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.

Creek snorkling low res

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!

Kern wish list button

Dec 10
Sparticl Award

Sparticl Best Content Provider Award

Exciting news everyone! Sparticl.org, a science website dedicated to providing teens with science news, recently awarded Arkive the Sparticl Award for Best Content Provider. Arkive is thrilled to receive this amazing award and strives to provide the public with a valuable educational resource for kids of all ages.

In honor of our new award, we thought it would be a great time to highlight our lesson plans and activities that are perfect for the wintry season!

 

Penguin Diversity - Mask MakingFor youngsters, be sure to view the Penguin Diversity – Mask Making educational plan that  teaches kids about the different types of penguins and the diverse habitats they live in.

 

Gentoo penguin portrait

Animals Over WinterFor older kids, there is the awesome Animals over Winter lesson plan that explores how animals in temperate regions adapt to winter conditions.

 

 

Arctic fox portrait

Also take the time to check out some of Arkive’s animal activities perfect for upcoming holiday breaks. Create a magical winter shoebox habitat, help children make a whimsical reindeer mask, or even craft a wonderful origami arctic fox. We also have nature-themed tree decorations for a festive holiday tree!

shoebox-habitat-winter-activity xmas-tree-decorationsarctic fox

With a little help from Arkive’s free lessons and resources, everyone can learn something new about the wild world this winter!

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA

Oct 31

Happy Halloween! Here at Arkive, we’re definitely fans of the creepier species that put us in the mood for a spooky Halloween like the vampire bat or the brain coral. But this year, we decided to share our favorite “mask-wearing” animals. These are animals that, with a little help from nature, look like they are wearing a mask all year round. Who knows, maybe some of these animals will inspire your get-up for Halloween tonight!

Bulwer’s pheasant

Bulwer's pheasant photo

One look at the Bulwer’s pheasant and we bet you’d be hard-pressed to find a stranger mask-wearing species on Arkive!

Spectacled bear

Spectacled bear photo

Don’t let this calm face fool you. This bear is ready to scare up the crowd for some midnight Halloween snacks!

Horned grebe

Horned grebe photo

Who’s ready for the masquerade ball? The horned grebe appears ready any day of the year!

Emperor moth

Emperor moth photo

While not a mask in the traditional sense, the “eyes” have it when it comes to the Emperor moth!

Andean cock-of-the-rock

Andean cock-of-the-rock photo

Some may consider the Andean cock-of-the-rock’s head piece a little … outlandish but we think it fits right in on Halloween and every other day of the year!

And finally, because even Halloween can be a time for cuteness as well as spookiness, we present arguably one of the cutest mask-wearers in the wild world …

Giant panda

Giant panda photo

Just one look at that face and we’re ready to hand over our entire bag of Halloween goodies!

Find yourself inspired to wear an animal mask for Halloween tonight after seeing all these incredible “mask-wearers” in nature? We’ve got 8 different animal art masks ready and waiting to be printed and colored by little goblins or ghouls – or big goblins or ghouls, too, for that matter!

No matter how you choose to celebrate, the Arkive team wishes everyone a fun, festive and safe Halloween!

Ari Pineda, Program Coordinator, Wildscreen USA

Sep 22

At Arkive, we are ever grateful for the support we receive from individuals whether they be photographers and filmmakers who donate their work to make Arkive possible, conservationists & researchers who passionately pursue the science and stories behind the world’s most threatened species, or teachers who bring the WILD into their classroom everyday with Arkive.

But there may be a special group that we cherish support from the most … children! Or, who we like to think of as the “conservationists of tomorrow”. Each time the Arkive team has the chance to connect with children, whether in the classroom, at an event, or on the web through our games and mobile apps, we feel renewed and inspired in our mission to share the wonders of the natural world through the most powerful and compelling images and films that exist.

But sometimes, just when you think you have reached the point of complete inspiration from those youngest members of our society, they completely blow your socks off.

The Afternoon Explorers!

The preschoolers (students age 3-5) of Akiba-Schechter Jewish Day School of Chicago, IL, USA, did just that when they decided to dedicate their annual school fundraiser proceeds to Arkive this year and raised

 $317.69

That’s right. Approximately sixteen students, 5 years old and younger. raised over $300 for Arkive in support of our mission and to help keep Arkive a free and growing resource for all. The only thing better than raising this enormously generous sum for Arkive is the way they did it.

Akiba Schechter is full to the brim with students who are eager to dive into the natural world, learning about both species that live in their community and across the globe. Through a program called the Afternoon Explorers, the students decide which species and habitats they want to digitally explore and spend weeks diving into the photos, films, stories, and scientific information learning everything they can.

Then, at the end of the school year, students channel all the knowledge they have gained through their worldly explorations and interpret it through artwork which they sell at their year-end culminating event called the Afternoon Explorers Boutique. The Boutique is a chance for the students to share their wild journeys with family, friends and the local community and to sell their artwork with proceeds benefiting the students’ charity of choice. Lucky for us, Arkive was their chosen charity for 2014.

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Why was Arkive chosen this year? According to one of the teachers leading the Afternoon Explorers, Emily Bradley Schoenberg,

“Arkive has given the children an amazing window to the world around them and has inspired them to think about the Earth and all of its creatures and how some are endangered. It gives them a sense of responsibility to care for those animals and the environment to make sure they are safe.”

Here’s a taste of some of the incredible items made by the explorers for the Boutique.

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Afternoon Explorer Boutique items – all hand made by the Explorers themselves

And even better, every single item was sold! The team here at Arkive cannot thank the Afternoon Explorers enough for using Arkive as their window to the natural world and for so generously naming Arkive as the recipient of this year’s Afternoon Explorer’s Boutique.  Keep on exploring!

Liana Vitali, Education & Outreach Manager, Wildscreen USA

Sep 2

What is SINNG?

The Student Invasive Non-Native Group or SINNG is a Local Action Group based at Cornwall College, Newquay. Launched in 2010, our goal is to increase awareness and reduce the impacts caused by Invasive Non-Native Species (INNS) on native wildlife. We do this through practical fieldwork such as pond clearings, Himalayan Balsam removal and much more. We also continue to research the effects, spread and impact of INNS on native species.

Students clearing a pond of Parrot's feather

Students clearing a pond of Parrot’s feather

SINNG is mostly comprised of student volunteers from all seven Cornwall College campuses. We also have an international link with SINNG Helicon in The Netherlands.

My experiences at SINNG

I originally started helping out with SINNG to gain experience of working with children, as I want to become a primary school teacher. Therefore most of my work has involved the educational side of SINNG,  including volunteering at the ‘Saplings’ after school club, helping run workshops in schools throughout Cornwall and creating education materials.

At the ‘Saplings’ after school club we try to incorporate a broad range of INNS ideas. This has included looking at the effect pets can have on native wildlife if they escape or are released into the wild and become invasive. These after school clubs have also provided good opportunities to test out new materials we have made, including our Alien Invaders game and a game I created called ‘Guess Who’s Invasive’, which went down really well with the children, especially if they had played ‘Guess Who’ before.

During the school workshops that I have helped run, a wide variety of games and activities have been used to engage the children. Using microscopes and ID guides to identify invasive pond plants and native invertebrate always goes down well.

Local children enjoying activities at SINNG STEM club

Local children enjoying activities at SINNG STEM club

With the school workshops, the session is adjusted to fit what the children have been learning. For example, in a workshop at St Columb Minor, Newquay, they had already been learning about food webs, so we talked about the effect INNS can have on food webs and ecosystems as a whole. Using the invasive Australian Flatworm as an example, we showed how they eat native earthworms and the knock on effects that can follow. One important aspect of a workshop is showing pupils what to do if they find an INNS. On our website we have a ‘Submit a Sighting’ page which allows the public to record any INNS in their area.

How did it all go?

One of the great things about SINNG, is that I feel at the end of a session the children have leant something they didn’t know before. I think this is because the sessions are run in a fun and interactive way. Plus at the end of most sessions the children are tested, using our interactive activities, on what they have learnt.

SINNG pairs game

SINNG pairs game

Activities which require participation from the children, such as the bicarb and vinegar experiment, always go down well.

The most important part about the educational side of SINNG is that children can enjoy themselves whilst learning about important environmental issues.

Liam Burton

Find out more about SINNG by visiting their website or Facebook page.

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