Pitayal, or coastal thornscrub, is a unique desert ecosystem along the Sea of Cortez in Southern Sonora. This is truly where the desert meets the sea. Here the Agiabampo estuary's three mangrove species abut seemingly endless scrub, dominated by organ-pipe cactus or pitaya (Stenocereus thurberi). Sonora desert bird communities flit through the cacti while dolphin course the coastline. With 250 species of wintering and resident birds and 800 species of plants, let alone the mammals, reptiles, and insects that abound, the Pitayal is astoundingly full of life.
Despite the Mexican Government designating it a Zona Priorirtaria for bird conservation and least appropriate for development, this unique habitat is threatened. Land-clearing for agriculture and aquaculture projects attack on both sides, leaving resident species without homes and migratory songbirds and waterbirds without wintering grounds. These practices also have disastrous consequences for the health of the people living in the region.
The Alamos Wildlands Alliance (AWA), a 501c-3 non-profit organization, have been working on protecting the landscape of Southern Sonora, Mexico. In partnerships with individuals, government agencies, and sister NGOs in Mexico and elsewhere, they've been monitoring bird and plant populations for the past 11 years. Through this research and their educational outreach programs they are making the case for the vital importance of this ecosystem, for its biodiversity, as wintering grounds for migratory birds, and for the health of the people who live there.
Photography For Conservation
The Pitayal is quickly disappearing. As AWA grows and improves after years of work, it's especially important that their imagery follows suit. That's where I come in. When I first visited in 2010 I was dumbstruck by the vibrant ecosystem, immediately convinced of the pityal's vital place in the world's biodiversity (read the Wingtrip series from the trip here). For continued success AWA needs to foster appreciation and understanding of the landscape in locals, the government, and those abroad.
Collaborating with the field station staff for content and access, I'll be taking photographs and video of staff at work and locals in their daily lives, of the landscape and inhabitants, of the threats to the ecosystem. I'll set up a camera traps for more secretive residents, use a remote control helicopter for aerial footage. (I'll cover the work on my blog Wingtrip.org)
I'll spend approximately a week at the Navopatia Field Station in Southern Sonora, Mexico with documenting to demonstrate AWA's work and the worth of the Pitayal. The outcome of the project will be a curated, cohesive portfolio for use by AWA in their fundraising, website, outreach, and education. For AWA to pay for this comprehensive product at full cost would be extremely difficult, making this project all the more important. Thus, I get to work on a valuable, positive project to help an amazing ecosystem in danger of being extinguished, they get professional photography donated to the cause. You support a valuable conservation effort (and an artist at the same time).
I hope you'll help fund this project! Remember, it's all or nothing, if I don't make the goal, you get refunded and the project gets nothing!
Below I've listed my estimated costs (all money funded beyond the goal will contribute to better tools for documentation). The funding goal figures in the costs of gifts, the minimal costs of running the project through kickstarter, etc. I'm not making money on this.
Flight from Seattle to Palm Springs, CA - $250
Gas to and from Navopatia Field Station - $200
Food and Lodging - $200
Misc. - $75
Photography Expenses (Extra filters, batteries, storage, etc) - $150
Risks and challenges
I'm qualified to do this work because I'm a natural history photographer/writer and a biologist. I speak both languages fluently. Telling stories about natural history and conservation is my passion. I'm lucky in this this project to know many of the people at the field station and have familiarity with the landscape.
There's always risk in travel with expensive photographic gear, but nothing common sense and reasonable choices can't overcome. Mexico has gotten bad press about safety recently, most of which is inflated and it will not be an issue. This is from the U.S. Department of State:
“Millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year for study, tourism, and business, including more than 150,000 who cross the border every day. More than 20 million U.S. citizens visited Mexico in 2012.”
There's always uncertainties in a project: conditions, gear failures, time allowances. However, I've done this before, will do it again, and with planning and backups I know this project will go well.
Finally there's the financial risk. I am doing this for free, because it's such a meaningful place and the people are doing work I believe in. However, “free” means I am taking time off work and investing my own money and gear as well as the money this Kickstarter provides.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)