With the coronavirus continuing to spread and self-isolation becoming the norm, it feels more important than ever to embrace the power and beauty of nature. Sure, we can't travel as much these days, but the modern world can still bring the natural world to us.
We've picked some great webcams around the globe to help keep you sane in these trying times. Depending on the time of day or night you're reading this, they should offer you some solace and wonder for the long weeks ahead.
Tembe Elephant Park
One of several great livecams from Explore.org. This one brings you to a very popular watering hole on the Mozambique border.
A rare opportunity to see bald eagles up close and relaxed in Decorah, Iowa.
Gorilla Forest Corridor
You may or may not see any critically endangered Grauer's gorillas, but this is a heck of a peaceful site in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
An urban reef in Miami, Florida that's part habitat, part science experiment and part art project. You never know who might swim by.
Cornell Lab’s Panama Fruit Feeder-cam at Canopy Lodge
Pay attention. All kinds of colorful birds fly by to sample the wares that scientists have left out for them at this conservation site in Panama.
Big Sur Condors
Two webcams from the Ventana Wildlife Society showcasing the amazing California condors in their care. The birds aren't always on camera, but it's worth sticking around to see them.
Big Sur Condor Nest powered by EXPLORE.org
Otters and More at Monterey Bay
A neverending parade of sea otters, birds, harbor seals and other marine mammals will entertain you at this feed, courtesy of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Bison Watering Hole at Grasslands National Park
Again, you never know what wildlife you'll witness onscreen, but the beauty of this site in Saskatchewan can take your breath away.
New York University’s Hawk Cam
Oh wow, an urban nest whose residents are mini-celebrities. This includes an active chat feature, so it's one more way to connect with fellow enthusiasts.
Jellyfish at Monterey Bay Aquarium
Who knew jellyfish were so Zen? This livecam is about as relaxing as it can possibly get. Get lost in the gentle motion.
There's more! We found one more essential livestream that we can't embed but it's worth opening a new browser tab to see:
Red Wolf enclosure cam — Check out one of the rarest predators on the planet, courtesy of the conservation breeding program at the Wolf Conservation Center, which also maintains several other great webcams.
Don't find something you like above? You can also try going for a walk to see what wildlife or natural beauties you can find in your neighborhood. After all, self-isolation doesn't mean we have to keep ourselves indoors all day and all night.
While you're at it, bring your phone and share photos of what you see on iNaturalist or other citizen-science platforms — that's one more way to stay connected with your community and avoid feelings of isolation. And you can help collect important scientific information along the way.
No matter what you do, please just stay safe. The world will still need you when all of this is over.
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
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By Tara Lohan
Melissa Groo learned that early on. Her unconventional path to become an award-winning wildlife photographer began with listening.
Spurred by a deep curiosity about the way animals communicate, she left a job in Ohio focused on school reform and moved to Ithaca, N.Y., to study with renowned zoologist Katy Payne, an expert in the field of bioacoustics.
During six years as a research assistant with Payne at Cornell's Center for Conservation Bioacoustics, including two field seasons in the Central African Republic, Groo built a lot of the skills she'd come to use later: waiting, watching and also listening.
Several years later, when she took a digital photography class at a community college and became hooked on the craft, she realized she could combine that new skill with her work in conservation and her compassion for animals.
Today her work is represented by the National Geographic Image Collection. She writes a regular column for Outdoor Photographer, is a contributing editor for Audubon and helped create a Guide to Ethical Bird Photography with naturalist Kenn Kaufman.
The Revelator spoke with Groo about why empathy is a key skill in wildlife photography, the challenges of an ethical practice in the social media age, and her favorite shot.
What drives you in your work, and what do you hope people learn?
The world is full of pretty pictures and digital photography has made incredible photography possible by so many of us now. But I feel that, especially given the state of the world and the environment, what's needed more than just a pretty picture is a sense of advocacy and a real sense of conservation and compassion.
I'm very much drawn to the accuracy and honesty in the depiction of an animal and really showing the challenges to that animal's life or interesting behavior that we haven't seen much in pictures before.
I'll do quite a bit of research before I share a photo or before I talk about a particular issue because I'm often seeking to educate with my photos about a particular challenge that a species is facing or ways that we can better support local wildlife.
For example, I work with a wildlife hospital and sometimes I go in to capture human-caused disturbances to local wildlife. So, let's say a great blue heron comes in that's been entangled in fishing line. I'll photograph it when it comes in and then I'll photograph it later while it's being treated and rehabilitated. And then I'll photograph the eventual release.
So I tell that complete story and then I use that story in a number of ways to try to educate people and give them information about how we can avoid things like this in our community.
That's the thing with conservation photography. It's not just about when you click the shutter. It's what do you do with those photos after, how you educate with those photos, whether it's the words that you put with them or the hands you get those photos into.
You’ve written a lot about the ethics of your field. How do wildlife photographers make sure they aren’t harming wildlife?
It's about building a caring and compassion for the subject into your fieldcraft. And I think that gets lost a lot in this day and age when social media is king and people are trying to get the most "likes." They're cutting corners sometimes at the expense of the subject.
We want to get close, as photographers, but we need to know how to minimize our disruption. It's really incumbent on us because wildlife face so many threats and challenges from all sides.
I always recommend that people study their subject before they go photograph to learn about the stressors for this animal, their habits, the signs of alarm or distress and how can we be better alert to those signs. People need to know if a particular animal is likely to abandon its nest or its den if you're hanging out there for hours.
As important as knowing the right settings on your camera is building that empathy and that care into your fieldcraft and really thinking whether a picture is worth it. To us, this is just about a photo. But to wildlife, every single moment is about survival.
It seems like some wildlife photography can actually be downright exploitative. How do we as viewers recognize those images?
I'm really passionate about the photography of captive animals and trying to educate people on how to make choices about what sorts of facilities are ethical and really do care for their animals. And what sort of facilities, such as photography game farms, are completely exploitative.
At these game farms wild animals are kept in small cages, except when they're trotted out for paying photographers. And when these photographers go away with these photos and they don't tell the truth of these animals' lives and they try to hoodwink their viewers into thinking this is authentically in the wild, it gives a lie to that animal's life. And to me, it does an injustice to the animal as well as to the field of authentic wildlife photography.
Unfortunately the onus is on us now to differentiate ourselves from the unfortunate practices that are a blemish on the entire field of wildlife photography, like baiting of raptors. I think it's really important for people to give accurate and honest captions and to let people know how you got a shot. It's one way to stand out from photographers who don't care about animal welfare and will do whatever it takes to get that stunning shot that's going to get them a lot of likes on social media.
You initially got into conservation work because of your interest in sounds, particularly how animals communicate. We think of photography as being very visual, but do you rely a lot on listening?
Yes, having learned the sounds of birds has been a great tool for me. I live next to this big state forest and I'll drive through with all my windows rolled down and I'm listening so hard. When I hear a species that I'm interested in, I know that I can stop and invest time trying to track that bird down and trying to photograph it.
I also use the sounds of other animals to alert me to something that I want to photograph.
Once I found this great horned owl because I heard all these crows mobbing something in the forest and I went running into the forest with my camera, and sure enough, they were mobbing a great horned owl.
Chipmunks have different chip warning calls for aerial predators than they do for terrestrial predators. If I hear them giving that the special call for aerial predators, then I know maybe there's a Cooper's hawk out in the yard.
I think it really helps you to be a better photographer if you're a naturalist — even if you're just a real amateur naturalist, which I consider myself.
Do you have a favorite species you like to photograph?
I love birds — just my backyard birds — owls and all kinds of birds.
I'm also really passionate about predators, particularly wild dogs like coyotes and foxes. And wild cats, like bobcats and lions. I've never seen a lynx but it's high on my list.
I'm fascinated with elusive predators. I feel there's a real place for them in natural communities and I'm always trying to change minds about them. A lot of people regard these animals — mostly bobcats, foxes and coyotes — as varmint. And that makes me crazy. I think these are really special animals and knowing that they are around me where I live in upstate New York just lends so much magic and mystery and beauty to the landscape.
I love to travel to Africa and photograph the exquisite animals there. And I've loved photographing the spirit bear in British Columbia. But my favorite photo of all time was taken two miles from my house because it was two miles from my house. But also because it depicts a bobcat mother and her kit nuzzling each other. It's such a rare photo and it's such a rare moment in the wild to have been able to glimpse and to have captured on film.
It's those moments that I live for.
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
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Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
By Lisa Moore
Imagine yourself, camera in hand, suddenly spotting a grazing elk, a hummingbird feeding its chicks, a grizzly charging a rival or a bumble bee gathering pollen. You want the shot, but how do you get it without disturbing the natural behavior of the beautiful animal you're hoping to capture through your lens?
Find four compelling answers to this question in a brief and beautiful video from National Wildlife magazine, highlighting the work of wildlife photographer Claudio Contreras Koob.
A winner in the magazine's 2017 photo contest, Koob offers four basic tips that any photographer—amateur and professional alike—can use to make ethical images in the field, whether it's in your own backyard or around the globe. His advice:
To avoid disturbing an animal, keep a suitable distance, approach very slowly and wear camouflage or use a blind. "You have to get them to accept you as if you were a stone," said Koob.
Know your subjects.
"Learn the behaviors of what you are going to photograph," said Koob. "They have a language, and they are always telling us what they think, but we have to understand it."
Take your time.
"Give yourself a lot of time to return and return and return … so you can understand the cycles of life and death in the place you want to photograph," said Koob. While photographing flamingoes, for example, Koob said he "could see their reactions to my presence and I could see that there was no problem if I really made it slow, slow, slow."
Green sweat bee. Dave Weth
Do not disturb.
"No image is as important as the creature that you are photographing or as the environment that you are photographing," said Koob. Animals can be easily spooked. So tread lightly, and if you notice even a small change in an animal's behavior—especially if the animal is courting, feeding, nesting or with its young—slowly and quietly move away.
Koob's final bit of advice has special value for the millions of avid amateur photographers out there who may think that the greatest wildlife images have to come from the hands of a pro in an African savanna or some other exotic locale. "You can go in your backyard and find conservation stories out there and find beautiful details." he said, "In the details, there are lots of beautiful things to see."
We, the editors of National Wildlife magazine, have seen how true that is. Hundreds of people who submit images to our annual photo contest are amateur photographers who see the beauty in the details—people like house painter Dave Weth, whose image of a green sweat bee landed on the cover of our December-January 2018 issue, and people like Anne Grimes, whose lovely image of a crab spider shedding its skin won second place for backyard habitats in our 2017 contest.
These people, and everyone else who submits to National Wildlife's annual contest, take the time to see and appreciate the natural world. So, please submit your favorite photographs to our 2018 photo contest, which is now open. All entries are judged blind, so everyone has an equal chance to win. And every entry, whether a winner or not, helps advance the conservation work of the National Wildlife Federation.
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