A Bio Blitz is a short (usually one-day), intense team effort to discover as many different life forms as possible in one location. This often involves researchers and the general public working together to identify as many species as possible in a 24-hour period. To date, I have photographed over 45 Bio Blitzes from California to Maine and have done four with National Geographic.
For me, the Bio Blitz compasses all that I want to communicate to my audience about conservation and biodiversity and is a wonderful way to communicate with students and their parents about science! Depending on where they live, young people might get a chance to try their hand at species identification, photography, wildlife sketching, writing about nature, or the discovery of the natural history of their area. No two Bio Blitzes will be the same, as each one will be a reflection of the local environment. It is an opportunity for youth to not only enhance their appreciation of the environment through photography, art and exploration, but also to engage in true citizen science. This can be done through the iNaturalist Mobile Application, which makes use of the Encyclopedia of Life’s Species Collections, allowing participants to document species and upload their observations to a collective map that is available freely online.
Longleaf pine forest in Blackwater River State Forest, Florida by Todd Amacker
Images and text by Todd Amacker
One of North America’s most biodiverse forests, the longleaf pine forest of the Southeast, is missing from 97% of its historic range. As a proud Southerner, I’ve spent a great deal of time ambling through pine forests in the Florida panhandle. Recently, I’ve made an effort to use my photography and my words to portray exactly what has disappeared along with the forests themselves.
There are a lot of treasures in longleaf pine forests that make them special, both aesthetically and scientifically. It all starts with the longleaf pine tree itself, Pinus palustris. It’s resistant to fire, and that’s important when frequent fires sweep through the understory and flames lap at the trees’ exteriors. Layers of specially evolved, crusty bark protect its delicate innards. It is actually unhindered fire that gives life to the longleaf ecosystem and contributes to its aesthetic beauty. Because of the fire, the undergrowth is burned away and you can see between trees. (This is quite refreshing for forest enthusiasts, as most forests hamper your ability to enjoy the view.) Continue reading →
During the revolution Martín Luis Guzmán rode the train through Navojoa and looked over at the sierra and felt what we all do when we see its green folds rising up off the desert. We all wonder what is up there and in some part of us, that rich part where our mind plays beyond our commands, we all dread and lust for what is up there.
–Charles Bowden, The Secret Forest
In 2009 the Tucson based environmental group “Sky Island Alliance” launched a visionary initiative to explore, document and protect one of the world’s premier biodiversity hotspots, the Madrean Archipelago of the North American continent. This 70,000 square-mile region of sky-island mountain ranges, surrounded by “seas” of desertscrub and grasslands, straddles the borderlands of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico.
Commonly referred to as the Sky Islands, the Madrean Archipelago is a globally unique region where several major biogeographic provinces overlap, creating a region of biological richness found nowhere else on Earth. This richness caused Conservation International to name the region one of the world’s Biodiversity Hotspots in 2004. Despite its proximity to the U.S. border, the Mexican portion of this remote and rugged area has received little biological study; thus the Madrean Archipelago Biodiversity Assessment (MABA) was born, an international effort to study a globally important region.
With support from U.S. and Mexican experts in the fields of botany, entomology, ornithology, herpetology, mammalogy, and other disciplines, MABA expeditions are truly international and provide an opportunity to collect critical biodiversity data, foster graduate and undergraduate research, raise awareness about conservation in the region and develop important relationships with landowners, and land managers, on both sides of the border.
I have had the good fortune of being invited to participate in the MABA expeditions as the lead photographer since its inception. I often accompany a herpetologist into the field and provide photographic vouchers of the reptiles and amphibians we encounter. In addition, I document habitat types and capture images of the biologist at work.
After a day in the field, I continue to photograph herpetological, botanical, and entomological specimens brought back to camp by other teams of biologists. These animals must all be photographed that evening so that they may be returned, unharmed, to their point of capture the next morning. My images not only help document the diversity of life found in these remote mountain ranges, but also help to tell the story of this amazing project, its expeditions, and the many people involved.
Major findings from MABA expeditions include the discovery ofseveral new plant species as well as documenting many plant species previously unknown to the state of Sonora. MABA entomologists continue to make new discoveries, documenting more than 10 species of invertebrates that are new to science. Range extensions for a variety of species are frequently recorded.
One of the greatest achievements of the Madrean Archipelago Biodiversity Assessment has been the development of a growing, online database of biodiversity. It is a remarkable natural history tool that provides access to the region’s foremost collection of specimen records and species observations for anyone seeking to learn more about the Sky Islands. This database currently contains nearly 78,000 animal records and almost 35,000 plant records for the states of Arizona, New Mexico, Sonora, and Chihuahua. These data represent the products of MABA research expeditions as well as data from herbaria, museum collections, agencies and scientific literature. The database (www.madrean.org) is freely accessible to all.
Charles Hedgcock will share his experiences working with the MABA project and discuss some of the techiques he uses to document the amazing diversity of life found during the numerous MABA expeditions at the 2015 NANPA Summit taking place in San Diego, California from February 19th – 22nd. To learn more about the Summit and to register for this program and others like it, please visit www.naturephotographysummit.com.
Metamorphosis spawned out of a conversation I had one day in early 2012 with conservationist Gabby Wild. We were discussing the difficulties of raising concern for the plight of the most threatened group of all vertebrates, the amphibians, and committed to concocting a publicity campaign. We wanted to do something different, something that would make people look twice, or see amphibians in a new light. A few months later, we were in a studio in Los Angeles decorating a body-painted Gabby with live frogs and newts.
In my time as an amphibian biologist and a photographer I have shot (with a camera) a lot of frogs, but this shoot was different. Rather than wading mosquito-riddled swamps or hacking through thick jungle to find and photograph elusive frogs in their natural habitat, I was bringing them into the controlled environment of a studio and shooting them against the canvas of the human body. In doing so, I had to learn a whole new way of shooting. Instead of finding or waiting for the right light, I had to craft my own, and instead of patiently waiting for the action to unfold in front of me, I had to conceptualize and create compositions around a theme. It was both testing and creatively invigorating. Continue reading →
Amazon River Dolphins (Inia geoffrensis) WILD, Mother and baby swimming through flooded forest, Rio Negro, Amazonia, Brazil
Images by Kevin Schafer
Story and Gallery Edit By Miriam Stein
Let’s face it – Kevin Schafer has proved himself in the world of nature photography. His patience and dedication allows him to catch the moments in photography that we all dream of. Over the last few years, Kevin has circled the globe for his “Empty Ark” project, the goal of which is to photograph endangered species whose stories have never been told. I find it most important that Kevin is photographing these species, firstly because they are not the iconic polar bears, tigers, etc. Secondly, he is photographing them in their natural habitats and this is important because there may come a day when photographs are all we have left to remember these species.
About Kevin Schafer:
Kevin Schafer is an award-winning natural history photographer, whose photographs appear in all of the major science and nature publications in the US, including National Geographic, Smithsonian, Natural History and National Wildlife. He also works regularly with conservation organizations such as the Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund, and is a founding Fellow of the Int’l League of Conservation Photographers.
From Alaska to North Carolina, Mexico to South Africa, and everywhere in between, government leaders, indigenous peoples, scientists, oceanographers, writers, artists, and youth convened together in Salamanca, Spain for the 10th World Wilderness Congress (WILD10). The conference was held from the 4th – 10th of October and I was lucky enough to attend.
Launched by The Wild Foundation in 1977, the World Wilderness Congress is the world’s longest-running, international public conservation program and forum. Conservationists and environmentalists from around the world come together every four years to educate, train, network and share ideas on how to create a wilder world.