An Aberdeenshire graduate has vowed to preserve all natural wonders for future generations and is determined to “save the world one bug at a time”.
Having grown up surrounded by the north-east picturesque scenery, Natalie Duffus was drawn to pursue a career in environment and wildlife conservation.
The 22-year-old from Westhill is now celebrating earning her undergraduate degree in conservation biology before taking the next step of her journey to Oxford University.
Reflecting on the past four years in Aberdeen University, Ms Duffus said one of the highlights of her degree was “getting her hands dirty” in the outdoors while volunteering as a member of the Conservation Society.
She said: “I’ve greatly enjoyed my time at the university.
“Some of my highlights definitely have to be the field courses I took in Bettyhill and Cromarty. They were so much fun and also a fantastic opportunity to gain skills.
“But the best thing has been meeting people with the same interests and being able to learn from each other. And I’m pretty confident that these are people that I’m going to be friends with for life.”
A “massive achievement” in challenging times
She added that marking the milestone event without her fellow graduates and lecturers is “bittersweet”, but nevertheless a “massive” achievement she is “exceptionally proud” of.
She said: “Throughout my time at university, I struggled with mental health issues, so to be graduating with a strong GPA and a positive future is a massive achievement.
“I think everyone graduating this year should be exceptionally proud – regardless of grades or degree class – as we finished university in a global pandemic.”
Although completing her degree during the pandemic was challenging, Ms Duffus is looking forward to continuing her education as a doctorate student in insect conservation and environmental law at Oxford University.
Changing the world “one bug at a time”
Having developed a strong passion and love for insects through learning more about them, she is hoping this would be the next big step towards making a difference and changing the world for the better.
“My love for insects – especially bumblebees – and the fact that they are threaten with extinction and in need of conservation is what drives me to make a difference,” she said.
“I want to be able to change peoples’ perception and make them see insects the way I do – they are so helpful for the environment and without them we’ll be utterly and hopelessly lost.
“It’s something I’m really passionate about and being able to continue studying that is just unbelievable to me.”
She added: “It’s quite nerve-wrecking to start fresh in a new place where nobody knows you and everything is so different, but I’m excited to make friends at the university and really throw myself in.
“I don’t know where life is going to take me, but I want to continue doing what I love and hopefully produce research that will influence conservation and policy, and make sure that insects are appreciated and preserved.
“My biggest ambition is to really make a change in that field and the world.”