2018 has been quite a year for me with lots of things to be proud of, ranging from things that I’ve been involved in to challenges that I’ve faced. I’m lucky that I’ve been asked to be youth patron for a local wildlife project, The Wild Watch, in a beautiful corner of Yorkshire called Nidderdale, so my year really started off well. I volunteer and help out with wildlife surveys but I was lucky enough to be asked to do a film to support a big Owl survey. I enjoyed making the film, working with these awesome creatures and knowing that I was helping to encourage other young people to care about them and help them out.

Zach Owl

Later in the year I was lucky enough to be able to participate in a major BioBlitz – biological surveying – organised by TV presenter and naturalist Chris Packham. It covered 50 sites across the UK and luckily it covered Nosterfield nature reserve near me. I was very honoured to be asked to be involved in the filming on the day, even more so when Chris told me I had his job to do that day and I had to interview some of the reserve volunteers.

Zach Chris BioBlitz

In September, there was also an amazing Peoples Walk for Wildlife in London. It was an awesome experience to walk through the streets of London with 10,000 other people passionate about our wildlife. I was lucky enough to be asked to be one of a few young people that finished the walk by taking the Peoples Manifesto for Wildlife to Number 10!

Zach Downing Street

So this year I saw a lot of good work by passionate people who care about our natural world, but what surprised me was a string of reports that warned just how much pressure it is under. The Living Planet report, showing that population sizes of wildlife decreased by 60% globally between 1970 and 2014the IPCC report on Climate Change. While a lot of awareness is being raised, not enough is being done to reverse our impact on the planet. Much more is needed to be done urgently: a challenge for us all.

Zach Portcullis House

Speaking of challenges… I discovered in the summer that I have Autism. Whilst it won’t stop me from doing the things I want to with my life, I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t sometimes cause me to struggle, an extra complication or hurdle to jump that most people still don’t really understand or appreciate. Nature provides a great outlet though, something very calming when things get hard, which is another reason why I think more people should appreciate it more.

A final thing to mention about 2018 that I was proud of was being made an #iwill Ambassador, especially as they launch the Year of Green Action 2019. With all the warnings about our impact on the world, this seemed like such a great thing to be involved with, to help raise awareness and get more actions in place to help the natural world. I’m also quite proud that one of my photos from the launch event is being used for the campaign.

Through #iwill, I’m looking forward to being involved in lots more activities to help. One that I’m looking forward to is the chance to run my own little project thanks to Grow Wild, a project I found out about at the #iwill launch event. I’ve also been awarded a grant to deliver a photography project with The Wild Watch. I’m still working out the details but it will be about how important wildflowers and their pollinators are to us, and working with young people in Nidderdale.

2019 for me will be about continuing to share my passion for the natural world and trying to get others to care for it as much as I do. #iwill4nature, and I hope you will too.

Image credit, Zach Haynes, #iwill Ambassador, age 14.


Zach Haynes, 14, is an #iwill Ambassador from Yorkshire. You can read Zach’s ambassador profile here. Zach blogs about his wildlife action here and tweets at @NaturallyZach.