Any of you who know me or have read this blog will probably have noticed that I’ve mentioned A Focus On Nature (AFON) a few times and never really gone into that much detail about what AFON is. That’s because I don’t think I can really so it justice in one quick little paragraph so today’s post is devoted entirely to AFON.
AFON is a network for young nature conservationists in the UK. Started two years ago at Birdfair it is very quickly growing in size. AFON wants to encourage young people aged between 16 to 30 to get involved in, and passionate about, the natural world. It recognises that conservation is more than scientists with clipboards or charities asking for donations. It requires people to educate and inspire others too. In reflection of this its members do a wide range of things; they have chocolatiers, photographers, writers, scientist and many more involved in the network.
AFON works on two ways. You can become part of the network and take part in its projects just by dropping them an email saying hello. There is a Facebook page for members where we all share our work, ideas or just have a chat and already you can see it acting like a network; advice is offered, suggestions made and friendships forged. They also offer the opportunity to be paired with a mentor, gain equipments or win tickets to events. If you want to be considered for any of these ‘prizes’ then you need to fill in an application form. It’s really straight forwards and quite fun to do. If you’re really stuck the website has some examples of answer from some of the current member’s application forms. They just want to check that you are dedicated to protecting and working for the natural world and being involved with AFON. You also have to provide them with an ‘entry piece’ but that can be anything such as a drawing, photo or writing.
When I applied for AFON I asked for both a mentor and some field guides. I asked for a mentor as, even though I knew I wanted to go into a career in wildlife and conservation, I wasn’t sure exactly what was available out there and the best way to improve my chances of having a successful career. I also asked for field guides as my lecturers were always saying how important being able to identify animals is, and on my student budget it would have been pretty expensive for me buy them. I put on my form that I wanted to become involved with the more scientific side of conservation, and that is still true, but my entry piece was actually a few pieces of art work.
I was very lucky and was awarded both of the ‘prizes’ I’d applied for. Ed Drewitt was my mentor. On his website he describes himself as a “…naturalist, writer, broadcaster, tour leader, birder, photographer, public speaker, bird ringer, zoologist, diver, feather expert, and Peregrine researcher.” Being involved with such a broad range of areas within nature and conversation made him a perfect mentor for me as I was unsure exactly what route I wanted to follow. Ed was really friendly and helpful and gave me some really useful advice. I was also sent a selection of field guides which have been very useful, especially now with my volunteering.
My involvement with AFON didn’t end after receiving my prizes. I’ve been involved with various different projects and even made use of being part of the network. Whilst I was involved with the Biology Society at university I decide to make use of my contacts through AFON and asked James Shooter, a wildlife photographer if he’d be willing to come in and give a talk on starting out in a career of wildlife photography to some students. He very kindly agreed and gave a brilliant talk and managed to get a little AFON plug in there too. I also helped to organise and run University Birdwatch Challenge where members of the Biology and Conservation Societies at Nottingham University competed in teams to spot the most birds on sections of the university campus. The data collected from the day was submitted to BirdTrack. There are plans to run the event again and also to take it to other universities. My most recent involvement with AFON has been as being part of the team who ran the AFON Children’s Art Mural at BirdFair which you can read all about here.
Being part of AFON has been a real privilege and it has opened up to me many different opportunities that I may not have otherwise had. It has also enabled me to meet some amazing people. I love following what other AFON members are up to and seeing their talents grow. No matter what we all do, we all became part of AFON for the same reason; because we have a love for the natural world and ultimately, whether we are out there on the front line of conservation getting our hands dirty in the field or an artist who through the beauty of their work inspires someone else to become involved with and love the living things with which we share this planet, we all want to do what we can to conserve our natural world. AFON is making that possible by creating contacts and opportunities for the conservationist of tomorrow and I am extremely proud to say I’m part of it. I really can’t recommend joining it enough.
If you think you’d like to get involved with AFON then the next round of judging for this group of prizes closes at midnight on Friday 6th September. To find out more information about applying click here.
PS Check out the members page of the AFON website to see profiles on what everyone gets up to and links to their work.