In this section, you will find some of the projects I have worked on over the past few years. My work is currently focused on reconnecting people with the natural world and helping nature photographers learn how to give a voice to the natural world. I’m also focused on the social psychology research that looks at the effectiveness of communicating with the public about pressing environmental issues. With over 50% of the world’s population now living in urban environments, we find ourselves in an ever more challenging position of getting people to understand their relationship to the natural world. Every minute of every day, we are dependent on the natural world and having an impact upon it. By helping people reconnect with nature, it is less likely that they will think of it as a “place out there”. Through connection, understanding and a sense of awe and wonder, we can foster the seeds for responsible stewardship of our planet and hope for bringing human activity back into balance. Earth is a tiny blue spec in the universe and the only planet we’ve got. Please see how I am employing an “inform, inspire, empower model of engagement” to my efforts to reconnect people to the natural world through some of the projects listed below.
Storytelling: Full Dome Shows
While working as the lectures manager at the California Academy of Sciences, I had the opportunity to observe how the public responds to learning about the natural world. One thing that is clear is that we are experiencing a worldwide environmental crisis. Scientists and educators are eager to stop the destruction. The public, however, is generally not responding to this crisis messaging being delivered by these well meaning advocates for the natural world. In fact, people often told me that they felt they were being shamed and expressed that the talk resulted in a feeling of helplessness as well as intellectual exhaustion from the constant doom and gloom messages in these lectures. Many of the regular lecture attendees would tell me that they didn’t even want to attend the “environmental crisis” talks anymore and would only come to the “fascinating research” talks in the future. This is when I began to explore the social psychology research about environmental communication and seek alternate storytelling frameworks that would engage, rather than shut down, the general public with regards to these important issues.
Florian Schulz: A Journey to the Arctic
Art Wolfe: Earth is my Witness
Flip Nicklin: Among Giants: A Life with Whales
Florian Schulz: A Journey to the ArcticIn late 2012, while working at the California Academy of Sciences, I received a call from the famed German conservation photographer Florian Schulz. He passionately wanted to come to the Academy to give a talk about the Arctic region to help people better understand this part of the world. He explained that the region was under threat from oil extraction and that the prevailing rhetoric to support this effort was painting the Arctic as a white wasteland with nothing up there but oil. The industry folks caried forth the message that it would benefit people while doing harm to nothing… cause there was nothing out there. Florian was determined to set the record straight. The challenge for me as the lectures host was...
Art Wolfe: Earth is my WitnessIn late 2013, I was sitting in a committee meeting at the Academy when my phone rang. I snuck a peek to see who it was only to see a Seattle-based phone number that I didn’t recognize. I didn’t answer it. After the meeting, I went out into the hall to find that the person had left me a voice message. I dialed into my box and heard the following message: “Hello Gary, this is Art Wolfe. I heard about the recent planetarium show you did with Florian Schulz, and I wondered if I could...
Flip Nicklin: Among Giants: A Life with WhalesWith two successful conservation photography planetarium shows already under my belt, I was hungry for more. I wouldn’t have to wait long. In 2015 the Academy was to host an Australian traveling exhibit called “Whales: Giants of the Deep”. The education team was being asked to some up with programs we could engage our visitors in that complemented the exhibit. I immediately proposed another dome show that would drop the viewers underwater so they could experience what it was like to swim with whales. I reached out to National Geographic photographer...
Global Reach: Photo Competitions
In 2010, I designed a full service photo competition management system. The platform included the front end website seen by the contestants, the entry and payment platform and an online judging system. That same year, I launched my first international photo competition. In 2012, I rebranded this platform and competition at the Academy and relaunched it as the highly acclaimed BigPicture International Nature Photography Competition presented by the California Academy of Sciences. With the application of social media marketing and the EcoSee Photo Competition CMS, BigPicture was quickly recognized as one of the top 10 photo competitions of any genre anywhere in the world. When I first proposed this project to the Academy I also pitched the idea that they run an online magazine that featured the photographers we would be meeting from around the world and all of the great work they were doing for conservation. While the secondary proposal was not accepted at that time, the Academy launched an online magazine site called Biographic in 2016 that did just what I had proposed. Some of the competition judges are editors and contributing photographers for the magazine while some of the photographers who enter the competition each year have also been prominently featured.