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Young ambassador

Rob Knott

Hello, my name is Rob, I'm a 24 year old zoologist, conservationist and science communicator and I currently have the great pleasure of living and working on the UK's most northerly and largest RSPB reserve, Forsinard Flows.

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Why do you care about climate and nature?

The short answer is, I think it’s absolutely phenomenal. We have thousands of ecosystems on this planet, millions of species, and billions of organisms, all co-existing within very fine ecological boundaries and together making up our living Earth. So who are we, but one species on this Earth, to cause stress to the planet at such levels as to be classed as a mass extinction? And who are we, to cause such destruction so as to be awarded our own layer in the fossil record as testament to our destruction? I care for the climate, because I believe it’s our responsibility to do everything in our power to rectify this terrible damage, not only because the planet didn’t deserve such treatment, but because I don’t want to leave future generations with a planet damaged beyond repair.

What action are you taking for climate and nature?

For one, I’m currently working as a Conservation Skills intern at RSPB Forsinard Flows, the UK’s largest RSPB reserve in the north Highlands and crucially, the largest area of blanket bog in Europe. Blanket bog is an extremely important carbon sink because plants and mosses do not rot away in this environment and instead form peat. As such, the peatland at Forsinard, which forms part of the vast Flow Country, is thought to store 4000 million tonnes of carbon – roughly double the carbon stored in all the UK’s woodlands. However, in the latter half of the 20th Century it was subjected to mass conifer planting which disturbed vast swaithes of the bog, drying out the peat and releasing huge amounts of carbon. The team at Forsinard are determined to protect and restore this peatland to ensure it’s carbon storage potential and protect the landscape for generations to come. For the last couple of years, I have been living and working right in the heart of the Flow Country. From bird and invertebrate surveys to water sampling, pH testing and leading research with new technology, I am hugely passionate about peatland restoration.

 

I am also a passionate science communicator. I believe when it comes to nature, the beauty is in the little things, and as such I spent lockdown making short back garden wildlife videos highlighting the small ways in which people can engage with nature. Whether it’s by making a bird bath out of an old dustbin lid, a bird feeder from a discarded plastic bottle or holes in the fence to make wildlife corridors to allow hedgehogs and other mammals to pass freely, I believe it’s these little things that can spark an interest and passion for nature conservation. As part of this work, I also record podcasts with conservationists from around the world. This passion for hearing people’s voices for nature has led to my new part-time role as a Film Maker for RSPB Scotland’s Education for Youth (EFY) team, where we are passionate about helping the voices of young people doing great things for nature to be heard – after all, young people are the future hope for this planet.

Which of your activities related to climate and nature would you like to highlight?

I would be very keen to raise the profile of peatland restoration and help to explain to people why they should care for peatlands as much as they do for woodlands. The carbon storage potential in these areas is massive, and yet many people are unaware of this. It’s time to “make peat cool” and showcase it for the public and politicians alike.

I would also like to highlight the importance of raising youth voices in the fight against climate change. As the generation who will be in the top jobs and making the decisions by 2050, young people deserve a seat at the table so they can influence the world they want to inherit and have their say on rectifying the climate crisis we face. My science communication work and film making work with EFY are all part of amplifying youth voice, a topic I would convey passionately in this role.

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