Not a Joke!
Meet the Young Men and Women Fighting for Nature, One Meme at a Time
For Richard “Rhett” Barker, it must have been the moth memes.
“Memes about moths were trending across the internet, and we decided we would pretend that the “Wild Green Memes” page had been taken over by moths,” recalls Barker, then a recent graduate of the University of Florida (UF) in Gainesville, Fla., and the founder-moderator of the Facebook group “Wild Green Memes for Ecological Fiends”. “The moderators, or ‘mods’, didn’t say anything, but we only let through moth memes for a few days, and then when the members started to comment on the change I switched the cover photo with a lamp and started commenting in moth-speak, as if they had taken over my brain.”
As real wildlife enthusiasts would understand, the Lotka-Volterra equations soon kicked in. “At the end of the week, we told people to post bat memes as a biological control.” Nature dictates that bats, faced with an abundance of prey, would soon spawn and proliferate.
Barker and the mods might have eventually controlled the moth memes with various degrees of success while giving their friends in the Gainesville natural resources community a few laughs, but they overlooked something:
“Wild Green Memes” is blooming at a breakneck pace. And people are taking note.
How does a group of students run a diverse nation that never sleeps?
Founded in June 2017, “Wild Green Memes” has swelled into arguably the world’s largest group of wildlife ecologists and enthusiasts, with over 140,000 members as of December 2019. This is a number larger than 18 countries and fourteen times the member size of the Ecological Society of America, “The nation’s largest community of professional ecologists”.
What began as an attempt to joke and connect with UF Wildlife peers has become a truly global endeavor. Three of the top five cities with the most members are located in Australia, while newly industrialized countries (and ecological hotspots) Brazil, the Philippines, and Mexico are ranked in the top seven.
...something that starts out small can grow and even if it isn’t a traditional route, it can become a force for change and make a difference in the world. -- Iona Hennessy
Managing a tribe of mostly Millennials and Gen Z’ers is no easy feat. Luckily, Barker has help on the way.