Chris Sandom: I’ve been interested in nature and biology for as long as I can remember. I’ve just always felt nature was important and not as present in my life as I would like. In fact, looking back I feel my connection with nature was more through David Attenborough’s documentaries rather than being outside! But my interests led me to studying Environmental Biology and Geography at St Andrews. I then went up to Alladale Wilderness Reserve to set up an Eco-Volunteer project and then to do my PhD on how wolves and wild boar could help restore the Caledonian pine forest. It was then I heard about ‘rewilding’! In fact, I first heard it in relation to ‘Pleistocene Rewilding’ with the suggestion of reintroducing long lost elephants and other megafauna to Europe and North America. At first, I thought this was a ridiculous idea! But it led me on a journey (to Aarhus in Denmark and now the University of Sussex) and the lessons I’ve learnt along the way have opened my mind to a world full of possibility and a greater appreciation of the importance of elephants. I think rewilding offers us hope that by working with nature we can create a future where people and wildlife can thrive together.
Daniel Locke: I am an artist and graphic novelist. My most recent graphic novel Out of Nothing, was published in November 2017 by Nobrow Press. My work is featured in many anthologies of contemporary comics, and in 2016 my novella Pneuma was published in the USA by Tinto Press. Since 2013 much of my work has been informed and shaped by the discoveries of contemporary science. I’ve worked with Nobrow, Arts Council England, The Wellcome Trust and The National Trust and the Heritage Lottery Fund. I am currently working on my second full-length graphic novel, Going Home, also to be published by Nobrow Press and a third book, Two Heads, a collaboration with writer Alex Frith and Neuroscientists Uta and Chris Frith. I often collaborate with other artists and scientists having worked with David Blandy, Laura Malacart, Karrie Fransman, Joe Decie, Dr Adam Rutherford and Dr Chris Sandom to name a few.
Betsy Gorman: I am a young conservationist and artist with a background in biological sciences and ecology. My artwork focuses on natural history and, in the past, I’ve produced drawings for Rewilding Sussex’ ‘through the bush backwards’ top trumps cards in 2018. Alongside further studies, I hold the joint-role of Youth group coordinator as part of the upcoming ‘Wild Futures’ project.
In this role I’m hoping to inspire and learn from the next generation of ecologists in making Sussex a more environmentally rich landscape.
Izzy Taylor: I am a recent master’s graduate in global biodiversity conservation at the University of Sussex, interested in nature engagement, science communication and rewilding. I have a passion for illustration and loves when art and science collide. I recently produced a report of a survey addressing the barriers and solutions to nature engagement among 15-25 year olds. I also have a year’s experience running social media campaigns for a nature engagement charity and have carried out a range of ecological research projects. I look forward to working more directly with young people, developing my communication and time management skills, and working on my abilities as an artist.
Dr Rachel White: I’m a senior lecturer in ecology and conservation at the University of Brighton. My research interests encompass avian ecology and conservation, human-nature interactions, citizen science, and patterns and drivers of extinction risk. I’m passionate about sharing my sense of wonder and excitement about the natural world, including finding effective ways to connect the public (particularly young people) with nature. I’m a strong proponent of the conservation optimism movement, evidence-informed conservation, research transparency, and for reducing the current research-implementation gap.
To me, rewilding is an exciting and flexible conservation concept that at its heart focuses on creating healthy functional environments through long-term efforts to facilitate natural processes to take over. Whilst rewilding is often seen as being large-scale, I believe it can happen anywhere, even small or urban areas filled with people. In fact, rewilding is an essential tool for reconnecting people with the natural world – it is as much about rewilding people as it is about places.
Bobby Cross: I am an undergrad Ecology student at the University of Sussex. After working for many years in conservation and tourism, I moved from South Africa to the UK to further my studies. For the first time in my life, I witnessed the true scale of biodiversity loss and lack of wild spaces that makes rewilding such an important conservation practice, both for nature and people.
I am currently in the process of re-starting the Sussex University Rewilding Society, and I hope that I will be able to encourage and implement community-based rewilding projects both on campus and in the greater Sussex community.
Owen Middleton: Getting lost in nature is one of the best ways to spend your spare time and, as a computer-based ecologist, I need all of the outside time I can get. I am currently working towards a PhD at the University of Sussex, with research interests in the ecological effects of mammal communities across the world as well as the feasibility of rewiring ecosystems (restoring interactions) following human-induced extinctions throughout the late Quaternary (the last ~100,000 years). To me, rewilding provides an optimistic method for tackling the biodiversity and climate crises as well as for nurturing a better relationship between people and nature where it is needed. The gaining momentum around rewilding, particularly with young people, is thrilling to see and I am excited to see where it takes us to in the years ahead.
Tom Dando: I am a PhD researcher at the University of Exeter working on the social and ecological dimensions of species re-introductions, with a focus on the European wildcat. Formerly, I was a Masters student at the University of Sussex, where my research was based at the Knepp Estate, looking at habitat development under a near-natural grazing system. I was also the president of the Rewilding Sussex student society, and I’m a contributor to the Rewilding Science Twitter initiative which seeks to review and summarise the scientific literature surrounding rewilding.
I believe Rewilding requires greater scientific attention and practical application as both a biological and social science discipline, to enable us to understand in which situations and ecosystems it is likely to have the greatest benefit for people and biodiversity. To achieve success, I believe advocates must work with and integrate people and local cultures at every stage and in almost all cases ensure projects are locally-led. This is where groups like Rewilding Sussex can have a big impact, by engaging with a new generation of rewilding advocates to make small changes in their area, which can lead to major changes in the wider landscape.