29 August 2021

Bibek's alumni story: Sir David Attenborough, Snow Leopards and the WWF

Bibek with Sir David Attenborough
Bibek with Sir David Attenborough

Bibek Raj Shrestha graduated with an MSc in Applied Ecology in 2018. Bibek has long been passionate about environmental issues and recently has been involved with WWF Nepal’s The Generation Green Campaign, which looks to engage young people with climate change and environmental causes. We recently caught up with him and discussed a career in ecology and why the youth of today give him hope.

My favourite UEA memory has to be the time I got to meet Sir David Attenborough in person

1. Tell us about your work with WWF Nepal's The Generation Green Campaign
WWF Nepal's The Generation Green (TGG) campaign works with the youth of Nepal in generating awareness on climate actions and directing action towards pro-environmental activities and sustainable behaviour.

2. How did you come to work on the campaign?
Working with TGG happened recently around a year ago. Since then we have been working together in training young people, publishing children's books on tiger conservation, and actively working on conservation-related events.

3. What else have you been up to since graduating?
After graduating, I worked as Research Technician at UEA for few months working on a project with Dr. Aldina Franco (ENV) and Dr. Georgie Bennett to monitor boulders during landslides in Nepal. Then I received a month-long Internship opportunity from the Student Conference on Conservation Science (SCCS), the University of Cambridge, where I worked with Dr. James Gilroy (UEA-ENV) looking at the impacts of roads on terrestrial mammals in Nepal. 

In October 2019, I joined Nepal's government project in studying snow leopards in the Himalayas of Shey Phoksundo National Park where I led a camp with citizen scientists and park officials. Then COVID-19 happened. But at this time I was part of this project where we were working virtually on a smart composting idea, which was awarded as the best project in Regional South Asia. 

Currently, I am working as Research Associate at Global Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies (GIIS), where we are working on applied ecological and conservation issues.

4. When and how did you become passionate in ecological issues?
As I grew up and explored the forest and mountains, I enjoyed being in nature, the same nature, we humans are causing harm to. I wanted to do something on my part and I began continually working towards a career in wildlife conservation, which I now value as an altruistic passion to serve nature and people. 

Placing a camera trap for Snow Leopards
Placing a camera trap for Snow Leopards

5. When you listen to what young people are saying, does it give you hope for the planet’s future?
Indeed! I am optimistic. The level of understanding, commitment, and proactiveness the youth of today have is powerful and they are all doing their bit they can for the environment. But I feel it's not enough, and we need much bigger intervention at the policy level nationally and internationally.

6. How did your time at UEA help you develop your ideas on ecology?
I am indebted to Erasmus Mundus Scholarship, which allowed me to study at UEA, a leading university in ecology and conservation. All those classes, assignments, fieldwork, seminars, conferences, ideas, and energy we received from diverse friends and tutors at the university really enhanced my understanding of ecology and, more than that, gave me the confidence to go back and bring those learnings and tools in doing evidence-based research.

7. Do you have any favourite memories from your time at UEA?
It has to be the time I got to meet Sir David Attenborough in person. It happened during a conference at Cambridge called Student Conference in Conservation Science (SCCS), where I got to ask him a question and he also dropped by the poster I was presenting and chatted for a while. It was surreal.

8. And what’s next for you?
I will be still working in the field of conservation. There are some exciting projects lined up and hopefully, if things go well, in a few months I will be traveling to mountains, forests, and rivers for research. I will be also looking for a PhD!

Bibek Raj Shrestha graduated with an MSc in Applied Ecology in 2018