Wild Lives: An Introduction to Isabel

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#WildLives – a collaboration between Jo Foo & Isabel Kingsford

And here it is… (finally!!)… your official introduction to the lovely Isabel Kingsford, the other brain behind Wild Lives. Last week Isabel introduced our project on her blog and how I fit in to our future plans, so of course it is my turn to return the favour…  here’s what I learned during our recent interview…

Isabel is a country gal at heart who grew up in the North West of England. Like many children in the pre-social media era, she spent most of her time playing outdoors, running in the countryside, dreaming up imaginary games and, during many a family holiday, braving the Cornish sea in a bikini.

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“All my fondest memories are of myself and my sister playing outside.” – Isabel with her sister in the Cornish sea.

This rural upbringing inspired her passion for biology and everything wild.  Her love for the outdoors fit perfectly with her tendency towards logic and reasoning. It seemed natural that a career in science would follow.

“As a child I was (and really still am!) very literal and logical. My mind works quite linearly so whilst I can be creative, abstract concepts don’t really resonate with me. I think that is why I love biology so much, because it is just one enormous puzzle and every cell, every species, every ecosystem is a tiny piece – I was eager to discover how they all fit together.”

And of course, biology was the science of choice. A varied and broad range of classes at university in Exeter provided her with the opportunity to try all aspects of the subject from cellular and molecular biology, to ecology and animal ecophysiology.  For Isabel, the environmental and animal based subjects were the ones that really mattered. Understanding the bigger picture and how our careless behaviour leaves a lasting impact on the the world was key.

“Possibly the most inspirational thing I learnt was from my Ecology teacher and it was called the Chain of Causation. It is quite a simple concept really, I’ll explain it in a diagram!

Biodiversity -> Ecosystem Function -> Ecosystem Services -> Human Wellbeing

In short, the higher the level of biodiversity, the better the ecosystem functions are, so the ecosystem provides more services and we have an improved quality of life.”

Isabel realised that really, it should be a Circle of Causation.

“Human behaviour affects biodiversity directly, so the fact the chain ends with us just feeds the idea that we are separate from the natural world. It gives us the impression that events such as flooding or global warming are just bad luck, nothing to do with us and allows people to turn a blind eye.”

It was this “eureka moment” that inspired her to start her career in science communication. The realisation that many people, particularly children, felt that they were separate from the natural world. This seems even more important now as future generations are caught in the technology bubble and aren’t connecting with the outdoors. It’s vital that they learn that humans are a part of nature. Everything we do has an impact and we need to protect it to survive.

“Education is the key – no one will care about what they do not understand, and no one will protect what they do not care about.”

So in September 2016, Isabel started Wildlifestyle.  After graduating from university she moved back home and has been working locally, saving every spare penny to fund her upcoming trip to Africa to study conservation later this year. While she faces the everyday challenges of paying bills and saving for her trip, she decided to kick-start her own career and keep her science communication skills sharp with her blog and Instagram account.

Developing her website and learning how to engage people via social media was a steep learning curve and a process that is continually evolving. Wildlifestyle is an opportunity for Isabel to express her passions in a creative way and hopefully to inspire the public to live ‘a lifestyle in tune with wildlife’.  If you haven’t checked out her website yet, you really should. She’s already written an impressive series of blogs about everything from making sustainable fashion choices to educating children in nature. 

This year is set to be a big one, and not only because of Wild Lives, but because Isabel is bravely following her dreams and heading to Africa where she will be joining the team at the Siyafunda Research Camp in the Greater Makalali Game Reserve. She’ll spend her time there doing wildlife monitoring and research, as well as assisting with reserve management. I’m insanely jealous! One of the projects she’ll be working on is contraception for elephants. I can’t wait to read her blog about that!

So as you can hopefully tell, Isabel has a lot of wonderful ideas a plans to make a difference in the world of conservation through science communication. I’m so excited to be working with her this year and really looking forward to sharing our Wild Lives with you all!

Oh, and before I go, I asked Isabel for three things that people might not know about her of find quite surprising and her answers were very interesting. This is what she said…

  • Isabel has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro (see proof below!)
  • She is often told she looks like Hermoine Granger from Harry Potter. I agree and it’s definitely a compliment!
  • And despite the photo of her leaping goodness knows how high at the top of the highest mountain in Africa, she actually has a fear of cliffs (or rather, falling off them!).

Really looking forward to working with her more! x

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