VOICES Ideas and Insight From Explorers
Many of my photographic assignments have taken me to the front lines of industrial fishing, often happening beyond national borders. In these distant waters there’s less control over how fishing is done, and often ocean wildlife ends up being netted, hooked or even harpooned during these wild west fishing practices. Crew on such vessels are also at the mercy of fishing companies and captains, and horror stories abound of abuse, slavery and squalid conditions dealt out in the pursuit of profit.
Svalbard. 78° north. Only 750 miles from the North Pole. We join Knut Sunnanå, chief scientist, and his team aboard the RV Helmar Hanssen for the first few days of a research cruise in the waters around Svalbard.
Over the years I hope I’ve learned a few things. I’ve learned that travelling the globe on short-lived smash and grab photographic raids is great fun but makes little difference to conservation. I’ve learned that conserving wildlife and wild places has very little to do with wildlife and wild places and everything to do with people and their value systems. Combining these two lessons led me to an obvious question a few years back: Where can I work most effectively? Clearly the answer lay close to home.
These photos come from Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. And by all means, if you ever have a chance to visit the snowy shores of the Chilkat outside Haines, Alaska, I encourage you to do it, especially after the tourists have left, and the temperature now causes ice crystals to form inside your nostrils. This preserve represents the best of who we are as a country. And I think, with everything going on right now, we can at least agree, that we need to remember the things we’ve done right.
Imagine a booming underwater powerhouse, overflowing with vibrant biodiversity; a vast, dynamic wonderland of adaptation in aquatic form. Primordial soup? Not quite–though coral reefs are themselves an irreplaceable vessel of life. From fish nurseries to coastline protection and pharmaceutical breakthroughs to diving meccas, coral reefs provide a multitude of ecological services and economic contributions. Awed by the endless infinity of life living upon life to degrees unimaginable to the naked eye, I count myself lucky to have spent time in these enchanting habitats in many parts of the world.
The humble mangrove forest is one of the most biologically important ecosystems that border our oceans. They act as the skin of our coastlines, managing the energy exchange between land and sea; and provide vital ecosystem services such as waste treatment, habitat, food resource, and recreation.
I have been on many research expeditions throughout the Gulf of California, Mexico, where I study these ecosystems and photograph them in action: acting as a nursery for yellow snappers, hosting migratory birds after their long flight, and buffering coastlines against storms.
When I was a child, I found that insects were like marvelous animals full of colors and shapes. While studying and learning about them, I also discovered that they had really interesting behaviors. Now as an iLCP Emerging League Photographer and biologist, I have been photographing insects for the last decade, showing how amazing they are, and highlighting what we could lose if we don’t do something right now.
Started in 2014, my long-term documentary project “Baby Giants” focuses on the conservation work of the critically endangered Kemp’s Ridley and other endangered sea turtles. Help is already underway to bring these sea turtle populations back from the brink, and I get to share this story of hope and invite you to join the efforts for sea turtles.
In early 2010 I pulled together a poster of the ten “Most Wanted” amphibians that led to a global search for frogs and salamanders lost to science. A little battle-weary from the unabated extinction of frogs and their kin, and seeking hope in the face of despair, I was buoyed by the improbable reappearance in Costa Rica of the Variable Harlequin Frog and inspired to wonder: what else might be out there?
I’ve been working on the topic of plastic pollution in the last few years. This is an issue that needs a dramatic change as soon as possible. Sometimes people come up to me and tell me that it’s a lost fight, but these kinds of wars have been won before. You can see for example how the toy industry was forced to use unleaded paint only (imagine how many toys China makes each day), and at the beginning you would think that you couldn’t go against a big monster like the toy industry. However, that battle was won and so can the one against plastics harming the environment and wildlife.
What YOU Can Do: Change some simple every day habits. Recycle more and save energy by: using less hot water, using energy safe light bulbs, buying seasonal and locally grown food, using public transportation, switching off the light when you leave a room…. Little daily actions will go a long way and make the difference.…
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.