a collaboration between the University of Cambridge and a number of leading biodiversity conservation organisations based in and around Cambridge – from what you’ve learnt about CCI so far what are the aspects of CCI that excite you the most?

I love the ethos behind CCI; that a collaborative approach can deliver significant benefits for biodiversity conservation. I feel the shared space of the campus will really support the emergence of inspired results, and it’s exciting to see it develop first hand. I am passionate about showcasing world class research, and I feel so privileged to have been given this unique opportunity to work with the conservation organisations and University departments that make up CCI; to connect research to practice, and to highlight how this is relevant to the public’s understanding of the world around them.

I am delighted to be a part of this project and to provide support for people to share what excites them with the public. I also hope I can further the collaborations in the building and beyond, through fostering dialogue at public events and in the development of shared spaces; I see it as a melting pot of opportunities!

You’ve already visited the building that will be home to CCI’s conservation campus and the Museum of Zoology from the end of 2015 – apart from having to face your fear of heights, what were your first impressions?

Well it was fantastically exciting to see how the building is shaping up. What I found most incredible was scaling those stairs I’ve used hundreds of times before in my former role; the stairs are still the same, but the building has completely changed around them. For me personally it feels really cathartic to see the building transform from being the former heart of the Science Festival to an amazing conservation campus, and to see first hand how it will look and feel when it finally emerges from its cocoon.

As for first impressions, you really get a sense of the scale of the venture when you see it in situ, it’s such an enormous space waiting to become a hub of collaboration and shared ideals. It’s also great to see the progression of the atrium, which will include the living wall and is a key part of the sustainable aspects of the project. I cannot wait to see these in completion!