This spring, we were honoured to host our first annual Bristol in Conversation event. It was an amazing opportunity for so many alumni and friends to make new connections and reconnect with old classmates, while hearing from two of our remarkable alumni speak about their careers in wildlife filmmaking. Dr Mike Gunton (BSc 1979), Creative Director of BBC Natural History, and Gillian Burke (BSc 1995), presenter of BBC Springwatch, offered insightful discussions on our changing world and how documentaries can help engage the public.
The event was held on campus, but for those of you unable to attend, we’ve put together a video featuring the most memorable moments. Click the video below to watch!
Following a welcome by Vice-Chancellor and President Evelyn Welch MBE, the conversation was facilitated by Professor Daniela Schmidt, a member of the Cabot Institute for the Environment and Professor at the School of Earth Science.
The discussion centred on our rapidly changing ecosystem and the ways in which wildlife filmmaking can educate others and protect our precious planet. The panellists also spoke candidly about how their experiences at the University changed the trajectory of their careers, with Mike explaining its influence on his life:
‘I managed to get a place here at the University of Bristol and it absolutely changed my life in a way that opened my eyes to the wonders of nature. I was interested in biology, but I discovered natural history here.’
Both panellists spoke passionately about the natural world, with Gillian describing her own strong connection and her desire to connect others:
‘I still find it wondrous and mind blowing, it’s like trying to imagine infinity, that’s how I describe my feeling about nature. If I can get people close to that feeling then people will care, and if they care they’ll want to change the way we interact with the world around us…
Now it’s all about access – most people live in very nature deprived environments – if you don’t see it on TV, you probably won’t see it at all, which is quite a stark reality for many people.’
Each of the panellists also described their love and passion for documentary filmmaking, with Mike explaining:
‘The thing I still get excited about is showing people the wonders of nature, particularly through the prism of the lens. What the lens can do is show you things that the eye can’t see… part of being a wildlife filmmaker is to kindle and remind us of these connections we have with nature.’
To hear more from Mike and Gillian, please watch the video above. To learn about more upcoming events, please visit our Alumni Events webpage.