Winter Wildlife: conservation storytelling

For Winter Wildlife 2021, members of the Zoology Club (13-18 year olds) met to discover and write about bird migration and the threats of climate change to migratory species. See the stories they created at the bottom of this post, or continue below to create your own story.

Why migratory bird species?

Turtle dove (c)
Turtle dove (c) Andy Morffew

Scientists have calculated that climate change has affected around ⅓ of all UK bird species and it is migratory birds that are the biggest losers. Birds are very useful for telling stories about how climate change is threatening wildlife. Here’s a few reasons why:

  • They are easily observed and identified in the field, making it easier to study patterns.
  • We have a long history of studying birds. They have fascinated natural historians for hundreds of years so we have data going back a long way.
  • Birds are often high in the food chain, so they will be indicators of things going wrong lower down. For example, you might notice a reduction in the number of birds before you notice a decline in their insect prey. 
  • Many birds show preferences for a limited range of habitats, which means they are affected by environmental changes from climate to land use, and bird populations can be important indicators of broader biodiversity issues. 

Create your own story:

Conservation storytelling helps to spread information, to share understanding and to gain support. Most of all, it can be a powerful tool in the battle to save species from the impacts of climate change.

See more about the power of stories from researcher Anna Guasco who studies stories told about whales and their impact:
Anna Guasco: How to Study Whales

Have a go at creating a story about a migratory species. We want you to be as creative as you like. Storytelling can take many forms and are not all written down in words. Here’s a few hints and tips to get you started.

You will need:

Suzy Hazelwood Pexels.com
  • A structure to help put the events you will share into context:
    1. Setting the scene, environment or circumstance
    2. A conflict or question which triggers action
    3. Big reveal followed by resolution
  • A main character from whose point of view you will tell the story
  • Think about your audience. This will determine the language you use and information you share
  • Finish on a take-home message to inspire your audience to take action for the bird species near them

You can present your story in so many different ways. Why not try:

Poetry:

  • Ask yourself, what are the important things you wish to tell?
  • Start short
  • Draft and re-draft: don’t get stuck on the first line
  • Rhyme later: tweak and change words later to create rhyme if you wish to

Animation:

Stop-motion animation example

Comic Strip:

  • Who is your main character?
  • Focus on the important parts of the story
  • Use images and speech bubbles
  • Play around with illustrations, facial expressions and symbols to display emotion without using words
Comic strip featuring the common tern’s migration to Cambridge, UK

To help you choose your species, check out these research stories:

Zoology Club conservation stories

Poster describing why migratory birds are good for ecosystems and the threats that face them, by Alex age 13

Migratory Animals

By Alex Watkin-Child, age 13


An Arctic Tern’s Migration By Jetha Vinsara, age 14

It was a partly cloudy day with a chance of rain, and it was a little chilly. We were on an island in Greenland. And the following day was a little darker and colder. During that month, the days gradually became colder and colder. After a week, one of my friends told me that it was time to migrate south to the world’s south. And as he told it to me, I was overjoyed and ready to move on the next day. So that was my first journey southward. But I didn’t want to damage my orange beak, black cap, and white feathers on the journey. So we left the island the next day, and as we flew a long distance, another flock of birds that looked like us joined us on the journey. After a five-hour journey, we came to a halt, where we ate fish and rested.

The next day, we arrived in Greenland’s extreme south. Then, after two days, we arrived in E-u-r-o-p-e, where we met many friends who were not like us, and we began our adventure towards A-f-r-i-c-a. Then we got to S-e-n-e-g-a-l and L-i-b-e-r-i-a. We stayed for several days, feeding, resting, and observing our landscape. After a week, we started arriving in South America, as it is known to humans. We were all in Brazil for the several days. All across my voyage to Brazil, I made a new set of friends. Then we restarted our flight to the south-east. We didn’t really come across any land on our journey, only an ocean teeming with life. There were dolphins, seals, and whales present. After several days, we turned up in South Africa.

 After arriving at that location, we rested for several days before continuing our journey to the very south of the Earth. And after about a month, we arrived in a place known to our ancestors and humans as A-n-t-a-r-c-t-i-c-a. It was a location with medium-sized, flat ice bergs. There were also rock cliffs with snow and ice on top of them, with some areas covered in green. It was the first day we arrived at a familiar location. There were also strange-looking birds that could not fly like us but were large and could swim; these were called penguins. We had a great time there for a long time, and then we left the A-n-t-a-r-c-t-c-a and began our journey towards A-r-c-t-i-c.


Nightingale by Magora, age 15


If storytelling interests you, check out Anna Guasco’s post on Natural History, Extinction, and Storytelling at the Museum of Zoology

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