Ilja Bouwknegt is 23 and is currently following a bachelor Forest and Nature Management. She is an active member of WSBV Sylvatica and occasionally studies bats at night.
Ilja left Nijeveen village in Drenthe province for Wageningen a few years ago. She started studying biology. ‘I got stuck in that programme at some point, as I’m not very good with technical subjects. Biologists often consider policy somewhat woolly, but I enjoy governance issues. Forest and Nature Management is part ecology, part policy, so I switched to that programme just before the covid pandemic.’ Ilja became an active member of the study association WSBV Sylvatica. ‘The askes me to serve on the board, and I thought: “why not?”. I had some time to spare. I chaired the board for six months and sat on several committees afterwards.’
Kind of people
Wageningen is a great place to live, says Ilja. ‘I’m from a small village, so Wageningen is the largest place I have lived so far, even though it is relatively small as well. I like the fact that there is lots of nature. I live near the floodplains. I also like the kind of people that live in Wageningen, although I can’t pinpoint why exactly.’
Some time ago, there a call appeared in the WSBV Sylvatica newsletter, looking for people to help with bat research. ‘If a building is being remodelled, a study must be done to see f there are no bats present before the start. I thought it would be fun, so I occasionally help.’ Recently, this required her to go to a care home in the Achterhoek. ‘The investigation must be conducted at sunrise or sunset, so you go there in the middle of the night or before dawn with a bat detector: a device that records bats’ ultrasonic sounds. It’s a fun side-job.’
In addition, Ilja writes for the Hinkelnymf, the WSBV Sylvatica quarterly. ‘I have started and quit thousands of hobbies in the course of my life. I would like to start a music band, for example. I can sing, and I play the clarinet, but how on earth would you start a band with that? But, writing and drawing are things I have always done. Mostly for my own pleasure, but always in the form of columns.’ Ilja intends to write about her personal experiences for her Resource columns. That could be anything ranging from parents’ day to her side job as a bat researcher. ‘Personal experiences during my daily life as a student.’ Writing is a family activity, Ilja says. Her mother wrote columns for the Meppeler Courant.