James borrell is a conservation scientist and science communicator, with a particular interest in how species adapt to changing climate.

A Quick Summary For First Time Readers

I like wildlife and wild places. Just like millions of other people (and probably you if you are reading this).

So I studied and learned and I’m still learning. I’ll probably never stop learning.

I try to learn things that are useful. Things that can help wildlife and wild places, while living a fun and adventurous life.

Lots of people have good ideas. Ideas that really work, in all sorts of places around the world.

That’s probably why I enjoy travel and meeting people as much as I can. Because I like to see ideas that are working and help to share them.

One really good idea is to get outside and have adventures in our wild places, because the more we use and appreciate them, the more valuable they are to preserve.

It’s not a new idea, but that’s the first thing I want to encourage people to do.

There’s lots of ways to have adventures. The fast, running up hills, camping in meadows and wild swimming kinds. I love these adventures.


There’s lots of others too. My first big adventure (beyond exploring fields around my house as a boy) was to a rainforest. But it could have quite easily been anywhere, from the Norfolk Broads to Timbuktu, but things might have turned out differently. My big adventure was fun and wonderful and exhilarating. Everything was alive and colorful. If only I’d had a tilley hat, I would have felt like a genuine explorer.

One day we climbed a hill. Slipping and sliding through the mud past great iron wood trees draped with vines until the breeze wafted through the understory and we could climb no higher. Before us a great valley stretched for miles, thickly carpeted with lush and exotic forest, teaming with life. I grinned ear to ear, this was the wild adventure every boy dreams of.

After soaking up the vista, we turned to descend and take in the panorama; but there was nothing. At the rim of this valley the forest stopped. As far as the eye could see was dry, yellow grass, cowering before the hot tropical sun. It seemed a shame, because the forest offered so much more in the way of excitement and enjoyment (not to mention food and shelter and all these other important resources that I didn’t understand at the time).

And so without sounding like an over protective parent, I began to think that with adventure comes a tiny, weeny sliver of responsibility. Not the kind that should make you feel guilty for having fun. Nor the constant drone of doom and gloom reporting on the latest area of rainforest the size of Wales that has been lost. Just a soft little voice, in the back of my mind, asking how I can make my adventure have a purpose. For out there in Madagascar, if no-one acts with purpose in the coming years then all this is going to be lost, and our collective sense of adventure will be much poorer as a result.

Luckily it’s easy. If you’re heading off on a big, expensive, ground breaking expedition to somewhere remote and beautiful (lucky you!), then why not collect or record some information that helps keep those places remote and beautiful. A friend of mine rowed across an Ocean, along the way he recorded whale and dolphin sightings. There’s not many people out there in the middle of the Atlantic, so reporting what he saw was incredibly useful. The same is true for catching Caiman in the Amazon, working in Sierra Leone and photographing leopard in the Middle East.

But not everyone is rowing oceans. Instead we’re having adventures much closer to home, and we can help there too. Citizen Science is exciting, showing overwhelmingly that you don’t need to be a scientist to do science. It’s ordinary people enjoying wildlife and wild places, all the while helping to understand and conserve the natural world. That’s why I’ve been promoting a Year of Citizen Science, speaking in schools and always learning.

If you’ve made it this far, then thank you. Perhaps you agree or maybe you have an idea to add? Either way, I hope I can encourage you. It’s surprisingly easy to have an adventure with purpose.

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