Ben Ellet, Plymouth Pioneers
  • Inspired by the Norfolk Broads to future-proof our environment
  • Passionate about educating others to save the planet
  • Raising awareness through the power of photography
  • Ready to learn to dive and surf in the South West

Conserving our environment

Ben Ellett

1. Who are you? And what is your passion?

Coming from Norfolk, I love the outdoors. I'm inspired by the Norfolk Broads – a unique habitat in its own right. The Broads may look natural, but they are a man-made phenomenon. 
Over the hundreds of years they have existed, the area has been rewilded and repopulated with wildlife. It's home to a number of rare species of birds and animals. However, due to population decline as a result of habitat degradation and invasive species, it is unfortunately also home to some of the most endangered species in the UK – from the cuckoo to the European eel.
The thought of this wonderful habitat no longer being here really scares me but also really motivates me. 
I'm studying environmental science because I want to ensure what we've got is still here for future generations. I’m passionate about educating others on how they can play their part in preserving the environment.
When I was growing up, my heroes were Bear Grylls and Steve Backshall. Watching them on TV, going around the world, looking at different animals, was really inspiring.
My biggest role model now is Sir David Attenborough. His influence and commitment to broadcasting the wonders and challenges of our varied environments is equally as inspiring.

I would love to be known as someone who cares about conservation. Someone who helps people understand our problems and educates them to make a real difference to environments all over the world.

Ben Ellett, Plymouth Pioneers

2. How does Plymouth lead the way in environmental science?

I love to be hands-on and the practical elements of the course were a huge selling point. There is a great range of facilities – from LABplus to the Marine Station, which made Plymouth the best choice for developing my skills, gaining a wide range of experience, and getting me prepared for industry.
Early in my first year, I'd already had lots of laboratory work and been on two field trips.
Visiting Slapton in Devon, we calculated carbon in the woodland biomass, measured trees, and looked at the River Continuum Concept (RCC), investigating the invertebrates living at different stages of a river.
I've cleaned and repaired river cruisers back on the Broads, so I can't wait to go out on our marine research vessel Falcon Spirit. I want to learn to dive, and plan to take my Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) course.
Coming from Norfolk, where it's so flat and there's no waves, surfing was always a dream for me. But now I'm here, there are no excuses.

3. What is a fear you’d like to conquer?

Being an environmental scientist, my fear of spiders isn't a great one to have. 
I would love to conquer this so I can go on the Malaysian field trip and stomp around the jungle, free to take in the amazing experience and study all manner of strange and wonderful things beneath the canopy.
A huge part of being an environmental scientist is the adventure. To travel widely and learn about issues testing the planet, as well as individual communities and species. Along the way you get to discover more about the world, and more about yourself, too.
Close-up of a boat on a beach,
Seal pup.
The sea at Cromer.

4. How do you respond when faced with a problem?

I always take a step back and look at where the problem is coming from and search for the simplest route to a solution. This is how I learn – and I love learning new things.
I'm already solving real world problems on the course. Learning how humans and nature can live and work together. 
On our field trip to Slapton, we met a farmer who wanted to change their land use without damaging the environment. We had to find ways, with a very tight budget, to renovate this land and ensure it was still wildlife-friendly.
I’m eager to learn about how political agendas towards the environment vary from country to country. So I'm really looking forward to our second-year field trip, which will take us to Malaysia or Malta, to discover new lands and cultures.
As a keen photographer, I believe this skill goes hand-in-hand with studying environmental science – just look at what Attenborough has achieved. If the right picture is taken – whether it is of the Broads, the sea or a seal – you have the power to illustrate a problem and raise an awareness in a more visceral way.

5. What do you know of that you believe could really change our world for the better?

I believe in breaking down political barriers to create a more unified world. There is a lot of division between countries and disagreements on certain policies. 
I’m really interested in exploring the political landscapes that surrounds the development of renewable energy. 
I believe if we can get everyone together and educate them on what is happening to our environment all over the world, then we can find a solution to safeguard our planet.
We now have a lot more younger people protesting against the state of the world. They want to help conserve and preserve the environment. 
We've had massive climate rallies all over the planet and it gives me hope that the growing publicity these issues are gaining will lead to real changes.
Close-up of a dragonfly.
Ben Ellet, Plymouth Pioneers
Close-up of water droplets on a leaf.

6. What do you want the world to look like in 10 years?

Burning fossil fuels emits a number of air pollutants that are harmful to both the environment and our health. 
In an ideal world, fossil fuels would be completely driven out of use and we would rely as much as possible on renewable energy.
Renewable energy resources, which include wind, solar and tidal, hold great potential for reducing the threat of climate change. They help decrease greenhouse gas emissions and, because they can be replenished, alleviate the risk of exhausting the world's fossil fuel supply.
A world powered by renewable energy will be a healthier world for us and all the millions of species we share it with.

7. If you had the chance to share one message with the whole world, what would it be?

 Please, do your part for the environment, for the future of our planet. 
Get out there and do something positive, even if you think it is something small. If we all work on our own little part of the jigsaw, we can keep our world a bright and safe place.
Photographs taken in the field by Ben Ellett.

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Environmental Science undergraduates training for their HSE SCUBA

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