It was an honour to attend the University of Cambridge’s Student Conference on Conservation Science to hear Sir David Attenborough, English natural historian and broadcaster, answer questions from the many international students who attend the conference each year. The university lecture theatre buzzed with excitement before Sir David made his entrance, and when he arrived he certainly didn’t disappoint.

He welcomed questions from a variety of students from all over the world on a wide range of topics. The undergraduate and postgraduate university students, who came from countries including Costa Rica, Madagascar and Nepal, asked engaging, intelligent and considered questions including;

Should scientists bring species currently extinct back from extinction, as could become a realistic possibility?

In Sir David Attenborough’s opinion, no. He does not believe that this practice would be for the good of the animals in the long-run, and that the exercise would become more about the achievements of the scientist(s) in question for managing this feat. It would be far more productive for them/us to focus on conserving and safeguarding the species we still have on the planet.

The reintroduction project would also not just be about producing one animal of course, but an entire population of the species, which is an even greater long-term challenge.

How can young scientists remain optimistic in the face of current obstacles to Conservation Science?

Sir David felt passionately that we must all remain optimistic about maintenance of the natural world in order for us to ensure it continues successfully. A large obstacle, in Sir David’s opinion, lies in convincing everyone of the importance of the natural world to us all. To do this, scientists just like these and many more young conservationists must show others the wonders of the natural world and explain how it impacts on them and their lives.

According to Sir David, while country-dwellers tend to understand this more due to their direct link to rural lifestyles, city-dwellers are harder to convince and can therefore have the biggest negative impact on the planet through their urban environments.

As well as these fascinating answers, Sir David also explained how when he was first taught about plastic as a boy he was excited about a material that can be used to make many objects and lasts forever. He is however, of course, now deeply concerned by its impact and told the sad story of an Albatross he witnessed feeding its young entirely on regurgitated plastic. This chick would clearly not survive long, and the entire species could eventually come under threat because of plastic.

Sir David Attenborough was warm, captivating and committed to this lecture and everything he communicated in it. He went on to view posters on Conservation Science prepared by the bright, young cohort before even sitting with them for photographs on the concrete floor outside the university building. Inspiring and memorable actions and words to educate and encourage us all in these uncertain times.

To find out more about the Student Conference on Conservation Science follow this link; http://sccs-cam.org/

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