Faces of the LIB: Karsten Stehr
“To be able to take measures for nature conservation,
we need much more area-wide knowledge about biodiversity
and its interactions with nature.”
Karsten Stehr coordinates educational programmes for young people at the Museum Koenig Bonn. © LIB
Karsten Stehr has a mission: he wants to get young people excited about species knowledge. In this way, they can help to protect nature. In the museum education department of the Museum Koenig Bonn, the biologist contributes his knowledge of the interrelationships of nature and also his hobby, wildlife photography.
What drives you to bring knowledge about nature to young people?
Nature is something unique. It has a different meaning for every single person. We are also part of nature. For me, it is important to teach people at a young age how nature works. I want to talk to them about how they should deal with it in order to protect and preserve it so that our future remains worth living. Furthermore, through my work, I hope that knowledge about nature will also lead to a deeper understanding of ourselves and our relationship with the world around us.
What led you to biology?
I was lucky enough to grow up in a home with a diverse garden. As a result, I was always outside a lot at a young age. Because my parents and grandparents grew fruit and vegetables, I learned a lot about native animals and plants. When a pond was added, there was much more to discover in the garden. I think that’s what led me to biology.
What are the highlights of your everyday work?
My highlights are definitely the courses to promote species knowledge with young people and children. Especially the excursions we do with them are great. It’s always amazing how much I can still learn from the young people myself. Many of the participants have already developed an enthusiasm for certain groups of organisms that is contagious.
What does nature mean to you personally? Is there a favourite place in nature?
For me, nature is everywhere and is a phenomenon from which I draw a lot. Whether right on your doorstep or somewhere in the mountains – biodiversity that inspires me is everywhere. As a hobby wildlife and macro photographer, I am fascinated by everything that moves. The one or other plant is also there from time to time. My favourite places in nature are definitely the mountains or alpine vegetation stages. There are few to no people around there. And when I have climbed a peak and see how vast the world is from up there, a feeling of relaxation spreads through me.
Crayfish, fish, butterflies: Who has your very personal affection and why?
Sharks. Even though I now have a differentiated opinion of zoos, my first experience with a particular animal species that left a lasting impression on me was a grey reef shark in Loro Parque on Tenerife. This experience as a child led me to conduct behavioural experiments with sharks and rays later in my studies during my bachelor’s thesis.
How do you explain the term biodiversity to children?
Biodiversity describes the variety of life on earth. This includes all living organisms, from tiny microbes to large animals and plants – as well as their genetic diversity. Thanks to genetic diversity, organisms can adapt to different environmental conditions.
Biodiversity also describes the different ecosystems in which these organisms live, such as rainforests, oceans or deserts. High biodiversity is important because it offers many benefits for us and for nature. For example, different plants and animals can provide us with food, medicine and other resources. They also provide a balanced cycle of nutrients.
What do you want people to associate with the LIB in ten years’ time?
In ten years, I want people to perceive the LIB not only as a museum and research institute, but also as a place of learning and exchange with each other.
What do you see as the greatest challenge in the field of nature conservation?
I see the greatest challenge in the field of nature conservation in the promotion of young experts who deal with certain groups of organisms. In order to be able to take measures for nature conservation, we need much more area-wide knowledge about species diversity and their interactions with nature. The only problem is that species experts are usually lacking. We would already know a lot more about biodiversity and its protection if there were more people working on it.
What would you have become if biology hadn’t worked out?
I would probably be in the German Armed Forces or the German Federal Police.
What advice do you have for young biologists at the beginning of their careers?
Keep reminding yourself why you chose the profession you did. That way you always have a mission. Network and find people who have the same goal in mind.
Which part of the LIB is particularly close to your heart?
That’s obvious, of course: education and outreach. Above all, the area of promoting the next generation of species experts is a matter close to my heart.
Karsten Stehr has been coordinating the youth programmes in the FörTax project at Museum Koenig Bonn since 2020. He also gained experience in promoting young people as a project manager in the educational programmes Taxonomy Workshop and Nature Gives wings, which are also offered for young people at Museum Koenig. As a parental leave replacement in the museum education department of Museum Koenig Bonn, he takes on many other organisational tasks. The biologist gained practical experience during and after his Bachelor’s and Master’s studies in visitor assistance at SeaLife Königswinter and at the Museum Koenig. Even as an adolescent, he was dedicated to youth work in his home community and was enthusiastic about working with young people.