Community-minded Rachel’s wildlife legacy on graduating with first class honours

Community-minded Rachel’s wildlife legacy on graduating with first class honours 
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Empowering grassroot communities to contribute to global environmental and conservation efforts “is a privilege” for new graduate Rachel Owen.

The 25-year-old from Warwickshire has played a pivotal role in transforming the university’s Institute of Arts campus, where she has recently completed the unique BA (Hons) Wildlife Media degree, achieving first class honours and gaining first-class results in every module of the course.

A founding member of the university’s Wildlife Society too, Rachel’s vision and contribution creates a lasting legacy for wildlife and the environment. Staff, students and communities also have new opportunities to engage with nature and conservation thanks to her efforts.

Examples include:

  • the tree sparrow – classified on the UK Red List as a bird of conservation concern –successfully breeding following the installation of bird boxes on campus by the Wildlife Society; and other species including the lesser redpoll, nuthatch and great spotted woodpecker becoming regular visitors to new feeding stations;
  • hides built at the Brampton Road campus, allowing staff and students to get closer to nature;
  • new wildflower and biodiversity areas resulting in an increase in the numbers of plants, invertebrate and mammal species, including the northern marsh orchid, red soldier beetle, hedgehogs, and pollinators; and
  • annual BioBlitz studies to monitor species diversity, a calendar and a programme of informative talks and trips.

Rachel shares her knowledge and skills with others too. This summer she has led a successful public event in association with St Michael’s Church, in Stanwix, Carlisle, to discover and collect data about the species found in its grounds.

Rachel, who took a six-month break from studying in 2019-2020 following surgery, said: “It’s a privilege and a real joy to be someone who empowers people to engage with wildlife, nature and conservation. It's really important to give people opportunities to do this in ways that are fun and accessible. Such events let people learn from experts, which is knowledge they can then take away and use in their own gardens and out on local walks. I absolutely love organising events like these and hope to continue to do it.”

Laura Baxter, Wildlife Media programme leader, Institute of Arts, University of Cumbria said: “We’re immensely proud of the achievements of all our students and graduates, who are making an important collective contribution to conservation and raising awareness of biodiversity challenges through media.  Alumni are working at organisations such as Traffic fighting wildlife crime and BBC Wildlife Magazine documenting the important issues facing wildlife in today’s world.  

“We are inspired by the achievements of students such as Rachel. As well as achieving remarkable academic results, Rachel is a relentless activist for wildlife conservation issues, organising local events and engaged in national issues such as the HS2 project and the global issue of climate change too. We’re encouraged by the positive change that Rachel represents in this emerging next generation of conservationists, media makers and campaigners.”

The University of Cumbria Wildlife Media programme allows students to develop artistic and creative skills in fields such as media and video production and photography alongside learning and exploring scientific areas of zoology, biodiversity and conservation.

Dr Simon Carr, Associate Professor of Geography at the university, said: “When we look at some of the world’s most pressing challenges, such as the global biodiversity and climate crises, the key messages that win hearts and minds are often conveyed through engaging directly with individuals and demonstrating how their actions contribute to the greater picture. This can also be communicated through iconic imagery and film footage. When the person behind the lens is also knowledgeable and actively engaged in those issues, the messages conveyed become so much more powerful.”

If Rachel's story has inspired you, there are still places available on Rachel's course, BA Wildlife Media. Call the team on 0808 178 7373  or visit www.cumbria.ac.uk/clearing.