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Here at Arkive, we provide the ultimate multimedia guide to endangered species, and through our blog we’ll keep you up to date with news from the world of wildlife videos, photography and conservation, alongside the latest on our quest to locate imagery of the planet’s most wanted plants and animals.
Mar 19

Have you ever seen a wildlife film and wondered to yourself, who is the person behind the camera? Enter Rich and Richard Kern – the dynamic wildlife filmmaking father/son duo who capture incredible imagery of Florida’s magnificent wildlife and ecosystems and share it with over 1.5 million students! They are a more-than-worthy team to conclude Arkive’s Conservation Heroes series.

Rich (left) and Richard Kern out in the field.

Rich (left) and Richard Kern out in the field.

If you find Rich and Richard’s story inspiring, then click on the blue button below or at the end of the interview to see Rich and Richard’s “Wish List” of actions that would help them continue sharing their films with the world. Working together, we can support and promote conservation.

Kern wish list button

Can you share the story behind the beginning of Odyssey Earth and how the pieces came together?

Rich: I began as a filmmaker and I showed the films that I produced to travel adventure audiences all over the United States and Canada. In 1977, my wife and I started the non-profit Encounters in Excellence to teach students in the Miami-Dade area about Florida wildlife and ecosystems. This soon became a large series to over 50 schools per year.

Rich Kern and his wife, Judy, founders of Encounters in Excellence

Rich Kern and his wife, Judy, founders of Encounters in Excellence

However, I also wanted to find a way that students could have access to this type of educational material year round. My son, Richard came up with the idea of creating a website for the films he and I had produced. Teachers and students could now navigate this site and explore and discover the different resources available to them for lesson plans which became Odyssey Earth.

Richard: Our typical film presentation series runs from the Fall through early Winter. This past year my dad visited 25 schools and I visited 50 schools. We give 2-3 presentations for each school totaling about 130 presentations each year. We create different presentations for elementary school and then middle school and high school students reaching about 40,000 students each year.

Can you share a filmmaking moment that stands out to you whether it was a connection you made with a species you were filming or a moment of enlightenment about nature?

Rich: I was in Silver Springs, FL filming fish and I was quite focused. I didn’t realize that there was an alligator swimming behind me. I didn’t see it until it was practically in my lap. Once I understood that the alligator was more afraid of me than I was of it then I started following it and filming.

American alligators abound in Florida, USA

Richard: When my dad got home, he started going through the film, and my mother promptly told him that he should buy life insurance.

Have there been ways that you can measure the impact that your work has on students both in Florida and around the world?

Richard: One way that we measure our impact is through questionnaires and evaluations that we hand out to teachers and students.

Rich: The average rating we receive from teachers is a 95% “excellent” for our presentations. I think it also significant that we fill our quotas for teachers and schools that want us to present. We recently made some films that dealt with the food web as well as more specific issues like the rise of sea levels.

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Richard Kern snorkeling and filmmaking in creek

Can you share your typical kit (equipment) list?

Rich: Back in the day, you needed 16mm film equipment and changed your film every 3 minutes.

Richard: With new technology, however it’s changed what you pack. First off you need a backpack to carry all your supplies. Usually we take a fluid head tripod, a small hi-def Canon camcorder, and a digital single lens reflex camera. Getting into specifics though, I always pack a light shotgun microphone, lenses, and an external digital sound recorder. As for essentials in Florida, water to stay hydrated, sunscreen, and mosquito repellent is a must.

Sometimes, a filmmakers kit can be just as interesting to the subject as it is to the filmmakers themselves!

Can you also share your equipment tip list for amateur filmmakers?

Richard: If you already have a handheld camera, then that is a good place to start. I would recommend a fluid head tripod.

Rich: It makes your shot smoother, which makes the film less distracting for the viewer. You can also get a pan-tilt cradle where you can place your camera to get wide angle shots. You also should get a camera with a wi-fi capability which allows you to use it remotely.

What would you advise someone who is starting to look at how to get into wildlife filmmaking?

Rich: Go to college and study biology. Filmmaking you can pick up as you go. As a filmmaker, you have to learn to craft a story. You want to make sure that you get the science right and that you engage your audience. You should also take a journalism course or English course in college, it helps you to effectively create the narrative.

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Rich Kern filming seals early in his career

In your opinion, what is the advantage of visual media compared to other ways of storytelling?

Richard: The written word comes in many different languages that cannot be understood by everyone. Meanwhile, the visual is universal. It’s a universal language. Visual media can be easily digested and seen by everyone.

Finally, what do you find most rewarding in your field of wildlife filmmaking?

Rich: I love it when I capture a rare species behavior. To get it on the screen and get it right the first time is worth a lot of excitement.

Richard: You can look at flora and fauna as puzzle pieces. Seeing how those puzzle pieces work together, finding the relationships is amazing.

 

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The Kerns have been fortunate enough to film a variety of species in incredible global locations

From reading about Heroes to becoming one yourself 

Inspired by Rich and Richard’s story to take action? Please click on the button below to make a pledge today to take an action like sharing their story socially, helping to spread the word further, to donating to their work to educate others about Florida wildlife and ecosystems! Whichever you choose, your pledge to take action matters to the Kerns, to Arkive, and to the incredible species and habitats of Florida.

Take Action!

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Mar 13

Arkive’s Week in Review — Wildlife News ICYMI: Arkive has compiled some of the biggest and most interesting headlines from this week. Article originally published on Friday, Mar 6, 2015

As forests burn, conservationists launch global wildlife rescue

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Scarlet macaw landing

Extreme events and long-term warming caused by climate change compound the existing threats to wildlife like habitat loss and degradation. Using small aircraft to detect and map threats like forest fires and illegal clearing can significantly reduce the incidence of severely damaging forest fires. One of many affected forests is that of Guatemala, which is home to the scarlet macaw and the ocellated turkey.

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Ocellated-turkey-side-view

Ocellated turkey side view

Article originally published on Saturday, Mar 7, 2015

Four large species of snake added to restricted import list

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Reticulated python juvenile coiled around sapling

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared that the Beni anaconda, green anaconda, DeSchaunsee’s anaconda, and the reticulated python are “injurious” under the Lacey Act. The Lacey Act prohibits the export, import, buying, selling or acquisition of wildlife and plant species named on the list.

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Green anaconda close up

Article originally published on Sunday, Mar 8, 2015

Back from the brink of extinction: hunting for the world’s rarest frog

Corroboree-frog-crawling-on-moss

Corroboree frog crawling on moss

A research team found only four coroboree frogs within the southern part of New South Wales, its entire range. Recently, experts from Melbourne Zoo and Taronga Zoo along with NSW wildlife officials released 80 frogs into a fungus-free area of New South Wales within Kosciuszko National Park.

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Article originally published on Monday, Mar 9, 2015

Amphibians, already threatened, face increased susceptibility to disease from stress, research shows

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Red-legged salamander on leaves

Researchers treated red-legged salamanders with either corticosterone, a stress hormone, or oil. They then exposed them to the chytrid fungus. Researchers found that “stressed” salamanders had a greater abundance of the chytrid fungus.

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Article originally published on Tuesday, Mar 10, 2015

The truth about giant pandas

Infant-giant-panda-portrait

Infant giant panda portrait

Thinking of the giant panda as cute and cuddly is only half the truth. In reality, the giant panda is a formidable species  who delivers one of the highest bite forces of any carnivore.

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Article originally published on Wednesday, Mar 11, 2015

If apes go extinct, so could entire forests

Male-bonobo-lying-down

Male bonobo lying down

Many tree and plant species in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are purely dependent upon the bonobo for seed dispersal. If the bonobos disappeared it could create a cascading extinction cycle.

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Article originally published on Thursday, Mar 12, 2015

World’s whaling slaughter tallied at 3 million

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Blue whale underwater

In the last century, nearly 3 million cetaceans were wiped out. Some estimate that blue whales have been depleted by up to 90%. The North Atlantic right whale also hovers on the brink of extinction.

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North Atlantic right whale swimming

Enjoy your weekend! William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA

Mar 12
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Subir Chowfin with the forests he has helped to protect in the background

Ever wonder what  a person who dedicated ten years of his life to preserving 450 vital hectares of forest in India looks like? Meet Subir Chowfin, wildlife researcher and the next inspirational person in Arkive’s Conservation Heroes series!

If you find Subir’s story inspires you, click on the blue button below or at the end of the interview to see Subir’s “Wish List” of conservation actions that would make a world of difference for his work.  As a team, we can each take action today to support conservation!

Subir's wish list button

A Stunning Ecosystem with a Tumultuous History

This Arkive Conservation Hero’s story Pauri Garhwal's Uttarakhand Districtbegins in the Garhwal Himalaya in the Pauri Garhwal district of the state of Uttarakhand in India where, thanks to the efforts of a local wildife researcher and his mother,  450+ hectares of forested land in The Gadoli and Manda Khal Fee Simple Estates are forever protected.

A walk through the estates reveals a bounty of  predominantly oak and pine forests interspersed with grassy hill banks and rocky crags. The forests also house an incredible abundance of wildlife such as leopards, barking deer, rhesus macaque and feature endemic species such as the cheer pheasant.

The forests of the Gadoli and Manda Khal Fee Simple Estates are prime habitat for leopards

Interestingly, the Gadoli and Manda Khal Fee Simple Estates initially belonged to the British East India Company and were managed as Tea Estates. From the late 1800s to the 1900s the estates changed ownership several times with a substantial 1,100+ acres landing with Rev. David Albert Chowfin.  It soon became clear though that the forests were suffering from illegal development activities in certain areas in violation of the forest and environmental laws of the country.  Some of these activities include unsanctioned road construction, illegal dumping of garbage, and land encroachment meaning humans are building houses and tending agricultural lands further and further within the Gadoli and Manda Khal Fee Simple Estates forest. With the expansion of unchecked human activities in the forest, it became clear that something would need to happen to protect and conserve the wildlife.

A Conservation Hero Emerges

To put a halt to this activities, local citizen and wildlife researcher Subir Chowfin filed a complaint in 2006 to the Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) in Pauri. Unfortunately, neither the Land Revenue Department nor the local forest department chose to take any action. In response, Subir took even greater action and filed a public interest litigation before the National Green Tribunal in the nation’s capital, New Delhi.

Subir and his mother Christine worked for ten years to save the forests of the Gadoli and Manda Khal Fee Simple Estates from illegal human activities, home to rhesus monkeys among other wildlife

After nearly a decade long battle with different agencies, Subir along with his mother Christine Chowfin finally achieved results. The National Green Tribunal ordered that all non-forest activities be stopped on 450 hectares of the Estates. The Tribunal also ordered the state government of  Uttarakhand to declare the 450 hectares as either reserve forest/protected forest or private forest.

Landscape of Gadoli Fee Simple Estate

From Protecting Forests to Building Conservation Programs

Through the Gadoli and Manda Khal Wildlife Conservation Trust set up to support the forest, Subir works to preserve and protect the wildlife in the Estates by pursuing a long list of fascinating activities such as supporting field wildlife research projects and developing educational programs for the local community and school children. The Trust also established a sustainable agricultural program that helps promote the environmental and ecological benefits of organic farming. Furthermore, as part of their agriculture program, the Trust employs women from the hill regions of  Uttarakhand providing them with regular, stable salaries. Subir believes programs like these help to involve the community as a whole within the process of conservation and gives them a reason to preserve these forests.

Stunning landscape of The Gadoli and Manda Khal Fee Simple Estate

 From reading about Heroes to becoming one yourself 

Inspired by Subir’s story to take action? Please click on the button below to make a pledge today to take a conservation action – actions that range from sharing Subir’s story socially to help spread the word further to donating to his nonprofit organization that protects these forests! Or maybe you are a recent graduate or scientists that sees the Estates as an incredible opportunity to dig into Indian wildlife research and conservation work. No matter your interest, every action matters.  Please make a pledge today! 

Take Action

Subir's wish list button

Mar 6

Arkive’s Week in Review — Wildlife News

ICYMI: Arkive has compiled some of the biggest and most interesting headlines from this week.

Article originally published on Friday, Feb 27, 2015

Salish Sea seagull populations halved since 1980s

Glaucous-winged-gull-in-flight-ventral-view

Glaucous winged gull in flight

Researchers believe that the decline in the number of glacous winged gulls reflects changes in the availability of marine food. Considering that gulls are the ultimate diet generalist, their decline suggests some profound changes to local marine ecosystems.

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Article originally published on Saturday, Feb 28, 2015

European beavers pair up for life and never cheat

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Juvenile Eurasian beaver feeding

Less than 5 percent of animals are believed to pair together for life, yet not without instances of cheating. One of the exceptions appears to be the Eurasian beaver who is completely faithful to its partner for its entire life.  Conversely, the American beaver is known to mate with others besides their partner.

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Young American beaver feeding on leaves

 Article originally published on Sunday, Mar 1, 2015

Hoary bat may become Hawaii’s state mammal

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Hoary bat roosting

A bill has been introduced to designate the endangered hoary bat as the state’s official land mammal. They are solitary creatures that have a wingspan of only 12 inches.

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 Article originally published on Monday, Mar 2, 2015

Incredibly rare bird sighted

Aldabra-rail

Aldabra rail

The critically endangered Zapata rail (Cyanolimnas cerverai) was finally seen for the first time in almost four decades. Fewer than 400 Zapata rails are estimated to exist. They belong to the genus Rallidae which includes the Aldabra rail.

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 Article originally published on Tuesday, Mar 3, 2015

Peacocks’ tails make noises too low for humans to hear

Male-Indian-peafowl-displaying

Male Indian peafowl displaying

Peacocks make ‘infrasound’ noises with their tails that are about as loud as a car going by a few meters away. Researchers hypothesize that in males the sound could be used to attract females or ward away other males.

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 Article originally published on Wednesday, Mar 4, 2015

Last ditch: Mexico finally gets serious about saving the vaquita

Vaquita-calf-at-the-surface

Vaquita calf at the surface

There are reportedly less than 100 vaquita on the planet. The Mexican government announced that it would ban gillnet fishing in the vaquita’s habitat for two years and fisherman would be compensated for their lost income.

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Article originally published on Thursday, Mar 5, 2015

WCS re-discovers ‘extinct’ bird in Myanmar

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Jerdon’s babbler

Jerdon’s babbler had not been seen in Myanmar since July 1941. At the beginning of the 20th century, the species was common in the vast natural grassland that once covered the Ayeyarwady and Sittaung flood plains around Yangon.

View original article

Enjoy your weekend!

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA 


Mar 5

We continue Arkive’s Conservation Heroes series with the amazing Dr. Alessandro Catenazzi, an amphibian researcher and Arkive media contributor who recently discovered  a new species of water frog with his team in central Peru. Dr. Catenazzi shares how we can halt the spread of chytrid, the role of climate change in its spread, and how he and  his team discovered the new frog species.

Dr. Alessandro Catenazzi

 

And did you know that you, yes you, can take an action right now to support Dr. Catenazzi’s work and the future of amphibians in South America? Dr. Catenazzi  has offered several conservation actions on his “Arkive’s Conservation Heroes Wish List” that support the conservation of  amphibians. If you find his story truly inspiring (or you simply love amphibians), please click on the wish list button below, or at the end of the interview and pledge to take one action to support amphibian conservation. United as one, we can help promote conservation!

 

Congratulations on discovering a new frog species in Peru; how exciting! Inquiring minds want to know the story behind the discovery; can you share?

Often times several years can pass between the discovery of a species and the publication of the study based upon the new species. Sometimes as much as 20 years. I discovered this new species, Telmatobius ventriflavum along with coauthor Victor Vargas in October 2012. We were monitoring frog populations in central Peru as part of a monitoring project of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Center for Conservation Education and Sustainability and Peru LNG.  We had just finished for the day, and on our way back to the hotel, we stopped along the road at a creek under a bridge. It was an unplanned stop and it was there that we saw T. ventriflavum. It had a striking coloration for a water frog. I was relatively confident that it was a new species. My other hypothesis was that it was the species Telmatobius intermedius that had not been seen for a long time. I went to a museum to view the specimen they had of T. intermedius. The significant differences between T. intermedius and T. ventriflavum were the bigger size, the smooth skin, and the bright orange coloration of the new species’ ventral side.  Based on this I had a sensible reason to believe that it was a new species.

Photo of the new water frog species discovered by Dr. Catenazzi and his team

Although the small water frog is only just discovered, chytrid is already present within its habitat. What is the current status of this new species?

As of this time its status is uncertain, since we know T. ventriflavum only from this location. Chytrid was found in the area, but not at high concentrations that could be considered deadly. Concentrations of 10000-100000 zoospores on frog’s skin signify dangerous concentrations, but we did not find that here. There were a couple of zoospores present. Warm temperatures are not good for chytrid and this species was found in an area where daily temperatures can be high. We found a total of 7 adults, one male and six females. We kept one male and two females for further assessment, the rest were released. There were also about 43 tadpoles present, of which we kept a few.

Side view of the new water frog species discovered in Peru by Dr. Catenazzi and his team

Side view of the new water frog species discovered in Peru by Dr. Catenazzi and his team

Need a refresher on chytrid? Check out Dr. Catenazzi’s first Arkive spotlight in 2010 where he shared more in-depth information on the devastating effects of the chytrid fungus on amphibian populations.

Do you think the spread of chytrid is related to climate change?

Well, it depends on how you define climate change. Some define it purely based on changes in the average temperature and others include the occurrence of extreme weather events. At this time, chytrid is an emergent pathogen. The chytrid strain that affects frogs was only formally described in 1999. We still don’t know much about how it spreads. It could be through a variety of vectors like water, clouds, wind or even getting transported by vehicles. What can be said definitively is that the zoospores require water. To look at how climate change affects chytrid you must look at the local level. There is no doubt that temperature variation will affect the dynamics of disease to some extent. I cannot however, specifically say the degree to which climate change is a factor. Furthermore, chytrid  encompasses multiple strains that potentially get spread through the pet trade and the transfer of goods that occurs in the world.

Many of Arkive’s followers are big fans of amphibians. Can you suggest ways that people reading this can support your research, the survival of the small water frog, or help halt the spread of chytrid?

Well, especially if you travel a lot; it is better to have different sets of clothing for each place at which you reside. If you have boots in your home, do not take those boots with you to a different country. Since boots can carry liquid they might help carry the water from different environments.  If this is not possible then bleach your boots and clothing to prevent the spread of foreign organisms.  Secondly, do not release pets into the wild. Introducing a non-native species to a different environment can cause serious issues. Moreover, in 2013, a chytrid strain that affects only salamanders was formally described. If you have a salamander as a pet get it tested to make sure that it is not infected with or is a carrier of chytrid.

Harlequin frog being swabbed by scientist for chytrid fungus

From reading about Heroes to becoming one yourself 

Inspired to take action to support Dr. Catenazzi and the amphibians of the world? Please click on the button below to make a pledge today to take a conservation action – actions that range from sharing Dr. Catenazzi’s story socially to help spread the word further, to donating to nonprofit organizations that support Dr. Catenazzi’s amphibian conservation work such as the Amazon Conservation AssociationEvery action matters, please consider making a pledge today! 

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