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Insights Why Claire believes that biodiversity is key to our natural world

As part of our #PeopleDriveResults campaign, this week we have caught up with Claire Wansbury, associate director in infrastructure based in London, UK.

image of claire smiling

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.

My name is Claire Wansbury and I am an associate director in infrastructure and based in London, UK. I specialize in ecology and advise on biodiversity for our clients’ projects worldwide.

What are the most important elements or fundamental of biodiversity and how do they impact your daily life both personally and at work?

Biodiversity refers to the variations of life on earth, including ecosystems, habitats and species, and even genetic diversity within a single species. While the word ‘biodiversity’ is a scientific term, it’s used more widely to refer to nature or nature conservation, including wildlife’s value to people. 

What inspired you to advocate for biodiversity on a professional level?

I have been fortunate to work on a topic that fascinates me; one that makes me feel I am making a real difference. For me, it isn’t so much about trying to think of why I specialize in biodiversity, but wondering why everyone else doesn’t want to.

Why should the average person care about biodiversity, why is it important for all of us?

Biodiversity is key to our natural world, underpinning many valuable ecosystem services the natural world provides our society and economy for free. Ecosystem services are all the different things the natural world provides to our society and economy, such as physical and mental health benefits of access to nature.

Biodiversity can benefit whole societies, like pollination of the crops that feed us. It can also directly benefit individuals, like the impacts on physical and mental wellbeing from engaging with biodiversity in high-quality natural spaces. While scientific studies have proven this, it has also been in the headlines in the UK during periods of lockdown due to COVID-19. People have shown a new appreciation for their local parks and green spaces. Watching birds and other wildlife has meant a lot to so many.

What projects have you worked on that have positive impacts from biodiversity in the area?

I love looking back at projects that have made a real difference. My personal favourite is a natural capital study we did for London Wildlife Trust. We calculated the monetized value of the ecosystem services of the nature reserve. Our report showed that the reserve, less than one hectare in size, contributes benefits valued at £2.8 million per annum to the local economy and community. The Trust used the results of our study to help raise over £1 million for a new visitor centre.

Are there any other projects that stand out for you where AtkinsRéalis has really made a difference towards promoting and protecting biodiversity?

I’ve worked on major infrastructure projects with impressive engineering design work, refining schemes to minimize losses to valuable habitat. I think there has been a step change during my career and people are recognizing that protecting our natural environment isn’t just something ‘nice’ to do or a job for the environmental specialists. They realize it’s important and something everyone on a project can contribute to. 

We have made a positive impact on several projects and some were showcased on Earth Day 2021.

Just for fun… Do you have a favourite type of ecosystem and why?

I don’t think I could pick just one—I love woodlands, coastlands and chalk grassland. You can find as many as 40 different species of flowering plants in a single square metre of chalk grassland! However, my favourite place to be is on the coast of North Norfolk, where you have a huge variety of habitats and wildlife to experience.