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Sunday, October 1, 2006

Empowering Photography With Action

The International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP) is devoted to using photography to help people better understand environmental challenges

Translating Science Into Pictures

With a master's degree in tropical ecology and a thirst for adventure, Christian Ziegler is well suited for tromping through the remote regions of Panama in search of the elusive and rare ocelot. "My work these days is about translating science content into images—to make it understandable for the general public," explains Ziegler. "Such is the case for my work with the ocelot, which became the focus of an automated telemetry project for wildlife research studies."

Working in partnership with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), Ziegler helped develop a technique allowing research scientists to observe a large number of animals at the same time and relate their behavior to each other. "The pilot study tracked the movement of ocelots and one of their main prey—the agouti—to investigate what is called the—top down' effect of predators," he says.

Ziegler had to endure the typical challenges that tropical weather exerts on both photographer and equipment. But the real test was getting close enough to photograph the ocelot. To do this, he walked trails at night and used camera traps.

With partial funding and assistance from National Geographic, Ziegler helped develop an infrared digital camera trap sturdy enough for use in a tropical rain forest. "This is a very exciting technique because no light in the visible range is needed, and it expands the opportunities to take images of nocturnal creatures without them noticing it."

Ziegler agrees nature photographers help to increase the body of knowledge about our natural world. "Photographers can be very useful in communicating complex science content. While the researchers help me find the animal, I often help them through my photography to understand or even discover behaviors never before documented."

Conservation Is About Emotions
The albatross is without equal among the myriad species of seabirds plying the world's oceans. A global wanderer, this magnificent creature is considered by many to be the most graceful bird on the face of the earth.

To undertake the photographic challenges of documenting this extraordinary bird takes an equally dedicated photographer—one who is just as at home on the high seas as the albatross. Tui de Roy is that person, a photographer who mirrors the wanderlust of the species she has spent the past several years photographing. "To me there is nothing on this planet that represents total freedom and pure wildness more vividly than the albatross," explains de Roy.

Whereas it would be easy to assume de Roy does this for the pure joy of it, she has a more driven reason: the albatross' survival is at stake.

Three quarters of all albatross species are either threatened or endangered, dying by the thousands from drowning on the millions of fishhooks used by longline fishing boats in the southern ocean region or ingesting plastic debris in the flotsam drifting on the high seas.

Working with the Birdlife International Albatross Campaign, de Roy along with Mark Jones and Julian Fitter are producing a book they hope will serve as a wake-up call to the world about the plight of this creature.

De Roy hopes the book and the many projects stemming from it will raise awareness and create action to protect the albatross. "Beauty moves people, and conservation is about emotions driving the will to conserve," she says. "At the end of the day, statistics and predictions of doom are less likely to sway decision makers than the profound impact of sheer beauty. Therein lies the power of honest conservation photography."

From The Heart
In the emerging sciences of conservation biology and landscape ecology, a new concept of species and ecosystem protection is taking hold—the linking of viable tracts of landscapes through natural corridors. One piece of protected land might not be enough to ensure the survival of a species, but by linking it with other distant protected tracts, the likelihood of survival increases.

One area receiving much attention these days is the Rocky Mountain region from Yellowstone to the Yukon. For the past ten years, German-born nature photographer Florian Schulz has been documenting this vast stretch of wild terrain. Working with many conservation organizations, Schulz recently published his book, Yellowstone to Yukon—Freedom to Roam. "Thanks to the Blue Earth Alliance, my project received more attention and opened the door for me to increase my network of contacts," he says.

Schulz's book doesn't just include pretty pictures of the region's wildlife and landscapes. "It was important for me to include images of the problematic themes," he explains. "While we prefer not to see these types of images, I felt we needed to be reminded of the threats." The book also includes recommendations for crafting future conservation strategies for the region.

Schulz travels across the country to talk about the importance of not only the Y2Y corridor, but the need to create additional corridors around the world. "The more people I can reach, the closer we are to reaching our goal." For Florian, it also means something much deeper: "I create my images from the heart, and this is what I hope to touch—to create emotions in others that will lead to action."


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