My Unhealthy Love of the Natural History Unit

Fresher’s week is over and, although only 2 weeks in, there can be no doubt that we are very much in the thick of it. Despite being reminded at every opportunity that in a mere 20 months time we will be graduated and, most likely, working in general practice, I have decided to bury my head in the sand and pretend this is like any other year. And so, 4th year begins and I move through it in an impenetrable cloud of denial. Most vet students will back me up when I say that the best way to fit everything in is to work steadily throughout the term so that it doesn’t all pile up at the end and become overwhelming. To my knowledge, no one has ever perfected this technique but, as far as I’m concerned, it’s the BBC Natural History Unit’s (NHU) fault. OK, I can’t realistically hold the NHU accountable and would never want to as their programmes sparked my interest in animals and still continue to surprise and delight me. Unfortunately, my slightly unhealthy love of the NHU is quite time consuming and despite trying to work with their programs on in the background I inevitably end up forgetting about my work and focusing my attention on the TV. Not great for my degree but fantastic for my mental health. Documentaries such as those produced by the NHU reignite my passion for the world around me every time I watch them. They inspire me to learn about, explore and conserve the planet we live on and for that I will be forever grateful. Chris Packham’s recent show ‘Secrets of Our Living Planet’ has been one of my NHU highlights, putting a different spin on the usual format. I have made no secret of the fact that the interactions between animals fascinates me but this put those relationships into a format that was easy to follow and engaging for all who watched. Unfortunately it also led to some fairly weird dreams concerning Chris Packham. No, not like that! After a series of dreams where Chris Packham followed me around and explained my relationships to the people around me I was first, a little worried about how he knew so much about my life, and secondly, forced to label my love ‘unhealthy’. This has not stopped me however and I look forward to enjoying the repeated programs that are commonly on iPlayer for all to enjoy while waiting for their next project. I do however miss seeing vets involved with the NHU, and yes I am volunteering myself (naturally), but until I graduate I can’t help but think back to another favourite which was ‘’Ultimate Killers’ with Steve Leonard. If you ever get the chance to watch it, do – it’s great! Yes, having worked with Steve (2 words – lovely, passionate) on Safari Vet School, I may be a bit biased but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Ultimate Killers is another great example of how the Natural History Unit makes their programmes accessible and entertaining while maintaining their educational integrity.

No blog about the Natural History Unit would be complete however without some mention of the great Sir David Attenborough whose 60 years in wildlife film-making have inspired generations and, thankfully, led to a change in attitudes towards our plant and its other inhabitants. At 86 years old, he is still at the forefront of cutting edge documentary making and last year was involved in the making of Frozen Planet, even writing the seventh film in the series, On Thin Ice, which highlighted the plight of our changing planet. In October the BBC will air ‘Attenborough: 60 years in the Wild’ which, I’m sure, will prove to be one of the most popular programmes aired this year. I can’t wait!

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