Magazine article Geographical

I'm a Geographer: Liz Bonnin Is a Biochemist, Wild Animal Biologist, and BBC Television Presenter, Known for Hosting Various Science, Nature, and Wildlife Programming. Her New Show, Mission Galapagos, Is Due to Air This Spring

Magazine article Geographical

I'm a Geographer: Liz Bonnin Is a Biochemist, Wild Animal Biologist, and BBC Television Presenter, Known for Hosting Various Science, Nature, and Wildlife Programming. Her New Show, Mission Galapagos, Is Due to Air This Spring

Article excerpt

I really view my career as a means to continue my education, in perhaps a broader way than I would have done had I stayed in academia. It's given me the opportunity to read up on the latest cutting edge research in all different disciplines of science, and also allows me to learn about new ones.

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I think my training ground couldn't have been better, because I started on Bang Goes the Theory, covering all the different sciences. The natural world is beautifully complex, and finding a way to communicate the complexities is always a challenge. I think scientists are always challenged to communicate their work in a way that can be understandable to a broader audience, so it's been really interesting to learn how to do that.

We're looking to raise the bar with Stargazing Live. It's in its seventh year and we're doing it live from the Southern Hemisphere for a change, we're moving the entire team to an observatory in Australia. I've been filming some stories for the programme in the Pilbara desert, in Western Australia, working with some fantastic scientists looking at stromatolites and signs of early life and how that might help to inform the 2020 Mars Rover mission. It's fascinating stuff.

The landscape in the Pilbara is one of only two in the world that is still looking the way our planet looked just as our solar system was forming. Three and a half billion years ago, that landscape resembled Mars quite a lot. So when you look at the rock formations and the remains of the bacterial life in those rocks, you can understand where might be the best places to look for similar signs of early life on Mars.

Recently what I'm most proud of is an episode of Horizon I made on the future of zoos, which was something I'd wanted to make for years. It didn't really unfold quite as we expected. Unfortunately we came up against quite a lot of resistance from the zoo community. The science is irrefutable; these animals are suffering, and elephant populations are not sustainable in captivity. It was a real eye-opener. We look back on zoos from the Victorian era and think they were quite dreadful, but actually we haven't moved on that much, and I think we'll look back in another 50 or 100 years at the zoos of today and think 'What were we doing?'

I'd like to be part of that movement to expedite the evolution of zoos. I don't want zoos to shut, I just think it's time for them to take on the scientific evidence and evolve and educate our population in a more productive way. That means having smaller species, little microhabitats where we can see everything relying on everything else, interacting with everything else, as opposed to seeing one large animal that's swaying back and forth all day. …

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