Aug 19

We’ve recently added some fantastic images to ARKive from one of our new media donors, Heath Holden, and we jumped at the opportunity to hear a little more from Heath about his work.

Can you tell us about yourself and give us a bit of a run down on your photographic background?

Hi! I’m Heath Holden, I work as a freelance photographer and photojournalist for various clients around Tasmania and also interstate. I started out shooting photos of my friends riding BMX and a few landscapes when we went away on trips to the USA, Canada etc… there is so much beauty out there in this world. I guess it all snowballed from there wanting to take better shots and learn more about the art. My first real photography job was for a daily newspaper here in north west Tasmania, The Advocate. I worked here for about 18 months covering news, sport, features etc. During this time I learnt a lot about photography, those little tricks and techniques I’ll never forget. Work slowed a bit when the financial crisis hit town, I had some choices to make and left Tasmania for a staff job with Wildlife Reserves Singapore (parent company of the Singapore Zoo, Jurong Bird Park, Night Safari and now River Safari) as the in-house photographer, documenting all the zoological procedures which were then sent out for editorial use around S.E Asia. I also worked with the advertising and promotions department shooting the work for campaigns and other commercial needs, image archiving, educational content etc…

My work is represented by Lonely Planet Images, (which is now handled by Getty Images).

Brown bear photo

Your recent contribution to ARKive’s collection contained some fresh Tasmanian devil images, how did you come about the idea of photographing Tasmanian devils like this?

I had the idea while still living in Singapore, I knew I would leave once my contract was finished so I started to think of meaningful photography projects which were unique and technically challenging, and the Tasmanian devil came to mind straight away. It’s very unique and also facing a challenging future due to the facial tumour disease spreading. After searching the internet and various photo libraries for Tasmanian devil images which were shot purely in the wild (this was an important factor to me) under natural conditions (no bait) which had some kind of wow factor, I found very little. This was it, I knew I had to do it!

Tasmanian devil photo

Sounds like quite a learning process! What’s been the biggest hurdle in this project?

Well… hurdles huh, how much time do we have? I shot an email to an old friend who is a zoologist and works with devils, told him my idea and he said I’d need to use camera traps, basically no other way to do it. I had no idea about these at all or where to look! The bag of worms was about to open… (Internet search then fast forward a bit). Studying videos of snow leopards and tigers being documented with camera traps, I started breaking them down to get some kind of idea of equipment and techniques used by others. I soon bought some infra-red sensors/triggers and the hunt for the more gear began! There have been many little hurdles along the way, waterproofing, locking, sync cables and splitters for multiple flashes, flash misfires and dead batteries… I eventually worked out which flashes to use saving me lugging a load of batteries out every morning to fill the battery packs, 12 AAs! That gets tiring, also there is this fancy cable I need to get which will hopefully solve the problem of missing the first shot while the flash comes to life. Lighting is very important with this project, Tasmanian devils being nocturnal almost never wander around in daylight so it’s always crucial for the flashes to work when I want them to. Generally the issues are getting smaller the further I go and I’m feeling very in control of the setup now, in the beginning I would setup and think “oh I hope it works” but now I know it will work. I used to be a mechanic for about 6 years so I feel fairly handy when it comes to making housings for my cameras and strobes. I have a buddy who’s a great sheet metal worker and welder, he whipped up a couple of alloy boxes for me which I then crafted into a nice housing to fit mid range DSLR cameras and 14mm lens.

Tasmanian devil photo

Are there any projects in the pipeline, or species you’d like to focus on in the future?

Definitely, I’ll be working on more projects all the time to grow my portfolio and skills to the highest possible level. The aim of my work is to create unique images of wildlife and nature which stand out from what people have already seen, in terms of new angles, techniques and overall image quality. I want readers to be stunned with amazement! My devil work as an example – yes, there are plenty of scientists and organisations here camera trapping, but they’re only using the basic trail cam setups which really are no good for reproduction at an editorial level, that’s where the skills of a photographer come in to play, to UP the quality for the show, not just for monitoring purposes. As for species, I’d like to do some work on the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle, this is a sub-species, but larger than the more common wedge-tailed eagle. These birds are huge with a possible wingspan of over 2 metres, and they are wise, getting close is very tough! I like a challenge so this could be the next one.

Short-beaked echidna photo

What role do you think wildlife photography can play in conservation?

Wildlife photography is extremely important in conservation and awareness now, and it is getting more important every day, it really is the only voice the animals have. Photography helps raise public awareness in visual ways that scientific data can’t, it triggers emotion and a direct connection. We need to be smart in the way we use natural resources and find a healthy balance, we can all live on this planet but we need to look after it and not let money, greed and endless corporate growth drive everything to self destruction.

Australian pelican photo

Heath Holden.
0487 407 901. (Australian code is +61)
Aug 3
Photo of Wollemi pine leaves

Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis)

Species: Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis)

Status: Critically Endangered (CR)

Interesting Fact: The Wollemi pine is the only surviving member of an ancient group of plants that dates back to the time of the dinosaurs.

More information: An ancient and unusual tree, the Wollemi pine was thought to have been extinct for two million years before it was found growing in a remote gorge in Wollemi National Park, Australia, in 1994. This tall conifer produces both male and female cones on the same plant, with the female cones occurring on the higher branches and producing small, brown, papery seeds which are dispersed by the wind. The Wollemi pine can also reproduce vegetatively, resulting in numerous trunks arising from a single tree. Individuals of this long-lived species may potentially reach 500 to 1,000 years old.

The Wollemi pine has an extremely limited distribution, and fewer than 100 mature individuals now remain in the wild. The species may have been undergoing a slow, natural decline for thousands of years, but it is now under threat from fire, exotic weeds, disease, and any trampling or disturbance by unauthorised visitors. Changing rainfall and temperature patterns associated with climate change may also be a potential threat. Fortunately, this unique conifer is legally protected and a recovery plan is in place to outline management measures. In addition, access to the site where it occurs is restricted. The Wollemi pine is now being grown commercially and the plants distributed worldwide in an effort to protect the wild individuals from collectors and to generate income for this species’ continued conservation.

 

Find out more about the Wollemi pine at The Wollemi Pine and The Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust – Wollemi pine.

See more images of the Wollemi pine on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Jul 23

As a Primary Teacher in the Kimberley I have utilised ARKive’s resources over several years as the content is engaging and relevant to the knowledge base of my students; 77% of whom are Aboriginal from many different language groups across the Kimberley; an area three times the size of the UK.

I thought I would share a couple of examples of how I have used ARKive education resources and how they have worked for me and my students.

Keys and classification

Identification keys – sharks and raysWith the implementation of The Australian Curriculum I have found ARKive’s classification resources specifically meet the Year 7 Biological Science content descriptor ACSSU111 which states “There are differences within and between groups of organisms; classification helps organise this diversity” (ACARA).

My students particularly enjoy the ‘Sharks and Rays Identification’ activities as our community is located on the edge of a crocodile infested tidal mangrove habitat and most students engage in recreational fishing and hunting activities. Students of all abilities are able to navigate the identification keys easily and the accompanying presentations on shark and ray identification and classification resources make the lesson preparation seamless. The other activities provided engage students over a series of lessons and I normally conclude the unit by getting my students out of the classroom with a visit to a Munkayarra Wetland. During the visit students use an identification key similar to the ARKive keys to identify macro invertebrates they collected.

Students using classification keys at Munkayarra Wetland © Barbara Sing

Students using classification keys at Munkayarra Wetlands

Human Impacts on the Environment

Human Impacts on the Environment education resourcesAlthough my students have some idea of the impact of plastic in the marine environment the ‘Human Impacts on the Environment’ resource was certainly an eye opener for many of them. The module explores the different ways humans can have negative impacts on the environment and endangered species. I recommend it highly as a resource for Sustainability, Science as a Human Endeavour and also Chemical Science.

Spreading the word

I easily keep up to date with new resources through the ARKive facebook page and share the resources with other teachers and environmental groups.

Thanks for providing a growing useable resource for teachers globally!

Barbara Sing Derby District High School (K-12), West Kimberley, Western Australia

Jun 22
Photo of leaf-scaled sea snake

Leaf-scaled sea snake (Aipysurus foliosquama)

Species: Leaf-scaled sea snake (Aipysurus foliosquama)

Status: Critically Endangered (CR)

Interesting Fact: The leaf-scaled sea snake is able to remain underwater for up to two hours before resurfacing for air.

Named for the characteristic leaf-like shape of its scales, the leaf-scaled sea snake is a relatively small snake which spends its entire life at sea. Like other sea snakes, it shows a number of adaptations to its aquatic lifestyle, including a flattened, paddle-like tail for swimming, valves in the nostrils which prevent water entering the lung, and a gland under the tongue which excretes excess salt from the body. The leaf-scaled sea snake lives in shallow waters and gives birth to live young. It feeds on small coral reef fish, which it immobilises with its venom.

The leaf-scaled sea snake has one of the most restricted ranges of any sea snake, occurring in just two reefs in the Timor Sea, and occasionally being seen off the northwest coast of Australia. This species was once one of the most commonly seen sea snakes in its range, but has not been recorded in surveys since 2001. The exact reasons for this are unclear, but could be to do with rising sea temperatures and the degradation of its reef habitat, which in turn reduces prey availability. All sea snakes are legally protected in Australia, and measures are underway to monitor and reduce any impacts of fisheries on sea snake species. One of the reefs the leaf-scaled sea snake inhabits is a nature reserve, but unfortunately none of the habitat management plans for this area specifically target this rare marine reptile.

 

Find out more about sea snakes at IUCN – Sea snakes.

See images of the leaf-scaled sea snake on ARKive.

Find out more about other sea snake species on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

May 1

You may not have heard of it before, but located 60 kilometres off the north-west coast of Western Australia, Barrow Island is one of the most important conservation reserves in the region. The island itself is around 25 kilometres long and 10 kilometres wide, and the arid landscape is mainly dominated by spinifex grasslands.

Barrow Island photo

Around 2,800 species have been recorded on Barrow, including 24 species and subspecies found nowhere else on Earth. Thanks to a world renowned Quarantine Management System to prevent the introduction of harmful invasive species and diseases to the island, some rare species are able to thrive here, despite having been driven to extinction on the mainland.

Marvellous marsupials

Burrowing bettong photo

The burrowing bettong or ‘boodie’ no longer exists on mainland Australia, and until recently was only found on three islands off the coast of Western Australia including Barrow. The only burrowing member of the kangaroo family, this nocturnal marsupial lives in small groups in an underground burrow or warren which may have just a single entrance, or up to 100! Other marsupials found on Barrow Island include the golden bandicoot, the black-footed rock-wallaby and the Barrow Island euro, a subspecies of the common wallaroo.

Birds on Barrow

Spinifexbird photo

Designated as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International, 119 bird species have been recorded on Barrow. The island supports a large number of migratory shorebirds including pied oystercatchers and fairy terns, as well as raptors such as the brahminy kite and osprey. Other species commonly seen here include an endemic subspecies of the white-winged fairy wren and the spinifexbird, the most abundant bird on the island, which thrives in the spinifex grasslands.

The predatory perentie

Perentie photo

The second largest lizard in the world after the Komodo dragon, the perentie is the top predator on Barrow Island. Prey is easily tracked as the perentie has extremely good eyesight and uses its long tongue to pick up chemical signals in the air. Like other monitor species, the perentie is able to run extremely fast over great distances, reaching speeds of up to 40 kilometres per hour, about the same speed as an Olympic sprinter! Once caught, prey is shaken violently until dead, and then swallowed whole.

An unusual amphibian

Main's frog photo

Only one species of frog is found on Barrow Island, a desert burrowing frog called Main’s frog. Only seen at the surface during the summer wet season, Main’s frog is able to survive in this arid habitat by spending the rest of the year underground in a state of torpor, retaining water inside its body by sealing itself inside a cocoon. It emerges to breed following heavy rains, with the female laying up to 1,000 eggs into temporary pools of water.

Travelling turtles

Green turtle photo

Important sea turtle rookeries are found on the shores of Barrow Island, with green turtles and flatback turtles coming ashore to nest between November and February. Undertaking tremendous feats of navigation, an adult green turtle returns to the same beach to breed each season, and some populations of green turtle migrate thousands of kilometres to feed and breed. We have recently developed a brand new Turtle Life Cycle education module to teach students aged 7-11 about the lives of these incredible turtles.

Natural resources on Barrow

Oil pumpjack photo

As well as being an area of great conservation importance, Barrow Island is also Australia’s largest operating onshore oilfield. More than 300 million barrels of oil have been produced on Barrow Island since 1964, with strict environmental, safety and health standards and procedures having been put in place in order to safeguard the environment and minimise the impact on the island ecosystem.

Find out more about Barrow Island

If you are interested in learning more about conservation on Barrow Island you can find out more from Chevron and the Department of Environment and Conservation.

You can also check out our new Barrow Island feature page and explore a wealth of species found there.

Claire Lewis, ARKive Researcher

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