Biodiversity communications: inspiration at BioFresh
The BioFresh ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ is one example of this new thinking. The Cabinet’s developers, Paul Jepson and Rob St John at Oxford University’s School of Geography and the Environment, are exploring the potential of new technologies such as blogs, social media and smart phones to re-imagine and reinvigorate old ways of engaging nature that appeal to the general public.
Also known as Wunderkammer (literally, ‘wonder-room’), Cabinets of Curiosities were popular in Renaissance Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries and reflected both a thirst for intellectual stimulus and the investigative spirit prompted by an increasingly expanding known world. The premise of this communication tool is that curiosity and investigative spirit are alive and well and stimulated by the exciting capacity of the web for virtual exploration of knowledge, ideas and places.
The ‘Cabinet’ is an online collection of curious and unusual freshwater flora, fauna and phenomenon with links to where each species can be seen in the wild, in captivity, or as a specimen in botanical gardens, museums, zoos, etc. This offers exciting opportunities to raise awareness of the importance of freshwater systems, whilst showcasing the displays held by institutions involved in freshwater biodiversity conservation efforts. Visitors to the Cabinet can suggest, rate, comment on the curiosities featured and suggest their own.
Dr Paul Jepson, Leader of the BioFresh Communication and Dissemination work-package comments
“Engaging people in the wonder of nature is a vital first step for conservation. Whilst it is appropriate for scientists and conservationists to want to tell people about threats and losses to biodiversity, it risks adding to a background sense of gloom. We need to balance the message that ‘biodiversity is declining and it’ll cost us’ with more aspiration messages such as ‘Hey, isn’t nature amazing. Surely it is something we’d all want to cherish and protect.’”
Rob St John, Lead developer of the Cabinet explains that “the underlying ethos of the Cabinet concept is one of drawing individual conclusions and emotional responses to nature. The freedom and ease of use provided by digital technologies only enhances this openness and freedom of knowledge”. Read more here http://caughtbytheriver.net/2010/11/cabinet-of-freshwater-curiosities/#more-10964
The BioFresh Project
BioFresh is a multi-partner European Union-FP7 funded project that is linking up data-bases to create a global information platform on fresh-water biodiversity that will enhance scientific research and create a stronger evidence place for policy and planning. For more information please visit the project web-site: http://www.freshwaterbiodiversity.eu which includes an interview with BioFresh project leader Professor Klement Tockner on the project (http://www.freshwaterbiodiversity.eu/tl_files/downloads/pdf/BF_article_ResearchMedia.pdf )
Dr Paul Jepson
BioFresh, Communications Work Package Leader
School of Geography and Environment, University of Oxford
Tel: +44 (0) 1865 275896