VOICES Ideas and Insight From Explorers
Throughout my life, I’ve occasionally felt a déjà vu kind of love for certain people, places, and things that I’ve never actually encountered before. Let’s call them les déjà aimés or the already loved. There have been quite a few of these special first-encounters throughout my life: the first eastern box turtle that ever crossed my path; the tadpole filled pond in the woods behind my grandfather’s house; and the blue swell of the Southern Blue Ridge. When I laid my eyes upon a rusty-patched bumble bee for the first time, that old familiar feeling presented itself once again, immediately filling me with a deep surge of compassion for this little bee with an oxidized, orange kiss of color.
I have spent the last 15 years documenting science fieldwork with my camera. I have followed researchers over glaciers and down rivers and through swamps and across oceans. I have shared freeze-dried dinners with them in wet tents in Alaska, celebrated birthdays aboard zodiacs in Antarctica, and swatted countless mosquitoes with them in Siberia.
After working as a photographer for over five years, I recently returned to school to study Conservation Science as a postgraduate student. It has been a challenge to exchange my camera for books and my mornings in the field for mornings in a lecture hall. But, mostly, it has been difficult to learn about the many challenges facing the natural world – from the mass extinction of frogs to the growing illegal wildlife trade. Thankfully, my professors have also focused on exposing me to solutions and to innovative new approaches to conservation. So, as I finish my degree this summer, I remain optimistic about the future – a future where I believe that both humans and nature can and will thrive.
I started out like most kids when I was young — with a thirst for adventure and an overflow of curiosity! Growing up with a woodland surrounding my house meant that on most days whenever I wasn’t playing video games I was exploring the great unknown of my Florida backyard. Catching bugs, green anoles (picture above), and snakes with my brother and sister was a way for us to learn about our world out in our own backyard. Being a deaf-blind (right ear/left eye) meningitis survivor has always presented challenges for me, but when I got my first camera at age 14, it opened an entirely new way for me to see and document the world, that paired perfectly with my strong interests in science and the environment.
The mission aboard the 1942 DC3 aircraft is aimed at measuring ice thickness and changes in the Arctic Ocean. Lead scientist, Dr. Thomas Krumpen, has been overseeing the campaign called TIFAX since 2010, covering the same polar region, including Fram Streight and above Northern Greenland towards Nord Pole each year in July -August. During the three weeks campaign in 2016, the team flew a total of fifty hours during 10 survey flights, surveying 2300 miles/3700 km of ice surface. Findings from the campaign revealed surprisingly low summer ice thickness measurements. Since 2010, the Arctic summer ice thickness has reduced by 42%, presumably due to both rising atmospheric and sea temperatures.
Sometime in May 2012, I found myself sitting on the damp forest floor of the Daintree rainforest in Queensland, Australia next to a sleeping cassowary. Cassowaries are huge flightless birds that live in the tropical forests of Australia and New Guinea. They look prehistoric; half-bird and half-dinosaur with fine, glossy-black feathers, a long featherless neck colored turquoise, red and orange, and an absurdly tall shiny-brown casque on top of their heads. Sadly, cassowaries are endangered across much of their range due to hunting, loss of forest habitat, and predation from feral pigs and dogs. It is estimated that fewer than 1500 Southern Cassowaries remain in the tropical forests of Queensland, Australia, and this is where I went to document these awesome birds.
With the Trump administration gearing up to expand border wall construction on the U.S.-Mexico border, it is more important than ever to gain a clearer picture of the land and people of this region, and the enduring environmental and human costs of a border policy focused on walls.
A new project, Embattled Borderlands, released today, allows viewers to take a virtual visit to this remote region, to hear the voices of its birds and frogs; to see the faces of its elusive cats and endearing reptiles; to experience its vast landscapes and starry skies; and to understand the plight of its most vulnerable human residents.
I was sitting lazily in front of our summer house in Swedish Lapland, enjoying the vacations. And then there was this SMS, sent by a good friend, working for the WWF Switzerland: Hydro power project on the Sense river: what do you think about that?
Sense River? A hydroelectric power plant in it? In the most beautiful Swiss river? I have to admit that my view about all that is perhaps a bit personal … But this is the river I learned to swim in as a little boy, later it was the river I started fly fishing. And most important: it is the last major river in Switzerland without any single dam or hydro electric plant.
In Northwest Ecuador we found the Chocó, an enchanted rainforest than could have the same or more biodiversity that the famous Amazon basin, and is one of the 25 global biodiversity hotspots. This means it has a countless number of different species, tons of them endemic – species that only occur there! Sadly, more than 95% of this forest has been cleared rendering it one of the most threatened tropical forests in the world – if not the most!
The iconic White Stork is a very adaptable, opportunistic species. Since the mid-1980s, increasing numbers of White Stork have chosen to stay on the European continent all year rather than migrate to Africa in winter. These resident birds rely almost exclusively on the guaranteed, abundant food supply from landfill sites throughout the year.
Yellowstone National Park, however extraordinary, is not self-sustaining. The ecosystem depends on surrounding “buffer lands” that give wildlife a place to migrate to for fawning season and when Yellowstone is locked in deep snow. Some of those places, like the Upper Hoback, aren’t well known outside of the region, yet as critical to sustainability as Yellowstone itself.
What YOU Can Do: Care for Nature. Purchase sustainably sourced foods. –1Frame4Nature is a collection of images and stories from around the globe of your personal connection to nature. However small, when combined with the actions of others, your individual actions can impact real and tangible outcomes for the preservation of our planet. Submit your story now! iLCP…
There have always been natural obstacles to the movement of plants and animals: climate, mountain ranges, oceans, but the pace of change with these obstructions offers a chance to adapt and therefore often ignites the flames of natural diversity. Human-wrought barriers however, whether they are suburban roads or international border walls, tend to have the opposite effect: they are sudden, defy nature’s logic and though some species may see benefits, the overall impact erodes biological diversity.
iLCP Fellow Jason Houston’s 1Frame4Nature: In September 2016, as part of an ongoing Collaboration with Rare’s global fisheries program, Fish Forever, I spent almost a month in the San Miguel Bay, Philippines. For three of those weeks I lived with Rodel Bolaños, a life-long fisherman, and his family on Caringo Island.
The more we know of our animal neighbors, the more likely we can become effective voices to protect them. Put a face on wildlife by taking photos of them in their urban environment. Are they content and secure in their habitat or at risk now or in the future? Has wildlife around you adapted to humans and structures? Show how you value your wildlife neighbors in your photos or words.