September 10, 2013, by Malvika Johal

A Focus on Nature

Alumna, naturalist and Creative Director of her own company, Lucy McRobert graduated in 2012 winning prizes for her dissertation and building a platform for a career as an environmental historian. Now, just a year later she’s taken it upon herself to set up a prize in her company’s name to reward academic excellence and to showcase the importance of environmental history and the wider conservation movement. Here, she describes in her own words, the reasons behind the A Focus on Nature prize.

In July 2012, I was one of the many at the University of Nottingham to don their gown and mortar board, and make that infamous journey across the stage. No, I didn’t trip, and neither did anyone attending the Department of History graduation that day. Those steps may seem few to those who never venture forth, but to those who do they represent one of the most important journeys of their lives. All those late night essays, bleary-eyed library visits, articles, musty books, pre-exam jitters and celebratory drinks are condensed into a few brief seconds.

For many, the journey is a leap of faith: what will come next? With University behind, the future can seem unfamiliar, expansive and unexpected; exciting, yet daunting. Others relish the freedom and the opportunities. Luckily for me, I fell into the latter category. University had taught me more about myself and what I wanted to do than the previous sixteen years of education.

My discovery of Environmental History came in second year. Dr Rob Lambert’s infectious enthusiasm and knowledge, the multi-disciplinary nature of the subject (science, history, geography and the arts), the contemporary reflections, and the influence of wildlife television producer Stephen Moss, highlighted the many routes a budding young historian could take. This was history in action – relevant and necessary – emphasising the importance of historical reflections on our interpretation of the natural world (a childhood passion long forgotten), on policy, on broadcasting, for the preservation of our environment.

My Dissertation, which focused on the history of the nature reserve ‘ideal’ in Britain post-WWII, opened the door to my current career. Graded 80%, I was awarded the Robert Mellors Prize for the best Dissertation in English History, and additionally the University’s Marsden Prize for best female academic performance in the Arts Faculty. It was an honour, not only to be recognised, but to bring Environmental History to the forefront of the Department and the University.

The connections I made in my final year with television presenters, environmental NGOs, authors, artists and conservationists emphasised the importance of the next generation to the security of British wildlife, and led to my setting up of ‘A Focus On Nature’, which is creating a network of young nature conservationists in the UK. Supported by some of the top wildlife businesses and charities, the organisation promotes nature conservation to a cross-section of people aged 16 to 30, who can explore the many facets, uses and interpretations of our natural world.

Lucy McRobert2

It seemed an obvious first step to return to the place, people and subject to whom I owed so much, and, in recognition of the importance of Environmental History to the wider conservation movement, I have set up the A Focus On Nature Award, which rewards the contribution of one First Class Environmental History student per year with a cash prize, and membership to the organisation.

Zoe Moulton, the first recipient of the 2013 award, has already proved a phenomenal asset, and I hope that she is the first of many who can prove the necessity of Environmental History to our future understanding of the natural world.”

You can discover more about A Focus on Nature at


If you are interested in finding out how you could support current students to achieve academic excellence at The University of Nottingham please contact Simon Buttenshaw, +44(0)115 95 13998,



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