14th February 2024

Young Conservation Leaders Award


We are excited to announce PhD student Rhys Furlong from the University of Derby as the latest recipient of our Young Conservation Leaders Award.


The Young Conservation Leaders award aims to support the growth of a new generation of conservation leaders by providing a one-off financial grant to help enable young people to take up learning and development opportunities irrespective of their financial circumstances.  The scheme seeks to support candidates with a demonstrable track-record of academic excellence and leadership in the field of conservation at Masters level or above.

Rhys is currently studying for a PhD which explores the  experience of allotment gardening for people from low income areas.  This is an important piece of research as Rhys has developed an ethnographic approach for the research, so has volunteered with the Renewal Trust at St Ann’s allotments and worked alongside both staff and allotment holders. St Ann’s allotments is the oldest and largest inner city allotment site in Europe and was selected for the study due to it being a high-quality greenspace situated within a low-income area of Nottingham.

Rhys’s research provides insight into the relationship the allotment holders have with their plots, the benefits that allotments can provide, particularly for people from low income areas. This is particularly pertinent given the links between poverty and ill health, and the disparity in access to green spaces that became more apparent during COVID 19 lockdowns.

Data is being collected through working alongside tenants and volunteers during regular visits to the allotment.  More specifically, Rhys has conducted interviews, recorded conversations, collected survey data and used photography to gain a detailed account of the experiences of allotment gardening for tenants and the experiences of working at the allotment for volunteers.

Analysis is ongoing but so far interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) has been used to identify key issues relevant to the tenants. The themes developed using IPA showed that allotment gardening supported a sense of discovery of self-identity, fostered meaningful connections with others on the allotment site and provided a safe and private place to retreat to for positive mental health.

Photo Credit: The Renewal Trust

In addition, Rhys has also actively supported other research projects exploring the Human-Nature relationship, on projects with the Royal Wildlife Trusts, Suffolk Wildlife Trust and Generation Green.

Rhys has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to conducting research into the human nature relationship, starting with his Master of Research dissertation project where he explored the connection to nature that nature volunteers had during the UK COVID lockdowns. His analysis revealed how maintaining a connection to nature through daily exercise was an important part of supporting well-being for the volunteers, especially as volunteering was no longer possible due to lockdown restrictions. Through their daily exercise the volunteers also became more aware of their local environment and the conservation threats that were present. This fuelled their desire to return to volunteering and protect nature.

Rhys on receiving the award said “I am really honoured to receive the Young Conservation Leadership Award and would like to thank the Conservation Foundation, my supervision team and Professor Miles Richardson for the award. It is great to see my research recognised in this way and this award will contribute to significantly to my future research ambitions.”

Rhys was nominated for the award by his PHD supervision team at the University of Derby: Dr Caroline Harvey, Dr Jenny Hallam and Dr Fiona Holland. Dr Caroline Harvey stated, “Rhys has the potential to be a future leader in this area, as his research history has facilitated a broad understanding of research methods that can be employed to understand the nuance and complexity of the human-nature relationship. Additionally he has taken on leadership roles within the university regarding postgraduate student representation, and is a confident ‘voice’ for his peers. Rhys’ commitment to understanding the perspectives of people from more marginalised groups speaks to his passion to support everyone having access to and connection with nature.”

We would like to offer our sincerest congratulations to Rhys on winning the award.


David Shreeve

Director and Co-Founder


If you would like to find out more about the YCL Award please click on the link below.