On the 30th of September 2018, Dilmah Conservation held the first workshop in the ‘Youth in Responsible Conservation’ workshop series at the Diyasaru Wetland Park for One Earth Nature Club members. The workshop consisted of an experience sharing and mentoring session conducted by the internationally recognised conservationist Dr Enoka Kudavidanage [Senior Lecturer in Ecology and Conservation Biology, Country Representative for the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC)].

The workshop gave One Earth Nature Club members a unique opportunity to engage in a lively discussion with Dr. Enoka on the most critical threats to Sri Lanka’s biodiversity and the pitfalls and opportunities of working in the conservation field. Through her presentation Dr. Enoka not only provided the One Earth Nature Club members with a broad overview of the conservation landscape in Sri Lanka and its prevalent gaps, but also gave them tips and pointers on how to overcome trying situations, make a positive difference in the world, and rise to the top of their chosen field of study.

During the workshop, One Earth Nature Club members learnt why remaining unbiased and conducting coordinated research to achieve common environmental goals is critical for successful conservation efforts. Dr. Enoka also described how she was able to work from the ground up to achieve a meaningful career in conservation and used her own life experiences to highlight how anyone can achieve his or her dream career in conservation by following best practices such as networking, pushing comfort zones, engaging different stakeholders, and working diligently with a positive mindset to gain professional skills and achieve career goals.

The One Earth Nature Club members were presented with a step by step guide on how to plan their conservation careers and set goals and targets. The workshop introduced them to planning and evaluation techniques such as drawing mind maps and rich pictures to formulate career goals and design projects, and directed them to multiple free online platforms that can be used to gain scientific knowledge, professional skills and launch their career in conservation; encouraging them to conduct thorough research and undertake intended conservation projects in a conscious, neutral and responsible manner.

Sri Lanka being an agricultural nation, has a cultural heritage that is especially sensitive towards environmental issues. Local nursery rhymes such as ‘Mee Gas Boho’ instil the idea that we should use natural resources responsibly at a very young age. As children, we also have a natural desire to experiment and explore natural phenomena. Dr. Enoka encouraged the participants to foster these characteristics in themselves and design projects that tap into the local culture and engage communities to drive truly successful and collaborative conservation initiatives.

The session was concluded with a group activity in which the participants constructed their own conservation ‘rich picture’. The rich pictures enabled the participants to crystallise their thoughts on their chosen conservation topic/career path and construct a holistic and visual outline. This team building activity focused on honing their skills in analysis, problem-solving and presentation while providing them with an opportunity to voice their concerns on the threats to Sri Lanka’s national parks, marine environment, forest ecosystem services, the growing problem of deforestation along with interesting solutions and project ideas to address these issues.

Dilmah Conservation established the One Earth Nature Club to arm the next generation of conservationists in Sri Lanka with the technical knowledge, experience and professional skills to face any hurdle that they may come across in their career. ‘The Youth in Responsible Conservation’ workshop series is designed to facilitate the transfer of expertise and knowledge from experts to the youth by way of dynamic and collaborative dialogue. If you are between the ages of 13 – 30, live in Sri Lanka and would like to be mentored by leading conservation scientists and communicators in Sri Lanka, sign up to the One Earth Nature Club now to gain access to this workshop series.

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