Alexander Sampson speaks to wildlife presenter and University of Bristol Zoology graduate Miranda Krestovnikoff.
On mountain peaks and in underwater caves, the acclaimed wildlife presenter Miranda Krestovnikoff has studied the world’s creeping, soaring, teeming and crawling zoological marvels. Marrying conservation, music, diving and presenting, Miranda’s enjoyed a career successfully taming the wild for a sofa-based audience. Yet, her journey began in Bristol, on a rainy day in 1991:
‘I remember going to look at Bristol – it was pouring with rain, and it should have been the worst open day but there was something about the city […] it was really buzzy, fantastic and vibrant. It felt like the right place to be.’
Miranda’s fledgling career was launched in Freshers’ Week. Taking the plunge, she learnt to dive, experimented with hot air ballooning, acted in drama productions and was involved in various church groups. She also sang and toured with an a cappella group, named the Madrigal Ensemble, and played flute in numerous small and large orchestras.
Later, while volunteering at a wildlife centre in Gloucestershire, Miranda discovered her love for conservation and began to search for opportunities in wildlife filming, presenting and conservation projects.
‘I never said no. I did work experience with cameramen, shadowed presenters, and generally just gave things a go. [Bristol] was an amazing, amazing university that really helped shaped my career. A few very influential people there really guided me as to where I wanted to go, [and] helped give me my first step on the ladder.’
After university, Miranda went onto work with the BBC’s acclaimed Natural History Film Unit before breaking into a presenting role for Fox Television. After twenty years in the media, Miranda’s portfolio includes documentaries, radio appearances, conservation projects, and concerts.
To hear more about Miranda’s story, watch the video below:
Notably, her personal interests have defined the more spectacular opportunities in her career: in a landmark event in 2019, Miranda presented a concert with the City of London Sinfonia where every attendee downloaded a bird call on their phone.
‘We got everyone to walk around the cathedral playing these sounds out of their phones. We didn’t know if it was going to work. But we walked around for 25 minutes – it was a magical cacophony of sound.’
Miranda’s also a pivotal figure in the underwater presenting scene. As one of a handful of female diving presenters, she’s paved the way for women in a mostly male-dominated space. In recognition of this feat, she was chosen as one of PADI’s 2021 AmbassaDivers but has never forgotten where she first learnt:
‘I was talking at a dive show before lockdown and my old diving instructor from university turned up. I got all weepy and I just had to give him a massive hug. I said to him, “Look what you’ve done - you’ve given me this incredible opportunity and now it’s a part of my career.”’
In 2013, Miranda was snapped up by the RSPB and has remained President ever since. Leading the organisation’s 1.2m members, Miranda’s role has included numerous campaigns, volunteer events, parliamentary committee meetings and a short Aardman Animations film for Netflix.
Her presidency ends this year, but has helpfully shaped her next chapter: ‘I will take experience and knowledge from that [role] and I would very much like to work with smaller and more local groups in the future.’
Amongst all her ‘bonkers’ experiences, Miranda is very down to earth; her continued television success over the last twenty years is clearly informed by her personable character and ready smile. Alongside her work in presenting, Miranda’s also appeared on Pointless Celebrities and Celebrity MasterChef, while travelling all over the world as patron of numerous conservation trusts.
Grounded by the pandemic, Miranda enjoyed a lockdown listening to birdsong, home schooling her children and learning to appreciate wildlife a lot closer to home:
‘In lockdown I fell in love with our “local patch”, and I realised I didn’t spend enough time in it. [Before] I was busy going away everywhere, going to far flung places and having amazing wildlife experiences but forgetting how beautiful it is on the doorstep here.
‘We are so lucky in the southwest. I’m now much more connected with the wildlife around us than I was before lockdown. And that has been incredibly beneficial for me and [my] family.’
Post-COVID, Miranda’s landscape is a changing world. Media production has become more accessible, local and individual. The ‘big presenting roles’ aren’t needed in the same ways because everyone has their own podcast, YouTube channel or social media presence.
However, Miranda’s not daunted by this new world – ‘it prompts me to do other things; to diversify and carry on in new ways. I’m very lucky being where I am – I can choose what I do now.’
Her choice is to invest locally: she is currently centring on working in schools and giving talks on climate change, conservation, and how to get out into nature. Her fierce passion for the outdoors persists – she is currently writing books on Puffins and UK wild swimming – yet her focus now lies on Bristol:
‘You spend your life taking out of the system but now I’d like to put back in. I’d like to help young people get up onto the ladder or help around the city in schools with disadvantaged children. [I’d like to take part in] more projects where I feel really useful rather than just for personal gain.’
It is these smaller interactions with young conservationists and wildlife enthusiasts that Miranda finds the most meaningful: ‘Those are the projects which are most rewarding at the end of the day – when you come home and realise you may have just changed someone’s life.’
For Miranda’s top advice for all students, watch the video below: