Like many events, the NI Science Festival has gone online for 2021, running from February 15-18 and offering over 120 events including discussions and interactive workshops. In its seventh year - and at a time where science has never been more in focus - one of the upcoming events is a Q&A with teenage naturalist Dara McAnulty.
The 16-year-old, the youngest recipient of the 2020 Wainwright Prize for UK nature writing for his Diary of a Young Naturalist, lives in Castlewellan with his family and will be talking about our connection to nature, something which we can all explore.
"And how incredible the natural world is and the wonder that inspires in us," he says.
"I'm also going to be talking a little bit about my book, because it took up such a massive part of my life, coming here [to Castlewellan] and the experiences that unfolded with it, and how that's shaped my life, but at the centre of it all is nature."
The teenager says he doesn't get nervous before a public speaking event but afterwards.
"I come out of the event going, 'oh my God did people like it?' and all my anxiety kicks in after the event because I feel like I almost shove it out of my mind before the event because that's distraction. Once it's done, I release it all and then I get post-nervous."
Being 16 and with one book critically acclaimed and another to be published in July, it's clear that age is only a number to Dara, and that young people's voices are important and need to be heard.
"I feel like that was one of the things that the book is proof that young people can write about the things that they love.
"It doesn't need to be nature but to allow that expression of thought from young people about the things that they care about was really, really important to me. And when the book did well I thought, 'Oh my goodness, we can actually do this, and our voices can be heard'. It gives me hope.
"I feel like what we have to say is as important as everybody else. And I hope that I can encourage people forwards.
"The book has helped me, encouraged me to be a bit more active, and to try and push myself out of my comfort zone."
Using words to encourage others is especially apt - 'the importance of words can never be understated' he says and 'a single word can change how you look at the world'.
Diary of a Young Naturalist chronicles Dara's encounters with nature and wildlife while juggling homework, friendships and exams and of course, his conservation and environmental activity. The writing is vivid and beautiful and captures readers' attention.
"I was writing the diaries on my blog and thought I could collect them and maybe give them to Twitter followers or for something for me to have," says Dara, who was diagnosed with Asperger's aged five.
"I thought it would be kind of small and then I kept writing. I think it was by the end of spring that I realised there was a book. I thought, 'Oh my word, I'm writing a book'.
"One of the interesting things about this book is usually when an author goes to write a book they know what the ending is going to be.
"The thing about a diary is I have no idea, because I'm writing and in nearly real time, I have no idea what the end of the book is going to be. I'm really hoping that it's a happy one," he laughs.
"My life just kind of coincided with me deciding to write the book, which I guess is one silver lining.
"When my mental health went downhill, the book allowed me to understand it in a sense. I could go over and think that's what went wrong, that's what went right."
He values having the diaries to re-read, and believes it's important for everyone to do, so as to be able to chart what's going on in our lives.
"Once you write it down, that's your old, past view.
"And then when you're present and you're looking back, you can go, 'okay, I was feeling happy that day or I wasn't feeling very happy'.
"But when you're living that day, you just feel like it's any other day.
"You never know how low or how high you've gone until you look back and see either the massive mountain behind you or the gaping abyss."
His main message is awareness and opening readers up to the world around them.
"I feel I'm sort of opening the curtains from the window and the readers get to choose what they're going to look at in a sense, and what they're going to remember.
"I just think that I want to show people this, not even show it because it's there for all to see, but point them in the direction of it."
While many may feel self-conscious about publishing something so personal, for Dara, it was important that Diary… was honest.
"If I'm not honest, people will pick it up instantaneously, because I feel like humans were really good at realising when a person is faking, especially with a diary which is quite a personal writing medium.
"And so I once I got myself to the mindset, okay I'm doing this thing, that helped me focus on not being self-conscious or not thinking about what I'm writing because I was just writing it as I would usually write a diary."
The A-level student says lockdown has been difficult because he enjoys exploring and although he understands why we should abide by the rules, he misses social contact with his peers.
"I've never before craved in my entire life social contact but now I do."
To be 16 and be an award-winning author is something Dara takes in his stride but again, he says, it's a reminder that everyone can make a difference.
"I feel like it's almost proof that age doesn't really matter. As young people we can make a difference in society at a lot earlier age than may have been seen. That's empowering."
His next book, Wild Child: A Journey Through Nature, is set for a summer publication - the cover was illustrated by Belfast artist Barry Falls who worked with Dara on his first book - and will take young naturalists on a multi-sensory journey through the natural world.
"I'm trying to put myself back into my younger years, back to the age of picking up feathers and exploring the world, but I'm trying to put it through a lens of almost a lack of knowledge, of trying to see the world in its pure form," says Dara, who adds that his second book is also personal to him.
"And then seeing how, when you meld the sensory elements and the knowledge elements together, where that ends up.
"It was really, really refreshing writing because it allowed me to put myself back into a person who I hadn't been for seven or eight years.
"I feel when a child sees a bird, they see a creature with wings and beautiful colours but for us, maybe we've seen the bird in our garden every day.
"I feel seeing it though childish eyes of wonder just captured me because it's one of the things that I desire, to almost re-experience that feeling again and this book allowed me to do that."
Wild Child will feature activities such as planting wild flowers and making a bird feeder.
"I love designing them," he says of the activities, "and trying to find cool things to do because I feel getting your hands a bit dirty can really bring you that bit closer to nature.
"I remember in primary school I had this book of activities. I loved them, and I just wanted to have a little bit of things to do because knowledge is one thing but being able to apply that knowledge is another."
His piece of advice - that it takes very little effort - for us to become more mindful of our outside spaces is to look for and appreciate detail.
"Pick up the little details that make the biggest picture. By focusing in on those, we can see how complex it is.
"From that complexity, you can see how beautiful and wondrous it is that all these different things are working so seamlessly together in this interlocking web.
"Opening your mind just a little bit to all of the little details, I think, is probably the easiest thing you can do.
"I think it's what you see every single day and we almost take for granted, all of those little things that make up our world.
"Then once you look at them as individual details, your entire world almost seems to expand."
The book lover who describes reading 'as knowledge on pages where you can absorb it' is also a fan of murder mystery author Agatha Christie.
"She always surprises me," he says. "I can usually, for most other crime [books] or whodunnits, work it out, unless the author cheats - but I see authors cheating as dishonourable.
"Agatha Christie never cheats. She gives you everything, she just misdirects you. She almost subverts your reality in the sense of you think it's this, but then she double bluffs you.
"I feel like if you read less Agatha Christies, the easier they would be to solve.
"But she knows you're looking for the bluff and you're almost playing a game with her."
A Q&A with Dara and author Shirley-Anne McMillan takes place on February 20 at 2.30pm. For information on all events see nisciencefestival.com