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A photographic journey along the California coast to promote conservation and public awareness of a critically endangered ecosystem
A photographic journey along the California coast to promote conservation and public awareness of a critically endangered ecosystem
151 backers pledged $13,116 to help bring this project to life.

About

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$13,116

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THE PROBLEM: California’s coastal wetland habitats are one of the most threatened coastal habitats on the planet, losing over 90% of their habitats in some regions due to rapid population growth and development in the past 150 years. These critically impacted habitats provide a suite of beneficial services, including nutrient cycling, act as natural filtration systems for pollutants and sediments, protect shorelines from severe storms and flooding, recreation, and serve as critical nursery areas for many organisms. Many of California’s most threatened and endangered species utilize these habitats at some point in their life history. Some of these species include the endangered tidewater goby, red-legged frog, southern steelhead, snowy plover, and the California least tern.

A pristine closed estuary located on Camp Pendleton, San Diego, CA
A pristine closed estuary located on Camp Pendleton, San Diego, CA
A highly impacted closed estuary located in Malibu, CA. This is not just a storm drain outlet. There used to be a pristine, and much larger estuarine habitat here many years ago.
A highly impacted closed estuary located in Malibu, CA. This is not just a storm drain outlet. There used to be a pristine, and much larger estuarine habitat here many years ago.

THE PURPOSE: I created this kickstarter project to help fund my 4-month photographic journey along the California coast. If successfully funded, this project would allow me to capture images of some of California’s most threatened and endangered ecosystems and wildlife. These images, along with the research I have conducted in these habitats over the past 4 years, will allow me to tell a very detailed story of these critically impacted ecosystems and wildlife to a broad audience. My goal is to link photography and scientific documentation, creating a powerful tool that can promote conservation and sustainability in multiple ways. These include gallery exhibitions that promote public awareness of wetland conservation through imagery, and curriculum and interactive activities that can be used for educational courses and public programs.

A Great Egret, Ardea alba, in Salmon Creek Lagoon, CA
A Great Egret, Ardea alba, in Salmon Creek Lagoon, CA
Iceplant, Carpobrotus chilensis
Iceplant, Carpobrotus chilensis
Three-spined stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus. This fish was returned to its home safely.
Three-spined stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus. This fish was returned to its home safely.

GOALS AND PRODUCTS: G2 Gallery Exhibition - An exhibit is planned at the G2 Gallery in Venice, CA from August 11- September 27, 2015 to showcase some of the photographs that are captured from this project. The G2 Gallery is an award winning nature and wildlife photography gallery that facilitates change by bringing attention to environmental issues through the persuasive power of photography. Since 2008, the G2 gallery has donated over 1 million dollars to environmental charities. This exhibition will allow the community to experience these remarkable habitats up close, and create a unique opportunity to promote conservation and public awareness of these critically impacted ecosystems.

The G2 Gallery Emerging V opening reception, 2012.
The G2 Gallery Emerging V opening reception, 2012.

Santa Monica Pier Aquarium - Photographs and funds will go towards developing wetland based curriculum and interactive activities that will be used for education and public programs at Heal the Bay's Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. The new Water shed exhibit (shown below) helps visitors make the connection between the natural environment, and how their own everyday habits impact the health and ecology of local watershed. The photographs, curriculum, and interactive activities generated through this project will directly help the aquarium reach its goals of raising awareness of the local watersheds and marine environments, promoting conservation through stewardship, and teaching marine science to the public.

The new Watershed Exhibit at Heal the Bay's Santa Monica Pier Aquarium
The new Watershed Exhibit at Heal the Bay's Santa Monica Pier Aquarium

One of the live exhibits depicts the life in an estuary in the Santa Monica Mountain Watershed, and I was fortunate enough to work with the aquarium to exhibit the endangered tidewater goby so they can educate the public on its ecological importance within the estuary.

The endangered tidewater goby, Eucyclogobius newberryi
The endangered tidewater goby, Eucyclogobius newberryi

EXPERIENCE: Research Biologist - I am a Southern California native, currently living in Los Angeles. I received my B.S. degree in biology from San Diego State University, and my M.S. degree in marine ecology from California State University, Northridge. I have worked in the marine biology field since 2002, and am currently a research biologist and Ph.D. student at the University of California, Los Angeles. My research focuses on the topics of estuarine ecology, ichthyology, and conservation biology. Specifically, I am interested in various ecological questions that relate to the recovery and management of threatened and endangered species that inhabit California coastal estuaries and lagoons. Photography allows me communicate my research to a broader audience, and provides a powerful tool in promoting conservation and sustainability.

Nature and wildlife photography at the beautiful Carpinteria Salt Marsh, CA
Nature and wildlife photography at the beautiful Carpinteria Salt Marsh, CA

Photography - I have a considerable amount of experience photographing landscapes and wildlife all around the world. My photographs have been featured in numerous publications, blogs, galleries, and movie and commercial sets, including National Geographic Magazine. In October of 2010, I received the National Geographic People’s Choice Award for the image captured below.

National Geographic People’s Choice Award, 2010. Image taken on a Denali, AK expedition.
National Geographic People’s Choice Award, 2010. Image taken on a Denali, AK expedition.

WHAT WILL YOUR DONATION SUPPORT? Your donation will help support my 4-month journey along the California coast, the printing and framing of photos for the G2 gallery exhibit, and the development of wetland based curriculum and interactive activities used at Heal the Bay’s Santa Monica Pier Aquarium.

Project costs include:

  • YOUR INCENTIVES! 
  • Travel expenses - gasoline Lodging (I will be camping along the coast in order to reduce costs) 
  • Food 
  • Camera equipment 
  • Weatherproofing material for camera gear 
  • Scientific permits 
  • Field supplies 
  • Printing, matting, and framing of gallery images 
  • Materials and equipment needed to convert photos into curriculum and activities 
  • Kickstarter fees

COLLABORATORS: 

The G2 Gallery - Nature and Wildlife Photography Website: http://www.theg2gallery.com/

Santa Monica Pier Aquarium - Heal the Bay Website: http://www.healthebay.org/santa-monica-pier-aquarium

Dr. David Jacob’s Lab - University of California, Los Angeles website: https://www.eeb.ucla.edu/Faculty/Jacobs/Jacobs_Lab.000/Home.html

BRENTON’S INFORMATION: 

For more information on my research, photography, and this project please visit my website at http://www.brentonspies.com

Follow me on twitter @Gobi_Guy

Email: brenton.spies@gmail.com

Risks and challenges

The potential risks and challenges I foresee with this project include:

Climate and Terrain: Photographing throughout the California coast during late fall and early spring can provide a lot of variable weather, especially this year with the projected El Nino flooding. In addition, many of these sites require a lot of hiking and climbing to get to the areas where wildlife of interest occur. However, this is what I want to capture. The response of these estuarine systems to variations in the climate and terrain is a large part of the story that isn't being told.

Equipment and Logistics: Photographing in the field is not always kind to your equipment. Especially when photographing in or near water. Therefore, camera insurance has been taken out on my current equipment, and any new equipment purchased from this kickstarter project will be added to the insurance policy before I head into the field.

Illness and Injury: As you can see from the video, some of these estuaries are not the cleanest of places and take a lot of hiking and climbing to get to. Because of this, there is a risk of illness, infection, and serious injury. With my extensive experience in these systems, I take all the necessary precautions in order to be safe and healthy.

Nature and Wildlife: There is always great uncertainty being a nature and wildlife photographer. You never know what will be provided for you to photograph. With my knowledge and experience in these systems, however, I am very confident I'll be able to capture many of the endangered and threatened species to share with you.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    Reward #1: A HUGE THANK YOU, as well as recognition on my website as a special donor. You will also be added to my mailing list and receive weekly updates throughout the project.

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    Reward #2: A limited edition photographic postcard, sent from the road with a fun fact related to the project site. PLUS Reward #1

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    Reward #3: A downloadable Ebook featuring a selection of my favorite images from the trip, and written descriptions of the destinations and wildlife I photographed. PLUS Rewards #1,2

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    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    Reward #4: A set of 12 blank greeting cards featuring 4 different photographs from California’s coastal estuaries. Envelopes included, printed on recycled paper. PLUS Rewards #1,2,3

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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Reward #5: Admission for two for the opening night reception of my photography exhibition at the G2 Gallery in Venice, CA on August 15, 2015. Free Valet Parking, hors d'oeuvres, drinks, and live music. PLUS Rewards #1,2,3,4

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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    Reward #6: A signed, framed, and matted 8x10 image. Choose from a selection of ten or more images that will be posted on my website. PLUS Rewards #1,2,3,4,5

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Reward #7: A signed, framed, and matted 11x14 image. Choose from a selection of ten or more images that will be posted on my website. PLUS Rewards #1,2,3,4,5

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    Pledge $750 or more About $750

    Reward #8: A signed, framed, and matted 16x20 image. Choose from a selection of ten or more images that will be posted on my website. PLUS Rewards #1,2,3,4,5

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    Pledge $850 or more About $850

    Reward #9: A one-hour portfolio review with G2 Gallery Director Jolene Hanson. Jolene professionally reviews photography portfolios all over the country at select festivals and competitions. PLUS Rewards #1,2,3,4,5,8

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    Reward #10: Be a marine biologist for a day. Go out into the field with me and experience a California wetland for yourself. You’ll help me collect scientific data, as well as see the endangered tidewater goby, and many other organisms up close. I'll take photos and video throughout the day for you to share your experience with friends and family. PLUS Rewards #1,2,3,4,5,8

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    Pledge $1,500 or more About $1,500

    Reward #11: Dinner for two with G2 Gallery Director Jolene Hanson and myself. We'll enjoy great food, drinks, and conversation about the sciences and arts. PLUS Rewards 1,2,3,4,5,8

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Funding period

- (30 days)