Born in Italy, Riccardo holds a BSc in Zoology and an MSc in Global Biodiversity Conservation. Throughout the past years, he has been specializing in the study of reptiles and amphibians both in the tropics and in Europe. His interests are varied and include human wildlife conflict, amphibian and reptile biology, insects, environmental education and macro photography.
Learn more about Riccardo Mattea
June 2, 2021
Start from your backyard
I’ve always been influenced by my peers’ interests and my lecturers’ adventures since I began my studies in conservation. I thought that to become a successful conservationist I needed to travel to tropical jungles and remote seas and work with flagship species such as large cats and venomous snakes.
Driven by that thought, I left Italy to work in different corners of the Earth from the Peruvian Amazon to the Aegean Sea, and immersing myself in diverse cultures and unique ecosystems. When the pandemic hit, I had just started working on an idyllic Greek island.
I was forced to return to Italy due to the circumstances and spent hours each day job searching, wanting to embark again to one of those countries so talked about in lecture rooms. I was blind to what was around me.
Slowly, I began to realise how much I had to discover about Italy, its biodiversity, and the numerous projects that are being implemented.
Like for many, 2020 was a year of change. I felt the need to become more active in my local community, so I decided to take up a personal challenge: to restore abandoned water troughs hidden in the middle of the mountains surrounding my hometown.
These troughs were once important crossroads for shepherds, hunters and people who still lived in the mountains. These mountains were abandoned with the advent of urbanisation, and with them, so were the troughs. They eventually became derelict, covered in dirt and rocks, until they were barely recognizable.
Together with a team of local enthusiasts, I restored important amphibian habitats and brought back culturally important fountains, traditionally used by shepherds and old inhabitants of the mountains.
Thanks to this lesson, I understand that in order to have an impact on nature, on a community, I do not have to travel thousands of miles to be called a conservationist. Conservation can start from your own “backyard”. I challenge you to do the same.