SUFB 109: Watching British Wildlife with Eco Sapien

Speak Up For Blue Podcast

In an era where networks like Discovery Channel and Animal Planet are creating mockumentaries about Megaolodon and mermaids, where climate change deniers are buying the National Geographic company, people deserve the truth about our natural ecosystems. People have a right to know what is going on underneath the waves and what role nature and biodiversity play in our global society. More importantly, people deserve to know what they can do to protect our planet’s wildlife. That is why Speak Up For Blue exists, that is what we try and bring to you every day through our podcast and blog. Luckily, we’re not alone in this mission. Today, Andrew (virtually) sat down with David Bodenham and Phil Taylor of Eco Sapien to discuss what motivates them to communicate science and why it’s important to protect British wildlife.

Eco Sapien is a multi-platform initiative aimed at promoting the importance of biodiversity and communicating the role that humans play in our local and global ecosystems. Both conservation biologists, David and Phil use their scientific background to translate complex biological and ecological concepts to a diverse audience that typically does not have formal scientific training. Through their YouTube playlist, conservation blog, and infographics, the creators of Eco Sapien successfully leverage multiple online platforms to educate and entertain anyone with an internet connection and five free minutes. But don’t expect any didactic messages or guilt-tripping from these guys; Phil and David agree that the most effective way to communicate and promote conservation is to simply provide an audience access to the scientific literature. They simply put the information out there and present it in a way that allows the view or reader to form their own opinion.

In order to reach younger generations, Eco Sapien has created fifty educational videos on YouTube covering a wide variety of conservation topics from island ecology to the plight of Magpies in the UK. According to David, “we were trying to tap into that YouTube generation. Kids don’t get out as much as they used to and they watch a lot more videos online so we thought ‘well there’s a real gap in the market here.’ There’s not any Youtube channels specifically focused towards conservation biology and ecology, so we thought we could fill that gap and get across in a fun way, an interesting way, a bite-sized way, these scientific facts, as well as the amazing visuals that might come with the BBC programs.”

But they don’t just relegate themselves to making YouTube videos; Eco Sapien is also actively involved in communicating science and ecology in-person to school groups throughout the U.K. Through a variety of interactive and creative workshops, David and Phil tackle issues such as the loss of pollinators and their respective ecosystem services in a way that is understandable and enjoyable to young audiences.

In the process, Eco Sapien has become a champion of conservation in the U.K., a country whose biodiversity does not receive the attention it deserves. David and Phil recently addressed this in a video about grey seals, one of the two seal species found in Great Britain. The U.K. is home to 95% of the European Union’s grey seal population and 40% of the world’s population, making it a crucial area for grey seal conservation. The fishing industry, however, may not hold this species in high regard. Fishing communities and grey seals along the U.K. coast are locked in a constant battle for the same resource, namely commercial fish species. David and Phil do concede that it can be easy in times of economic downturn and ecological instability for groups like the fishing industry to create a scapegoat for their problems, since it’s much simpler to blame the grey seals than to appreciate and acknowledge the complex economic and ecological systems that affect decreased fish stocks.

Still, they maintain that in a country that is seeing its research funding cut and its coastal ecosystems impacted by climate change and ocean acidification, someone must stand up for U.K. wildlife. Currently, and hopefully for quite some time, Eco Sapien is that someone. And, according to Phil, they’re up to the challenge. “We want people to respect wildlife. Nature is to be respected. We’re only one tiny little part of it, we have much bigger heads than we deserve, so we really need to respect it.”

Enjoy the Podcast!

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