Protecting the Finger Lakes watersheds through media
The motivational capability of images was made clear to David Brown for the first time decades ago when he was working as a naturalist aboard whale watching vessels off New England, “I was impressed at the power of still photos I was shooting to reach people that couldn't actually come to sea,” he recalled. Four years of that work was followed by a seven-year hitch with the Cousteau Society, where he gained extensive field experience, participated in the production of a number of Cousteau films worldwide and represented the Cousteau Society to national audiences. Later, he formed his own production company that provided viewers with live access to marine habitats of all kinds, and recently completed a NOAA-funded project with the Ithaca Sciencenter (“Ocean Bound!”) that depicts a virtual submarine ride from inland waterways to the open ocean.
After moving his family to Ithaca New York, his childhood home in the Finger Lakes region, David was alarmed to find that these beautiful aquascapes—filled with vibrant streams and lakes—might soon be compromised by hydrofracking, a potentially environmentally destructive form of natural gas extraction. His Fellowship project, entitled “BASELINE,” is a comprehensive underwater video documentation of Finger Lakes watersheds ahead of changes from gas drilling and the intrusion of invasive species, an effort supported by TogetherGreen and the PARK Foundation.
David’s TogetherGreen fellowship project entails capturing video of the aquatic biodiversity and habitats of the region in tandem with water quality data collected by the Finger Lakes Institute, and dissemination of this material via presentations and short films. Future phases will involve the construction of an integrated video, audio, and water quality array, and the creation of a dedicated online resource where visual, acoustic, and water quality data may be accessed. This media will be made available, free of charge, to organizations ranging from schools to project partners, including the Finger Lakes Institute, Finger Lakes Regional Alliance, Ithaca Sciencenter, Museum of the Earth, Cayuga Nature Center, Floating Classroom, Trout in the Classroom, and others.
“Many environmental non-profits can’t afford to buy comparable media, and a key innovation of the project is that it will be given to them at no charge,” explained David. “The profound environmental issues of our time make it imperative that quality imaging is made available for use by environmental organizations without costing them financial resources.”