The idea for the Irchel Nature Trail began during our daily walks through the park on our way to work at Irchel Campus. As PhD students in ecology, noticing the nature around us comes naturally to us: e.g., trees with their lichens, insects pollinating flowers, or birds in courtship. But we know that, sometimes, it is easy to miss these things as we get caught up in our hectic lives. That is why many people who regularly walk through the Irchel Park grounds might never notice that it is a living ecosystem and full of wonderful things to discover. We also don’t know how easy it is for visitors to approach scientists if they want to know more about what happens inside the university buildings, in the middle of the park.
Thus, we wanted to make the park’s nature and our research visible to everyone by creating a space where you can take a break, appreciate what is around you and connect with others. This desire for connection was strongly influenced by our participation in the outreach project Biodiversity Means Life, which encourages conversations between scientists and the general public about biodiversity. We think of the Irchel Nature Trail as a long-lasting gift to society; one that we use to share part of the knowledge that we produce at the university with their support.
Once we had a clear idea of the Irchel Nature Trail, we gathered a group of enthusiastic PhD students and researchers, and together we have developed the content for 20 boards (“knowledge stations”), covering topics from bees and birds to mountain ecology and species interactions. We have also teamed up with the science outreach teams from the UZH (Science Lab UZH and Biodiversity Means Life), to create a trail with the highest quality possible while reaching a wide audience. After over a year of content development, design ideas and a lot of hard work, we are ready to open the Irchel Nature Trail, on International Biodiversity Day, May 22nd, 2019. The 20 knowledge stations of the trail are 20 opportunities for people to connect with nature around them and with each other.
What touched us most was the incredible support from the Faculty of Science (Dean’s office and MNF Sustainably Committee), Agora Project Biodiversity Means Life (BML), Science Lab UZH, our research program (URPP Global Change and Biodiversity) and Irchel Betriebsdienst Team. We want to particularly thank Morana Mihaljević (coordinator from BML), Sara Petchey (mentor from the Sustainability Committee MNF) and Prof. Owen Petchey (our PhD supervisor) for their support, as well as many colleagues and friends. We are eternally grateful!
The story of the trail is about its making; it started with two PhD students having an idea, but the trail will continue to be made by the hundreds of people that walk it. This is our way to warmly invite you to join us in writing this story.
Enjoy the walk!
Alejandra Parreño & Katie Horgan