Matt Brierley, BC Education Officer

‘The Butterfly Effect’ was a term coined by the meteorologist and mathematician Edwards Lorenz in 1969 to capture the idea that a small cause (the flap of a butterfly’s wing) could have a major effect such as an extreme weather event. We have borrowed the metaphor as it reflects our ambition for the activities envisaged in a single geography, in this case Gloucestershire, to be scaled up throughout the UK, and the knowledge imparted in a small number of people to be shared with many.

Introducing Gloucestershire’s new community and education project, Restore Our Planet’s ‘Butterfly Effect’ and its new project officer, Matt Brierley. Our funding body - Restore Our Planet - was established in 2001 under the name Restore UK as a grant-making charity to invest in the protection and restoration of Britain's natural habitat. This vision has since expanded to incorporate environmental and biodiverwsity issues globally. 

The Butterfly Effect is a new initiative that aims to activate community support and bring a new wave of volunteers to Butterfly Conservation. Education and engaging young people and families will be at the heart of the project but it will pull together a ‘toolkit’ of different opportunities for involving communities.
The headlines speak for themselves: a cataclysmic drop in invertebrate life. At the same time, we have seen an evolution in technology, an increase in ‘screen time’ and the roots of depression and obesity within our children as ‘playing in’ replaces ‘playing out’.

It is not difficult to join the dots. Not hard to imagine that children who never immerse themselves in nature grow up to be adults oblivious to it, complacent about it, unaware that it exists at all.

‘Butterfly Effect’ Project Officer Matt Brierley - in post for two years from Jan ’19 - sees nature communication as a fundamental step in safeguarding it. We often read about protecting things for ‘future generations’ but of what long term use is that if those generations have no interest in them? No access to them? Have never been given a chance to engage with them?

That’s what Matt hopes to remedy, and it’s based on personal experience.  

‘I can remember pivotal moments in childhood where people celebrated and fostered my interest. The man in Derbyshire who encouraged me to set up a bird log, my Dad who took the time for me to prod a dead bullfinch under a bridge by a canal, the emergency stop on a family holiday to inspect a somewhat mangled badger. I still don’t know if I was right to claim the 50 i-spy points for road-kill… But I do know it’s so important children have access to adults who can mentor them, foster their interest, or plant the seeds of interest in the first place.’

Matt is no stranger to nature communication, previously running all of RSPB’s People Engagement Activities in Gloucestershire and Somerset. More recently - for the previous two years - Matt has reached out to urban schoolchildren in Bristol, winning hearts and minds, planting up areas of school grounds for pollinators, connecting children with live Lepidoptera. His official job title has been worth a lot at Scrabble – Munching Caterpillars Goes to Town Project Officer. Munching Caterpillars is the environmental education wing of Butterfly Conservation [munchingcaterpillars.org]

With one foot firmly in the environmental education sector, Matt also works as a wildlife filmmaker. He was in New York for Planet Earth II's ambitious filming of peregrines from a chopper with long hours atop skyscrapers, researched seabird stories for Blue Planet II, has rescued shearwaters in Scotland for the One Show alongside Miranda Krestovnikoff and managed the live cameras for Springwatch. If you can remember a cannibalistic bittern, an adder in the goldfinch nest or very hungry badger wolfing down more avocet eggs than the Atkins diet permits, Matt filmed those.

Matt has also filmed, edited and produced films for Save the Elephants, spending four months on the front line of conservation in Kenya in winter 17/18.

Whether it’s pointing a camera at something to tell its story through film, or showing people moths and debunking the myths of drab demonic clothes-eating creeps, Matt’s all about nature communication. We are very excited to be working with Restore Our Planet. To have them enable our delivery of education and community outreach objectives - ultimately to save declining UK butterfly populations is just amazing.    

If you are passionate about caterpillars, moths and butterflies and want to spread your wings to help others love them too, Matt can be contacted on mbrierley@butterfly-conservation.org