Meet Generation Restoration: Christina Hunt

Posted: 23rd June 2023

Photo: Annabel Hunt

We are in the midst of an environmental crisis, and the next ten years are crucial to avert climate change and to halt the irreversible loss of habitats and species. Restoration provides an opportunity to repair the damage caused so since 2018, the Endangered Landscapes Programme has supported the delivery of land and seascape restoration projects across Europe. These are led and driven on the ground by dedicated and inspirational teams including young people who are key to restore our landscapes and seascapes for generations to come. Over the coming months we will be running a series of articles focused on #GenerationRestoration and the youth that are driving change on the ground.

This week we talked to 27-year-old Christina Hunt, Conservation Scientist for the RSPB, who works in the Cairngorms Connect restoration landscape. Her role involves planning, coordinating and conducting fieldwork in the Cairngorms National Park. The main project she is managing is the ‘Species Indicator Project’, which is assessing how habitat restoration impacts biodiversity. They are specifically looking at birds, macromoths and ericaceous shrubs as these groups are all responsive to habitat changes and are relatively easy to identify in the field. The project is using sites within the Cairngorms Connect project area that have been undergoing restoration for different lengths of time, as this allows them to look at changes that have occurred over decades even though Cairngorms Connect has only been running for a few years so far.

Photo: Mark Hamblin /

Christina’s fieldwork involves driving a 4×4 and hiking out to remote upland locations where she often camps out overnight. Typically, she will set up a moth trap and conduct a bird survey at sunset, then wake up at sunrise to identify the moths caught and do another bird survey. As well as conducting her own fieldwork, Christina’s role also involves managing volunteers who conduct some of the surveys.

How did you become interested in restoration?

My first ever scuba dive, on a coral reef in Thailand, sparked my passion for the natural world and my desire to conserve it. Being immersed (literally!) in the marine world gave me a new appreciation for nature and I instantly wanted to learn more to help protect these ecosystems. As soon as I returned from my holiday I learnt to scuba dive and was equally fascinated by the creatures I was seeing in the UK.

But my interest in nature is not restricted to the marine environment. I am passionate about studying our impacts on the environment and working out how we can best protect it. My role at the RSPB has been a fantastic opportunity to conduct research that has direct relevance to conservation, such as studying how habitat management can benefit breeding wading birds and now studying how forest restoration can benefit a wide range of species.

Photo: Lizzie Brotherston.

What inspires you and how do you stay optimistic about the future of biodiversity and climate?

I am constantly inspired by nature, both on land and underwater. Getting out into nature and seeing my study species always inspires me and makes my desk-based work worthwhile.

Being involved in conservation and restoration helps me stay optimistic about the future of biodiversity. I feel privileged to be part of Cairngorms Connect- a landscape scale restoration project with a 200-year vision. Being involved in such a large-scale project helps me feel like I am part of the solution to the biodiversity crisis.

Photo: James Shooter /

How is your project working with young people?

Cairngorms Connect is doing a fantastic job of engaging with local young people. My personal contribution has been running some activities with school groups and the Cairngorms National Park Junior Rangers. Most recently I ran an event with the junior rangers to teach them about the importance of deadwood and how we survey deadwood beetles to study the impacts of deadwood creation. I have also supervised young volunteers who have contributed to fieldwork and lab work with Cairngorms Connect.

Photo: Lizzie Brotherston.

Do you think young people feel connected to the natural world?

I think a lot of young people are disengaged from nature if they haven’t been given the chance to experience it with their family or at school. For me, it is only through getting out into nature and experiencing it that my passion for nature and conservation really developed. An undergraduate field course encouraged me to learn bird songs and calls, whilst moth trapping with Cairngorms Connect has encouraged me to moth trap for fun in my garden.

It is fantastic to see how engaged many of the schools in the Cairngorms are with nature and that engagement is down to the incredible work of Cairngorms Connect. It would be fantastic if this level of nature engagement was replicated across the UK. Young people don’t need to visit the most dramatic landscapes or see the most enigmatic species to develop a connection to nature. Something as simple as being encouraged to listen to bird song in their garden or school would be a fantastic way to engage young people.

Photo: Pete Short.

Is getting the younger generation involved important for conservation and restoration?

Definitely! We need to give the younger generation the opportunity to immerse themselves in nature to help them feel more connected and feel compelled to save nature through a career in conservation. There are so many career options in conservation, whether you choose to follow a scientific or more practical route. We need to encourage the younger generation to get involved but we also need to inform them of the range of career options available.

To find out more about Cairngorms Connect, visit their project page

View all News