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Picturing Nature in Wales as a Social Network

1 Technology

Pinterest is a social network comprising pin boards which allows people to share and comment on visual material, which could be photographs, sketches, videos or web pages. Like a virtual scrapbook, but very public, a board owner can collate the items that appeal to him/her, or which provide links to in-depth knowledge. There is no copyright in the world of Pinterest: you can attach images from other people’s web pages, or repin content from other people’s boards (see this article from JPC Law). In fact sharing content from other people is actively encouraged - this is about the social activity of interaction and sharing and gaining followers, rather than keeping ownership of your work. When the Pin It button is used to select pins from a web page, the pin automatically includes a link to the source web page, so you can go to by clicking on the picture and other people can go to the source for more information.

Fig 1 A Pinterest-Tumblr knowledge system

Individuals become members of the network by signing up to a Pinterest free account. They then create a board and assemble knowledge about a place or group of places by ‘pinning’ elements of the web (text, images, videos, websites, etc) that are informative about these places onto the board. Basically, Pinterest is a source of inspiration for gathering information because images tend to teach more than text.

The educational aim is for board owners to curate the elements as a knowledge framework to structure the topic of biogeography, highlighting the links between culture, ecology and place. All the boards that people make are linked together and searchable as a Pinteresr/Tumblr community network (PTCN) by adding a hashtag to every pin on their board. Clicking on the hashtag brings all pictures with this hashtag to clicker’s screen. This system is shown diagramatically in Fig 1.

In the diagram, pictures from three websites have been pinned to the Pinterest board of a member of the network. The member curating this board has used the network's hashtag to locate two more boards in the network, each of which is linked to a different site.

Using information from all the boards the member is producing Tumblr blogs, containing pictures with text, setting out her personal body of knowledge about the places represented on her boards.These blogs can be linked to the blogger’s own board by pinning one of their hash tagged pictures there, thus making her blogs available to others in the picture-based darabase.

Two Pinterest accounts have been set up to demonstrate how a PTCN can work in practice to gather, spread and comment on the islands and nature sites of Wales.

2 The Wales’ Islands PTCN (#walesislands)

Everyone loves islands and ‘Wales Islands’ is a PTCN project for people to gather and network resources and ideas about island biogeography, using the 50 or so islands around the coastline of Wales as a place-based knowledge network.


Island biogeography is a field within biogeography that examines the factors that affect the species richness of isolated natural communities and their interactions with human settlers. Island theory was developed to explain species richness of actual islands in relation to their geological origins. It has since been extended to mountains surrounded by deserts, lakes surrounded by dry land, fragmented forest, and even natural habitats surrounded by human-altered landscapes. Now it is used in reference to any ecosystem, no matter how small, to include a microcosm surrounded by unlike ecosystems. Islands large and small can be used to address mainland environmental issues from a simpler perspective.

The three educational pillars of the Wales Islands PTCN are:


Islands provide model systems for the investigation of the processes of plant and animal migration, diversification, and extinction. Remote islands offer sanctuary for some of the planet's strangest and rarest creatures.


Islands occupy a significant space in literature. They are more than scenic locations; they are literary devices whose natural boundaries help shape and contain narratives. Fictional islands exist as either lost paradises where poetry and contemplation happen, or places where law breaks down and conventional morality gets tested.


Islands have inspired creative minds for thousands of years with busy histories full of crafts people, sailors, storytellers, invaders, painters and poets. Every island has its own distinct cultural identity with an abundance of innovation and creativity.

3 The Wales’ Nature Sites PTCN (#walesnaturesites)


Wales is a country full of natural beauty and boasts 78 national nature reserves. Much of its landscape is mountainous, from Snowdonia to the northwest, home to the rare and iconic relic of the ice-age the Snowdon lily, to the Brecon Beacons in the south. Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to the west, there are 1200km of rugged coastline and over 50 islands with significant colonies of seabirds such as gannets, puffins, kittiwakes, shags and razorbills.

The islands of Skokholm and Skomer are home to more than half the world's population of Manx shearwaters. Skomer also as a unique subspecies of the bank vole,

The impressive array of Welsh biodiversity continues with uplands, valleys, heathland, woodland and farmland,Welsh gems ĺinclude the Glaslyn ospreys, distinctive red kites and that charismatic crow of wind-swept coastal areas, the chough.

National Nature Reserves represent the very best examples of Wales’ wildlife habitats and geological features and can range in size between five hectares to well over 2,000. NNRs are declared by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act of 1949, or under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981. They are owned or leased by NRW, or the land is held by an approved body, such as a County Wildlife Trust. Each reserve has a programme of work to manage the site's special features. All of them are also Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and may provide places for educational projects, research and management trials. Some reserves require permits to gain access to them.

The national nature reserves are representative of:

  • the high mountain summits of Snowdon, home to some of the UK’s most ancient plant species;

  • the sweeping sand dunes of Morfa Harlech and Morfa Dyffryn,including mudflats and salt marshes that are important feeding grounds for winter wildfowl;

  • the ancient oak woodlands of Maentwrog in the Vale of Ffestiniog, home to some 170 species of lichen;

  • the peat bogs of Cors Caron in Ceredigion,which contain plants, such as sun-dews, bog rosemary and cotton grasses, that have adapted to the acidic conditions;

  • the remote islands off the Pembrokeshire coast, such as Skomer, which is one of the most important seabird breeding sites in southern Britain.

The educational pillars of the Wales Nature Sites PTCN are:


Nature reserves provide model systems for the investigation of the processes of plant and animal migration, diversification, and extinction.


It is widely recognised that people depend on the natural environment for a variety of benefits to their well being. These dependencies encompass access to a range of ecosystem services, from utilising basic resources for living - clean water, food, fertile soil- to interactions with nature that affirm and enrich our place in the world - places to recreate, play and take wonder in life.

Nature sites of high diversity have inspired many creative minds with busy histories full of crafts people painters and poets. Only by spending time in protected places do we have a sense of how rich in wildlife of our countryside could be; without such benchmarks, we lose all sense of what we should expect, and what we can cherish. We also lose all sense of the wild, and our connection to it.

For many people an interaction by taking pictures or viewing them and sharing them with others can be a valuable social activity.

4 Current situation

A Wales Islands Pinterest and Tumblr accounts have been set up by ICOL ( International Classrooms On Line) and a model is being created by ICOL to trigger the network.

View the model at:

An online version of this document can be viewed at:

The ICOL site can also be reached from the Wales Islands’ Pinterest board.


Appendix 1

How to organise a PTCN: the Pinterest component

1 Sign up to a free Pinterest account.

2 Create a board

3 Name it Wales’ Islands or Wales’ Nature Sites.

4 Use these names to search for websites with a picture.

5 When you have found one with information you like hover your mouse over the picture. If you see a red pinterest icon click on it. This will reveal a window asking if you would like to save it to one of your boards. Choose the board and the picture will be pinned to it.

6 Click on the picture and you will be taken to the site from which the picture was taken.

7 Add the hash tag to the picture to ensure others will find it.


Appendix 2.

How to organise a PTCN: theTumblr component

1 Sign up to a free Tumblr account.

2 Compose your own story (called a microblog) on the theme of islands or nature sites, adding at least one picture.

3 Follow steps 5 to 7 in Appendix 1 to ensure your Tumblr blog will be accessible from your own Pinterest board.

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