Young minds have much to contribute to the natural world. Instinctively curious and keen to learn, their enthusiasm for exploring, acumen for research and creative media (including photography, filmmaking, and podcasting) portends the future of conservation. As citizen scientists and aspiring naturalists, youth are making their mark as stewards of the wild.

Acknowledging the emerging talent and value of young minds, we asked George Steedman Jones, a student of Marine and Natural History Photography (MNHP) at Falmouth University, to share his thoughts on creating media to support conservation and how to stay inspired and informed during lockdowns.

Taking Notes on Nature by George Steedman Jones

As a wildlife photography student at a university in 2021, it’s been a strange experience starting a practical, creative degree amid a global pandemic.

But one thing that we can still do, despite any restrictions, has been to go outside. And something that I’ve learnt during the first term of this degree and something that I’ve been able to hone in the field is the importance of proper research and field observations in wildlife photography and storytelling.

With wildlife photography, it’s very unlikely you’ll just turn up with your camera and get a great photo. Prior knowledge of both the local area and the species you hope to photograph are really important in creating an engaging story.

During lockdowns, look into ways you can research photo trips you’d like to take after they lift restrictions. Maybe start a research journal. Guidebooks, websites, and local wildlife groups (often found on Facebook or Twitter) are invaluable in this.

For observation, learning how to take field notes is an important skill. Perhaps look into this on YouTube. Learning basic animal identification and how to use a field guide are also valuable competencies to master. You can purchase field guides cheaply from second-hand book websites or eBay.

Explore the gallery (above) to see photographs I’ve captured using research and observation. I’ve also included a page from one of my field notebooks, and a trail camera image of a European badger, which I took with a fellow student after using these natural history skills to establish where the badger had its regular evening route.

If you don’t own a camera yet but still want to hone your wildlife research and observation skills, writing is a great way for storytellers to celebrate and support conservation, and something I still do today. Write to inspire and be inspired!

My friends Earth Endeavours are inviting people to create an original short story highlighting their favourite wildlife charity, endangered species or nature project in need of a voice. With three special categories for youth, females, and indigenous people of all ages to share their stories, you can submit yours here!

Not sure what or who to write about?

For story inspiration, explore my Instagram @george_brynmor or research and write about a species featured in this article.

About the Author

Fuelled by a childhood spent mostly outside, George is an impassioned environmentalist, conservation volunteer, and content creator at We Swim Wild (@weswimwild). Alongside his degree, George also produces and hosts a podcast called ‘Coffee with Conservationists’ (@coffee_with_conservationists).