Alex Collins Conservationist

I am lucky enough to have grown up surrounded by wildlife, thanks to my Dad rewilding what used to be an old farmstead. Whilst I have always been fascinated by the biodiversity that we have at home, it is only more recently that I have begun to appreciate and respect it on a whole new level. Learning about the natural world in school and now in my biology degree, I am increasingly realising the extent to which our landscape is so deprived of its native wildlife. Our country’s ecosystems and the species within them are now struggling more than ever, and I aim to play an active role in the reversal of this situation.

Having seen first-hand how processes like rewilding can so significantly benefit biodiversity and the health of our ecosystems, I feel not only obliged but also excited to help others realise this too. It is through my videos that I have chosen to portray this excitement. I use YouTube to share information about our planet’s incredible wildlife and what people can do on an individual level to help save it. There are, of course, many wildlife films and filmmakers out there already, and they all do a fantastic job of telling us about the biodiversity that we have here on Earth. Sometimes, they may even mention that it’s in trouble. However, I feel that there is a huge gap that needs filling. Wildlife films and television should tell us more about what we can do to help save endangered species, ecosystems, and habitats. This, as well as my passion for learning about the natural world, is the main reason for creating my videos.

The video-making process
The first step is deciding the topic of the video. I currently have a long list of things that I want to cover, but the main feature of my YouTube channel so far has been my ‘Britain’s Rarest’ series. This is a series in which I cover some of the UK’s most beautiful, but also most threatened species, and what people can do to help protect them. The latest episode [at the time of writing – 6 June 2020] was about Hazel Dormice. So, once I had decided on this species, the next step was researching it.

My ‘Britain’s Rarest’ videos follow a set format:
1. Facts about the species
2. How to identify the species
3. Where to find the species
4. Why the species is under threat
5. Why you should help the species
6. How you can help the species

So, I wrote a rough script and plan to the video by combining my pre-existing knowledge about Hazel Dormice with what I could find online. My online information always comes from reliable sources like the Wildlife Trusts, Woodland Trust, People’s Trust for Endangered Species, and other well-known conservation groups. The focus is often on the key player in the conservation of the given species. So, using my Grey Long-Eared Bats video as an example, I spoke to the ‘Back from the Brink’ Project Officer to gain the most up-to-date information for the video.

Once I know what I’m going to say, I get outside and film it! I have only recently transitioned from filming inside to filming outside. I think that being outdoors makes my content much more engaging. It is also a lot more consistent with the wildlife theme than the inside of my Dad’s shed – which was the original filming location!

Good editing is crucial, as this can hugely impact how engaging the video is. My editing is all self-taught, and I try to include something new in every video, no matter how small, to ensure that I keep improving.

The challenges of creating videos
For me, the most challenging part is making a video engaging. Nowadays, there is so much information out there that it’s unlikely I’m saying much that hasn’t been said before. However, it’s the way in which this information is put across that can determine its impact on people. Many individuals, of my generation especially, don’t seem to appreciate or respect the natural world in the same way that I do. This isn’t necessarily their fault, as most of us haven’t grown up in a society that sees the environment as a priority. However, I do believe that this mindset can be changed; we just have to approach it correctly. Making my videos engaging to young people – arguably the most important generation to target – is, therefore, my biggest challenge. YouTube videos often only require short attention spans, and so it can be difficult to try and put across important facts without losing people’s interest. This is something which I feel myself becoming better at, and if just one of my videos makes a difference to the way that someone thinks about the environment, then I have at least achieved something.
(My goals are, however, a lot bigger than that!)

My best wildlife experience
Seeing a leopard up close in the wilderness of the Okavango Delta is definitely up there, as is seeing the incredible macaw clay-licks, the spider monkeys, and the butterflies in the Peruvian Amazon. That said, lockdown, in particular, has made me realise how much I value our native British wildlife too, and I had some unrivalled experiences watching the badger cubs playing around, fresh out of our local set in mid-April.

Thoughts for the future
Whether it is a career in wildlife film, research, or something else, my main aim is to have a lasting impact in the field of conservation. Right now, I am doing what I can to help out by volunteering and making YouTube videos, through which I hope to increase engagement with and appreciation for the natural world.


Alex Collins is a conservationist from Macclesfield Forest, Cheshire. He currently studies Biological Sciences at the University of Bristol, and volunteers for a number of organisations including the Badger Trust, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, Reserva: The Youth Land Trust, Wild Ideas and Lower Moss Wood Wildlife Hospital.
YouTube channel:


This article was first published in 2020 in Vol 125 of the NAEE journal, as a Young Writer feature.

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