Creativity is a skill that is perhaps often overlooked within conservation science, but can prove to be a powerful tool for innovating solutions in addition to communicating scientific findings in an accessible way to people of diverse backgrounds. In this incredible trip to Central and Northern Bulgaria, a unique perspective was shown into the way in which crafts can be integrated with wildlife conservation and the stewardship of the environment within Bulgaria.
Looking towards the Severen Dzhendem mountains on a walk to the Vidima Waterfall in the Central Balkan National Park.
As a recently graduated Ecology and Monitoring intern for RSPB Abernethy, I carry out a lot of survey work for species of conservation concern within Scotland, with a large focus of my work on Capercaillie, Tetrao urogallus, and it’s researching methods of optimising its habitat across the Caledonian Pine forests. While I am predominantly from a scientific background, I also enjoy spending my evenings an artist, painting and sculpting, and am therefore always looking to find ways of linking these two aspects of understanding the natural world, developing creative thinking to expand my world view and finding ways to share these interests through each other as I enter a career within conservation.
Throughout the trip we spent time learning about the natural heritage of the country through exploring the beautiful landscapes of both the Central Balkan National Park, a 72021 hectare mountainous area comprising a large area of ancient beech forests where 200 bears still roam, and the Devetaki Plateau, where the Devetashka Cave houses a roost of 30,000 bats, in addition to attending workshops in traditional crafts including ceramics and jewellery making.
Through combining both of these aspects into the trip, which are perhaps often seen somewhat as contrasting ways to understand the biodiversity, whilst additionally learning about the rich history and traditions of the country, this has provided a valuable insight into how well-rounded disseminating information can be done, integrating many perspectives for understanding the environment into a single day alone to link together and catch the attention of visitors when communicating conservation to the public.
One workshop from the trip of particular note to me was Jewellery making with wire at the Bilkarskata Guest house through which a wire Capercaillie was made inspired by the work of Mhail Hristov, reflecting the ways in which these practices can come together.
Spending a week with new people in an unfamiliar culture helped to break down barriers, learn new perspectives and expand my world view, playing a key role in professional development that I hope to be able to share as I progress into my career.
A wire Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) made in a jewellery making workshop at the Bilkarskata Guest House, inspired by the work of Mhail Hristov, in a Scots pine back in Abernethy.
Throughout the trip, a journal illustrating the site visits, workshops and talks organised across the trip was kept to help record the things we learnt throughout our visit – see appendix.