Jennifer Adler – Young Photographer Profile

Photographs by Jennifer Adler

Interview by David C. Lester

 

Jennifer Adler explores underwater. © Jennifer Adler

Jennifer Adler has been obsessed with the ocean all of her life.  She has spent hours and days either on it or in it.  She has turned her passion into a profession with a background in marine biology, and in 2018, will earn a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Ecology at the University of Florida.  Jennifer has spent time with the U.S. Geological Survey in Florida as a biologist, in Gainesville, Florida where she first started learning about the freshwater springs in the state.  These springs are direct connections to the underlying aquifer that provides 92 percent of Floridians with their drinking water.

 

A plume of Rhodamine WT erupts from the Mammoth Spring vent at Silver Spring at sunset as a scientist free dives in the foreground. Rhodamine is a non-toxic water tracing dye that helps researchers understand how the water moves and flows as it emerges from the acquire and travels out the river. The science behind these hydrological studies is complex, but photos can help engage a wider audience and visual storytelling can share results outside of scientific journals. © Jennifer Adler

 

Jennifer has developed and implemented an immersive environmental educational program called “Walking On Water,” that aims to teach the next generation about the freshwater beneath their feet. The program is funded by the University of Florida, the National Geographic Society, and Florida Sea Grant.  There are three parts to the program — first, a field trip to the springs where students are able to swim in, explore, and photograph the springs;  next, Jennifer visits to the classroom to teach students more about the springs through a 360 degree virtual tour of the aquifer she shot last year, and finally the students’ photos are featured in an exhibit in the local community and online.

 

A cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) dives into the flowing green grasses of the Rainbow River as a canoe paddles downstream. © Jennifer Adler

 

A key focus for Jennifer, besides working with kids, is using her imagery to communicate both science and conservation.  She has shot underwater in the springs for the past six years and has an extensive scientific understanding of these ecosystems that helps her tell visual stories that effectively communicate science and help Floridians understand and connect with their freshwater. She has shared her work on the TEDx stage and her photography documenting a complex dye trace study at Silver River was picked up by National Geographic.

 

Looking up from the bottom of Jug Hole, a silhouetted swimmer appears to hover in the treetops, suspended in air-clear freshwater. She is suspended in water from the acquire, which also supplies drinking water to more than 92 percent of Florida’s growing population. © Jennifer Adler

 

“One of the main goals of my work is to help people understand where their freshwater comes from and why it matters,” Jennifer says. “Documenting science and conservation projects helps bring research and stories to a wider audience who may not usually read peer-reviewed journals, and spending long hours underwater documenting fresh water ecosystems allows me to take people places that they will never see or perhaps show them a familiar place in a new light.”

 

Blue reflections swirl in the sky as water flows from the base of the limestone canyons. There are more than six “Blue Springs” in Florida, but this is one of the few that has actually remained blue in recent years as nuisance algae has overwhelmed many spring ecosystems. This particular Blue Spring is the most recent addition to the Florida State Parks system; In October 2017, it became Florida’s 175th state park. © Jennifer Adler

 

Jennifer, along with many other Floridians, is concerned about the proliferation of algae in springs, and her work aims to communicate about this complex ecological problem that impacts the state’s critical freshwater ecosystems.  Lyngbya is a type of nuisance algae in the springs that can produce toxins and even build up a sheath that makes it hard for grazers such as snails to consume.  “The causes of algal growth in flowing waters like the springs is incredibly complex, and there isn’t a simple, quick-fix solution like people want to believe,” Jennifer says.  “One of the largest problems is that people don’t necessarily understand how their everyday actions are connected to the aquifer beneath their feet.  If we can help people connect with their freshwater and raise the next generation with a new relationship with water, or water ethic, we’ll be on the right track.

 

 

Underwater meadows are mirrored just beneath the surface in Blue Spring’s gin-clear freshwater (Sagittaria kurziana). © Jennifer Adler

 

Asked about her association with NANPA, Jennifer says that “I found out about NANPA through Gabby Salazar two years ago in Alaska during the Art Wolfe Next Generation Photographers Grant.  Most other grantees were NANPA members and it seemed like a great group to join.”  She adds that having a supportive community of like-minded people has been helpful over the past few years..  Jennifer was also awarded an opportunity to participate in NANPA’s college student program (which is available to graduate students), and this solidified her commitment to the organization  There were a number of Ph.D. candidates who attended the workshop.  Jennifer is represented by National Geographic Creative.  You can find more of her work here.