Students at the University of the West of England and the University of Bristol are working with Bristol Natural History Consortium to put on the Festival of Nature in 2016, the UK’s biggest public celebration of the natural world.
The festival enlists the help of 200 volunteers, the vast majority of which are students, to help bring natural history to life in the city centres of Bristol and Bath. Through both structured and on-the-job training, students gain skills and experience across multiple disciplines, including event management and public engagement as well as wildlife surveying and ecology at the annual “BioBlitz” events.
The festival involves students from a variety of disciplines presenting work and sharing activities. At the 2015 festival, students from the Faculty of Medical and Veterinary Sciences, School of Biological Sciences, the Botanic Garden and the University of Bristol Systems Centre all took part.
UWE students worked on projects like ‘Robots vs. Animals‘, a creative collaboration between engineers and zoologists exploring the ingenuity of both nature and humankind where students were able to showcase some of the robots developed at Bristol Robotics Laboratory. The ‘Chocolate Detectives’, an activity with Play-dough that interactively shows a simplified version of how a genetic code in DNA can be compared to identify the origin of the cocoa in chocolate, also featured.
In 2015, UoB students interested in environmental history volunteered at the festival to showcase their work looking at the Frome River, which is a river running under the city centre in Bristol. This gave visitors to the festival the chance to learn something really special about the city we live in and find our how history and nature have shaped our lives.
The Festival of Nature is a great space for students to mix across Bristol’s two universities and mingle with graduates and young professionals in the environmental sector. Volunteers went on to found a new young wildlife enthusiasts group for students and non-students alike, the now 900 member strong Bristol Nature Network.
This project was initiated by Bristol Natural History Consortium with funding from the University of the West of England and shaped by volunteers and interested parties. In March 2014, the Bristol Nature Network was officially born, showing how really special things can come from community volunteering.
To find out more about getting involved with the festival, please have a look on http://www.bnhc.org.uk/volunteer/ for opportunities.