“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few”.1 Questions that come freely from the child are commonly kept cloistered by adults – not least, I suspect, by established experts and academics. Young ‘grown-up’ minds often still seem silly or recalcitrant, but may also be more fertile – more free-thinking – than typical older ones.
One of the most useful, and rewarding, things a tutor can do for her or his students, is to tap the many possibilities by encouraging them to ask questions that are naive, but which can act as triggers for interesting, innovative thinking. Conservation could use some good innovations.

Neil Bennett

This may not be the reason for BANC establishing a student article competition, although it suits the situation quite well – and you can see for yourself if there is anything useful on offer. This set of ECOS articles is the first selection judged worthy of publication. They may not all be polished, but we think there are some good ideas lurking in them. As you read them, remember that most are from people who have only just begun their writing careers.

This first round drew a reasonable array of submissions, from a variety of candidates on, or recently on, undergrad, postgrad certificate and master’s courses, and from PhD researchers. Most are or recently were at universities, a few at colleges, or Kew. Most are current students; nearly all are or were studying some version of nature conservation, environmental science, ecology, or biology. An MRes in global food studies is an exception. So is the person with “35 years working in conservation” who is now enjoying studying for a doctorate.

Although only students of UK institutions were invited, we appear to have a number of submissions from overseas students. Perhaps we can anticipate a trickle of looks at the British situation through non-British eyes. Perhaps we can expect the ‘beginners’ (of any age) to have queries and thoughts about conservation that those of us of less than tender years do not have – or daren’t face….

Perhaps, also, we shall draw in the thoughts and ideas of students not of ecological science, or planning, or ‘conservation’, but of history, politics, language, or the whole world of the arts. As some of our contributors to this issue are well aware, conservation is far more than objective, scientific management.

Do you have any good ideas? Of course, you don’t need to be a student to write for ECOS, but if you are, watch this space in the new year – we hope to run the competition in 2018.   Postgraduates and undergraduates will be judged separately. Here’s to many more possibilities from the minds of beginners.

Martin Spray

1          This famous quotation is from Shunryu Suzuki (1970) Zen mind, beginner’s mind, Weatherhill, NY.

Competition Sponsors and Judges - a big thank you!

Thanks to our competition sponsors, Conservation Careers and Green&Blue, who have supported the competition so generously by providing prizes. We are also grateful to our judges - Mathew Frith, Francine Hughes and Martin Spray - for the essential role they played in making the competition a success.

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