Aug 14
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Meet the ARKive Team – Ellie Sans

Ellie Sans, ARKive Media ResearcherI came to Bristol to study Zoology 6 years ago and loved the city so much I didn’t want to leave. I’ve been at ARKive for about two and a half years and am also studying part time for a Masters in International Rural Development.

What are you currently working on?

Like the other Media Researchers I’m currently busy updating some of the first species to be profiled on ARKive with some great new imagery and footage. I am also helping the Species Text Authors edit the hundreds of ARKive texts received this year from students as part of the ARKive and University Scheme.

What animal skill would you most like to have?

The effortless way some arboreal primates move through the treetops has always impressed me so I’d love to have the strength and agility of a gibbon. On second thoughts, I’m pretty good at locking myself out of my house so being able to squeeze back in through a really tight space, like this octopus, would be really useful.

Which three people would you invite to the ultimate dinner party?

I wouldn’t want spend my dinner party with people I didn’t know so I would invite my closest friends; but to make sure we have the ultimate time I’d ask Joanna Newsom to provide the music, Nigel Slater to cook the food and Noel Fielding to provide a bit of bizarre cabaret and if they happened to want to join us for pudding, then the more the merrier!

Where in the world would you most like to go?

I’d love to go to British Columbia in western Canada for the epic landscapes and the chance to see bears, moose and my favourite rodent, beavers.

What are you most looking forward to doing this summer?

My favorite summer moment is the day the swifts come back to the UK to breed – but that happened months ago so right now I am most looking forward to swimming in a mountain lake in Italy.

Which celebrity do you most look like?

I’m not sure I’d be the best judge of that – what do you think?

What’s the best wildlife encounter you’ve ever had?

Snorkelling round one of the tiny Yasawa islands of Fiji, I wasn’t really expecting to see anything other than coral and small fish, when out of the murky water came gliding a huge manta ray. The visibility in the water wasn’t great so it vanished quickly into the gloom – a short but amazing experience.

More recently and closer to home in north Norfolk I came across a spot that seemed ideal nightjar territory. Returning just before sunset I sat in silence for an hour, waiting. Disappointed and about to leave, I heard the strangest sound, a disembodied whirring noise that seemed more electronic than natural. The nightjar then swooped down over the clearing and landed in a nearby tree. I watched it alternate between calling from its perch and hawking for moths until it was too dark to see.

What’s your favourite thing on ARKive?

It’s far too hard to choose my favourite species, but my favourite thing is ‘In the News’ on the ARKive blog.

Tell us an animal related joke.

Two penguins are standing on an ice floe. The first penguin says, “You look like you’re wearing a tuxedo”. The second penguin says, “What makes you think I’m not?”

Jun 22
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ARKive on the Road: Bristol Festival of Nature 2011, UK

The Bristol Festival of Nature is the largest event of its kind in the UK with a multitude of organisations coming together in order to bring people of all ages a step closer to the natural world. The intrepid ARKive team were on hand for the whole event to introduce people to the weird, the wonderful and, erm, origami?!   

Schools Day

The festival kicked off on Friday 17th June with schools day, where around 1,000 children travelled to Bristol centre to be entertained, engaged and inspired. Always ready for a challenge, the ARKive team introduced them to the wonderful world of Darwin’s fox and Barbour’s forest tree frog via the art of origami. With a series of nifty folds under the careful watch of our black belt origami instructors, some amazing critters were produced.   

Charlie Whittaker, ARKive Media Researcher showing students how to make an origami frog

Charlie Whittaker, ARKive Media Researcher and origami black belt at work

Photo of an origamo Darwin's fox and Barbour's forest tree frog

A lifelike Darwin's fox and Barbour's forest tree frog

For the aspiring zoologists, there was then a chance to test their knowledge with our quiz. See how you would fare by guessing who the following bundles of fluff belong to: tiger, coyote, Bornean orang-utan, brown bear or red wolf? Click on the image to find the answer!   

Can you guess what these youngsters will be when they grow up?

Can you guess what these youngsters will be when they grow up?

The Festival

The main festival took place on Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th June and, despite the initial torrential rain, around 150 organisations put on a range of exciting activities from hedgehog making with the Avon Wildlife Trust to meeting a few of Bristol Zoo’s 175th anniversary Wow! Gorillas! At the ARKive stand, we were happy to chat with existing fans and introduce the website to new people of all ages. We were even able to mingle with some of the local wildlife ourselves!   

Photo of Bristol Zoo's Wow! Gorillas! - helping to celebrate the zoo's 175th anniversary

Bristol Zoo's Wow! Gorillas! - helping to celebrate the zoo's 175th anniversary

Photo of ARKive Media Research Assistant, Becky Taylor, mingling with the wildlife!

ARKive Media Research Assistant, Becky Taylor, mingling with the wildlife!

If you missed out on the fun, never fear, the award winning Festival of Nature will return to Bristol in June 2012. If you can’t wait that long, take a look at some of the other events run by the Bristol Natural History Consortium.   

For more images of our trip to the Festival of Nature visit our Flickr account  

Becky Moran, ARKive Media Researcher

Jun 5
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Meet the ARKive Team – Becky Moran

Becky MoranApparently, as a toddler growing up in South Africa I was found with a spilt bottle of orange juice playing with a nest of ants. Perhaps that’s where my fascination with all things wildlife began, though I’m not sure ants would still be top of my favourite animals list!  I’ve since studied Zoology at the University of Liverpool and have also completed a PhD examining the impacts of climate change on freshwater ecosystems. I’ve been working as a media researcher at ARKive for around a year and a half now and love the challenge of tracking down images of elusive species that have never been seen on the internet before!

What are you currently working on?

At the moment I am contacting conservationists who have been awarded a grant from the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund in order to profile the endangered species they are working on, on ARKive.  I’ve had some fantastic results including images of the bleeding toad, Tuamotu kingfisher and blue-throated macaw.

What animal skill would you most like to have?

Hmmm, perhaps being able to change colour like the giant cuttlefish would be a good one? A new outfit everyday at minimal cost!

Which three people would you invite to the ultimate dinner party?

Although I’m sure his diary is pretty full with all the other ARKive dinner parties he’s been invited to, Sir David Attenborough would definitely be top of my list. Sir Ranulph Fiennes would be a close second. He’d have some amazing adventures to talk about and, having seen him talk before, some hilarious stories to tell. And finally, Charles Darwin. I’d love to get his opinion on the way his theories have progressed through the years.

Where in the world would you most like to go?

I think I have a few extremes of nature I would like to tick off my list including visiting the emperor penguins in Antarctica and trekking in the Papua New Guinea rainforest in search of birds of paradise.

What are you most looking forward to doing this summer?

Aside from the promise of sunshine and cider festivals, I am definitely looking forward to having a go at making my own elder flower cordial. Delicious on its own or perhaps made into another of my favourite things, cake!

Which celebrity do you most look like?

Apparently Christina Ricci which earned me the nickname of Wednesday from the Adams family when I was at school. I’m not quite sure I had the same hair or ghoulish thoughts though…

What’s the best wildlife encounter you’ve ever had?

I managed to snorkel with a humphead wrasse in Australia, those guys are huge!  Seeing wild beavers whilst paddling a canoe in Canada was also a great experience.

What’s your favourite thing on ARKive?

I think the birds of paradise are probably my favourite though I’m not sure I could pick just one! The sheer variety of feathers and courtship dances are amazing, from the curly tail feathers of Wilson’s bird-of-paradise to the flowing feathers and funky dance moves of the greater bird of paradise.

Tell us an animal related joke.

Q: Why do African elephants have Big Ears?

A: Because Noddy won’t pay the ransom

May 29
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Meet the ARKive Team – Liz Shaw

Liz Shaw, ARKive Species Text AuthorI’ve been interested in the natural world for as long as I can remember, and as a kid could often be found outside doing odd things like collecting pet snails, making hedgehog feeders and running a Nature Club with my friends!

After studying Zoology at the University of Bristol, I worked on various volunteer projects abroad and studied for an MSc in Animal Behaviour, before returning to Bristol to join the ARKive team as a Species Text Author in 2008. I now help to write the texts that accompany the species profiles, as well as working on the blog and a range of other writing tasks.

Outside of work, I can often be found roaming the countryside with binoculars and camera in hand, although I’m also quite addicted to various crafts like crochet and card-making!

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently writing profiles for species affected by climate change, as part of a project supported by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. I’ve just finished writing the long-snouted bat, dusky gopher frog and green-eyed frog, and will be working on various coral species soon.

What animal skill would you most like to have?

I’ve always wanted to be able to fly! Or perhaps to be able to see ultraviolet light, like many birds and insects, or infrared, like some snakes. It would make the world a more colourful place and also come in handy for seeing in the dark!

Which three people would you invite to the ultimate dinner party?

I know he’s probably booked up already, but Sir David Attenborough has just turned 85 so perhaps we could make it a belated birthday bash!

If Helen doesn’t mind, I’d also love to invite J.K. Rowling so I can find out how she came up with such ingenious books. It would also be useful to have a good cook, so Jamie Oliver would be very welcome, or for entertainment value perhaps Johnny Depp could come and tell us about his latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie?!

Where in the world would you most like to go?

There’s a saying that once you drink from the waters of the Tambopata River in Peru, you will be destined to return one day. That’s certainly been true for me as I’ve been there three times already! I fell in love with the Amazon the first time I visited, so I’d love go back.

Failing that, I’d also like to see some of the amazing wildlife of the Pantanal in Brazil, or some of the stunning landscapes and bizarre creatures of New Zealand.

What are you most looking forward to doing this summer?

I’m gradually getting to know the best places to see wildlife around Bristol, so I can’t wait to get out and about more to see what I can spot.

Which celebrity do you most look like?

Er… I really have no idea. I don’t think I Iook like anyone in particular!

What’s the best wildlife encounter you’ve ever had?

Some of my favourite encounters have to be watching hundreds of parrots, parakeets and macaws gathering at a clay lick, or waking up to the unearthly sound of howler monkeys. Catching bats at night, in a thunderstorm, in a mosquito-infested Mexican swamp was also strangely brilliant!

However, if I had to pick one, it would be when I was surveying black caimans at Explorer’s Inn in Peru. Out on a lake one night, I leant over the front of the canoe and got the shock of my life when the caiman inches away from me turned out to be a four metre giant!

What’s your favourite thing on ARKive?

This raven video never fails to make me laugh, while I find the African rock python swallowing an antelope quite incredible. When I wrote the text for the Weddell seal I discovered what bizarre calls it has – more like an alien than a mammal!

Not surprisingly, my favourite species are from the Amazon, particularly the scarlet macaw, black caiman, saddleback tamarin and amazing leaf-cutter ant.

Tell us an animal related joke.

One day the snail lost his shell. He didn’t mind too much although it did make him a bit sluggish!

May 22
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Meet the ARKive Team – Charlie Whittaker

Charlie Whittaker, ARKive Media ResearcherI’ve been looking for pictures of cute animals for a living and asking people very nicely to let us use them for ARKive since August 2008. I also work on ARKive Education and helped set up the STEM Ambassador scheme at Wildscreen, creating new teaching resources and running ARKive-themed workshops in schools.

What are you currently working on?

I’ve just been moonlighting as a film producer with Nick, our film editor, putting together some “ARKive News” films about conservation in Madagascar and the Galapagos Islands. These were filmed by students at a school in London as part of a workshop we ran with Bank of America Merrill Lynch, one of our supporters. We’re jazzing up the best ones with some extra footage and music and will be presenting these back to students shortly.

What animal skill would you most like to have?

I always used to think that I wanted to be able to fly but I think for my weight, my wings and keel would have to be huge and look rather ridiculous. So I think it would be to have gills. My background is in marine biology and I’d love to be able get down without SCUBA gear.

Which three people would you invite to the ultimate dinner party?

If it were the ultimate dinner party then I assume that the other guests attending would be the ultimate guests – so I’d probably take three of my closest friends to share in the experience.

Where in the world would you most like to go?

The Coral Triangle, simply for its marine life. I’d definitely want the gills for that trip. I’d probably come back via Easter Island too – stone heads and a stern lesson in environmental mismanagement are right up my street!

Which celebrity do you most look like?

Apparently it used to be Nick Grimshaw, from BBC Radio 1 – but now I have short hair I am apparently more similar to John Torode of UK Masterchef infamy. It’s the large jaw.

What’s the best wildlife encounter you’ve ever had?

When I was 17 I did an Earthwatch project studying sea otters in Alaska. We stayed in small log and canvas cabins by the side of Prince William Sound. One day whilst loudly complaining of “the lack of bears in Alaska”, a HUGE male black bear walked past the window, less than 2 yards away. The thing is, he looked so soft and cuddly I wanted to run outside right there and then. I doubt he would have been as pleased to see me, though.

What’s your favourite thing on ARKive?

One of the things I love about ARKive is that it displays wildlife in all of its glory, but also at its most grisly. The natural world is a tough place and the survival strategies that have evolved never cease to amaze/horrify me… I just try not to judge it from a human perspective.

Tell us an animal related joke.

Q:         What do you call a bovine animal on all fours who likes singing the Eurythmics…

A:         A kneeling ox

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