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Three in-depth films exploring the natural history, latest science and conservation topics surrounding the River Herring migration. Read more

Boston, MA Documentary
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This project was successfully funded on April 23, 2013.

Three in-depth films exploring the natural history, latest science and conservation topics surrounding the River Herring migration.

Boston, MA Documentary
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About this project


SERIES TITLE: The Herring Migration


Film 1: The Herring Migration: A Natural History
This film is the first to present a comprehensive natural history and scientific portrait of River Herring and the migration event. 

Film 2: The Herring Dilemma: A Complicated Path
A panel of scientists and herring experts explore the latest assessments focused on conservation challenges and proposed solutions in restoring herring’s decimated numbers.

Film 3: The Mystic Herring Run: The Return of 2012 and Beyond
The film analyzes the historic return of herring to Boston's Mystic Lakes for the first time since the American Civil War and its biological implications.

Bonus and Specials: Include soundtrack and bonus content.


(1) A minimum funding goal of $6,600 would finance a total duration of 45-54 minutes for the series (15-18 minutes per episode), while retaining the highest standards in content and visual treatment.

(2) Provided that we exceed the bare minimum funding goal of $6,600, episodes' duration and scope will be expanded accordingly for up to 27 minutes per episode, increasing the total running time for up to 81 minutes. 


Ecological Significance:
 Herrings are on the menu of countless species, both at sea and on land. They play a critical role in transferring energy in food webs to a diverse multitude of lifeforms. Their drastic decline in the past decades is a cause for great concern. 

Economical Value: Tourism, sport and commercial fishing industry revolve around thriving population of species that feed intensively on herring.

Educational Potential: 
They are ambassadors of our oceans that link inland freshwater habitats to the sea. Herrings have tremendous potential for engaging communities and stimulating the love of nature in the next generation.  


Featuring original and scientifically accurate content, the films have great promise for educational platforms of distribution, spreading conservation messages, informing policy makers, fostering discussion and generating interest among environmentally-tuned audience.

Natural history and science documentary fans with a discriminating taste for in-depth content and stunning visuals will be in for a treat.

Marine conservation entities that protect waterways harboring the migratory fish stand to benefit from the series for advocacy, education and advancing conservation projects. 


Research and Pre-Production: 100% Completed.
Production: 60% completed. Remaining 40% of content to be shot in 2013.
Post-Production: Pending funds.
Outreach: Pending funds

DVD, Online Releases, Digital Downloads

October 2013. Rewards will ship by November 2013.

- Scott Dowd, Lead Scientist, New England Aquarium

- Alex Mansfield, Scientist, Jones River Watershed Association
- David Cavanaugh, Warden and Naturalist, Middleborough Herring Run
- Bradford C. Chase, Biologist, Division of Marine Fisheries, Diadromous Fish Biology and Management Project
- Greg Wells, Herring Alliance, The Pew Charitable Trust
- Jo Ann Muramoto, Senior Biologist, Mass Bays Program Regional Coordinator, Cape Cod
- John Sheppard, Biologist, Division of Marine Fisheries
- Jonathan Deroba, Scientist, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- Jud Crawford, Scientist, Herring Alliance, The Pew Charitable Trust
- Michael Armstrong, Biologist, Division of Marine Fisheries, Recreational & Anadromous Fisheries
- Philip Lofgren, Warden and Naturalist, Weymouth Herring Run
- Pine duBois, Activist, Jones River Watershed Association
- Robert Stevenson, Biologist, University of Massachusetts Boston

- Les Kaufman, Biologist, Boston University

- Captain Buddy Vanderhoop, Fisherman
- Jake Kritzer, Senior Marine Scientist, Environmental Defense Fund

- Arthur N. Popper, Biologist, Center for Comparative and Evolutionary Biology of Hearing
- Patrick Herron, Scientist, Mystic River Watershed Association
- EkOngKar Singh Khalsa, Executive Director, Mystic River Watershed Association
- Michael Fager, Naturalist, Mystic River Watershed Association
- Meghna Marjadi, Herring Monitoring Volunteer Coordinator, Mystic River Watershed Association 

- Nate Gray, Biologist, Department of Marine Resources State of Maine
 - Theodore Willis, Biologist, Dept. of Environmental Science, University of Southern Maine
 - Emily Klein, Researcher, University of New Hampshire
- Matt Burak, Researcher, University of Massachusetts in Amherst


Researcher, Cameraman, Producer, Director and Editor:
Shervin A. Arya - Illuminating Minds Media

Executive Producers:
Bob Nesson - Filmmaker at Nesson Media Boston | Adjunct Professor at Emerson College
Tricia Pries - President of Whitman's Pond Association

Marketing Artwork Director | Contributing Graphic Artist:

Karl Robert Sjöberg

Illustrator, Cameraman and Composer:
Christopher Renna -

Production and Motion Control Engineer:
Marc Davidson | Mystic Motion Control CEO

Massachusetts, United States
 of America
Mystic River, Nemasket River, Weymouth Back Bay River, Boston Harbor, Boston Inner Harbor, Massachusetts Bay, Jones River, Middleborough River, Weymouth Back River, Whitman's Pond, Mystic Lakes, Malden River, Parker River. 2013 filming sessions may expand into Maine.



Each spring, many rivers along eastern coastlines of the United States, witness the arrival of River Herrings that mysteriously materialize from the sea. Their dancing reflections on the waters’ surface signal their mission to reach spawning grounds; an important cue to many predators lined up to feast on a seasonal bounty.

Blueback Herring and Alewife are pelagic, anadromous, schooling fish, commonly referred to as River Herring. They undertake seasonal migrations in response to changing water temperatures and diel vertical migrations in response to prey movement and availability.

As planktivores, River Herrings serve as a critical link in marine food webs by transferring energy to a diverse multitude of life-forms, both at sea and on land. Their immense ecological and economical importance is often measured by numerous species that prey on them: tuna, haddock, cod, striped bass, whales, dolphins and a wide range of seabirds. 

River Herrings were once so prolific that humans were said to “cross rivers on their backs.” Today, decimated herring runs represent the former shadow of the million strong runs of a distant past. 

In spite of their presence among human settlements for centuries, many aspects of their migration, biology and behavior are shrouded in mystery. What is the current state of our scientific understanding of herring species and what does the future hold for their dwindling biomass?

We seek to reveal answers in a three-part documentary series, aimed at capturing a comprehensive scientific portrait of the species.

Using advanced computer simulations, artful cinematography, a powerful soundtrack and strong content derived from hundreds of scientific publications and insightful interviews with leading experts, the series will present science-based storylines in an informative and drama-packed story of the River Herring migration.

The series presents a comprehensive picture of the natural history of the migration event and the complex mosaic of life-forms that revolves around River Herring, highlighting their dilemma and providing insights into the future of the species. The series will challenge widely held assumptions about the known and the unknown components of herring biology. We capture herring behavior in new ways and bring complicated sets of conservation topics into sharp focus.


The Herring Migration: A Natural History
Minimum Duration: 15-18 Minutes

The film presents a journey of endurance and intrigue as evolutionary adaptations guide the River Herring over vast expanses of water to spawning grounds and back out to sea. The complete life-cycle of River Herring, diet, key behaviors, navigational abilities, evolution, natural history, sense of hearing and ecological significance are presented in intimate detail.

The audience will empathize with the multitude of obstacles herring face along the way and experience the full force of storms and weather events in their path. The viewers will come face to face with a host of predators as herring enact their annual migration, spawning behaviors and release of millions of eggs. The cameras follow hatching larvae as they go through juvenile stages of development. Further sequences include a glimpse into their lives at sea and rarely witnessed behavior at night.

No talking head interviews are featured in the first episode and the storylines are presented in the format of a journey to be experienced through the eyes of herrings.

2. The Herring Dilemma: A Complicated Path
Minimum Duration: 15-18 Minutes

What factors are behind the precipitous decline of River Herring and what are the conservation challenges and solutions to bring the species from the brink of collapse?

This episode explores the projected impact of climate change, water quantity and quality, habitat degradation and loss, dams and other barriers to migration, invasive plants, predation, mid-water trawls, faults in current data gathering and overview of mysteries that so far has eluded modern science.

A distinguished panel of scientists, wardens, researchers, environmental advocates and fish management experts (see the full list under Project at A Glance) have been assembled to analyze a comprehensive range of issues and explore solutions to the multi-faceted herring's dilemma.

Among the highlights is a dramatic sequence in which cameras show a herring’s perspective as they pass through a tight claustrophobic entrance into an underground floodgate structure, where thousands of herring have strayed enroute to a mistaken spawning destination. We are joined by Weymouth warden Philip Lofgren for full analysis of the situation and a timely rescue effort that gave thousands of stranded fish another chance to reach their spawning grounds.

3. The Mystic Herring Run: The Return of 2012 and Beyond
Minimum Duration: 15-18 Minutes

In 2012, Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA) and residents of neighboring communities celebrated the return of the herring run beyond the Mystic Lake Dams after a marked absence since the days of the American Civil War.

The completion of Upper Mystic Lake Rehabilitation Project and installments of a new fish ladder became the catalyst for restoring herring access to Mystic Lakes spawning habitats. These developments spelled an end to Bucket Brigade Era, where fish had to be manually hoisted over the dam by volunteers and signaled a new era for herring at the Mystic River.

This episode documents the historic 2012 Mystic Herring Run and its future implications from a biological standpoint. Using live action, underwater filming, microscopy and interviews with scientists and MyRWA staff, we trace and analyze the journey of the fish from Boston Harbor to Mystic Lakes.

An overview of some of the topics in the film are as follows:
- Historical accounts of the herring runs at the Mystic River dating back to colonists' era.
- Paradoxical evidence establishing modern Mystic River as a mixture of degraded and suitable habitat.
- Results of critical habitat assessment throughout the Mystic Lakes’ spawning grounds measured in terms of dissolved oxygen, water quality, quantity, temperature and PH.
- Overview of known watershed challenges and solutions.
- Estimated 2012 herring biomass, fecundity rates, population statistics and results of volunteer submitted fish counts.
- Ecological significance of the herring and Mystic wildlife that interact with them. This includes dramatic footage of fishing eagles that have recently nested in the Mystic Lakes area.
- The influence of degraded habitats on adults and juveniles' early development.
- The modern era human connection with Mystic’s herring
 and the future of the run beyond 2012.


Shervin A. Arya - Producer, Director, Editor, Special Effects, 3D Models and Content Acquisition

Shervin is an independent filmmaker and the founder of Illuminating Minds Media; a cloud-based media production company focused on quality science-based films. His filmmaking style revolves around blending science-driven content with artful storytelling in producing engaging and in-depth documentation of the natural world.

Shervin is an Adobe Production Creative Suite expert and technically proficient in production and post production workflows. He has 8 years of experience in producing media ranging from broadcast to interactive multi-media for museums and US Fish and Wildlife nature visitor centers.

Shervin has majored in biology, concentrating in conservation and ecology field and holds a masters degree in visual and media arts, specializing in documentary films.

His latest initiatives currently in production are:

- The Northeast Avifauna Puzzle: An analysis of the projected impact of climate change on the birds of the northeastern United States.
- The State of the Mystic Benthos: A natural history of the benthic life forms in lower Mystic River and Inner Boston Harbor.
- The Blanding's Dilemma: A natural history of the endangered Blanding's turtles and overview of ongoing conservation projects.
- The Alopecia Cases: A scientific analysis of a condition known as Alopecia resulting in progressive hair loss in humans and animals.

Bob Nesson - Executive Producer | Professor at Emerson College

Filmmaker Bob Nesson has a wide range of award-winning documentary films. His early work includes films that explore how cities evolve over time (Building Boston, PBS) or the systems that enable them to function (Waterworks, also PBS). Several examine the lives of artists; It is Memory, about a sculptor who is the last surviving artist of the Warsaw Ghetto; A Bridge Between Cultures, depicting the creative struggle between a Chinese and an American sculptor trying to collaborate over barriers of language and style.

Other works include series and programs for television (Surviving Mars, Anyplace Wild, and All Bird TV for PBS) and works for hire (Interchange, a 64-part ESL series for Cambridge University Press).

Issues of contemporary importance have deep personal meaning to him; public transportation, environment, health and politics. Most of his current work falls in this area: Wenzday (working title) is a documentary about a woman who rose from a childhood of poverty to change the world in order to create her place in it.

He was director of photography and consulting producer for Work of 1000, the award-winning documentary about Marion Stoddart and her leadership role in the historical clean up of the Nashua River and having the Clean Water Act passed.

Bob is an adjunct professor at Emerson College, where he won the Stanzler Award for outstanding part-time faculty in 2010. His courses include Documentary for Social Action, Filmmaking and the Environment, and Urban Studies and Filmmaking.

Christopher Renna - Audio Specialist, Illustrator, Composer

Christopher Renna has scored numerous fictional narrative and documentary pieces. Drawing on over 25 years of musical performance, songwriting and recording experience, he employs a wide array of traditional and computer-generated instruments and editing tools to complement the visions of the filmmakers and directors he collaborates with.

Chris is particularly interested in highlighting the mystery and beauty of wildlife. The sounds and images he finds in earth’s natural realms are a constant source of inspiration. His range of works may be viewed and listened to here.

Chris received a Bachelor of Science degree as a Studio Art major from Skidmore College ’92 and graduated with a Master of Arts in 2008 from Boston’s Emerson College where he concentrated in audio production.

Tricia Pries - Executive Producer

Growing up during the summers in the western part of Connecticut in a cabin where no TV was allowed, much of Tricia's summers were spent with a snorkel and a mask in the waters of Candlewood Lake and Green Pond. To her, the underwater world was a magical place. The fish were mesmerizing to watch and the colors and beauty of underwater landscape made lasting impressions on her.

Years later, as a local resident and environmental advocate in Weymouth who served as a board member of three environmental non profits, she has gone before a number of state agencies in Massachusetts bringing awareness to important herring habitats in Whitmans' Pond, as well as conservation issues in connection with the Back River Watershed and the Weymouth Herring Run. She has actively participated in Massachusetts' Sustainable Water Management Initiative discussions regarding safe yield out of watersheds and have organized many local events to connect people with the Weymouth herring run.

As a systems integration consultant with a focus on logistics, process and production and above all a passion for the herring that spawn right in front of her house on Whitmans' Pond, she serves as one of the executive producers for Herring Migration Series and has been instrumental in completing 2012 filming sessions.

Marc Davidson - Motion Control Engineer

Marc serves as the motion control engineer and technical adviser for specialized filming, camera support and motion control applications. His expertise includes designing and building computer-controlled and motorized camera-positioning equipments engineered for precise and advanced acquisition of specialized visuals by filmmakers and photography professionals.

His contribution to Herring Migration Series include designing and building a programmable motorized rotating table for object and 360 photography applications.

Robert Karl Sjöberg - Marketing Artwork Director, Contributing Graphic Designer

Robert is a freelance digital media professional, specializing in digital imaging, promotional and packaging artwork design. His production experience includes shooting multi-cam events, remastering audio and video, professional media encoding and archival management.


As of January 2013, we have completed an extensive body of research encompassing hundreds of scientific publications, interviews with leading scientists and herring experts, and 60% of all production for three episodes amounting to over 200+ hours of footage.

Critical funds are needed to finance the fast approaching 2013 production schedule, during which the last window of opportunity to film the remaining 40% of content closes.

These include covering expenses for:

- Location shoots that covers behavior at night, predation and various scientific aspects of the run. 
- 3D object photography allowing for production of ultra-realistic 3D models of fish for advanced visual manipulation.
- Microscopic filming covering the developmental phases of the Blueback Herring from eggs to juvenile stages, all in high definition resolution. The footage will complement extensive filming of developmental biology in American Shad completed in 2012.

Over half of the expenditure of funds are allocated to post production costs that includes editing, graphics, special effects, color grading, professional voice over and digital media management. The series boasts a largely original score and sound design elements, complementing the form and content of the films.


A successful funding campaign on Kickstarter allows for completion by October 2013. Rewards will be shipped by November 2013. Throughout 2013, we will develop and implement a strong marketing and outreach strategy.

Please help us reach our funding goal by contributing to this worthy endeavor and spreading the word by forwarding this page to as many contacts and potential funding sources in your network.


This involves three easy steps:

Step 1: Read through the pledge levels and rewards offered in the right sidebar of this page.

Step 2: Click the large, green "BACK THIS PROJECT" button to the right of the trailer video at the top of this page.

Step 3: Enter your pledge amount, select your Reward, and complete the steps for filling in your information. This process takes just a few minutes.


Risks and challenges

The primary challenge lies in the successful completion of specialized sequences at night during the upcoming 2013 run. Nocturnal behavior of herring and its predator species have not been captured on film and the basis for much of the knowledge of the runs have emerged from partial daytime observations only.

As nature can't be scripted and waves of the migrating herring are unpredictable, the window of opportunity to film nocturnal behavior depends on timely observation of incoming fish to allow for enough time for a proper and non-intrusive filming set up.

To maximize the likelihood of capturing rarely witnessed behavior under the cover of darkness, we will film in the Weymouth Back River area. It was chosen because of the convenience it provides in terms of depth, clarity of water, accessibility to herring, and the strong support of local experts and naturalists.

Weymouth warden Philip Lofgren will submit daily updates to production staff about the state of the run so we can set up ahead of an incoming fish waves.
Phil's intimate knowledge of the run led to many successful filming sessions during many key migration events in the past year and his dedicated input will be critical to completion of a complex project that takes the filmmakers and scientists into uncharted territories.

Furthermore, wardens and local experts on other rivers where filming took place in in the past year will be asked to provide regular updates on the state of the herring runs and related fauna to maximize chances for filming new behavior in as many diverse locations as possible. All this points toward the highest probability for capturing nocturnal behavior including predation.

Your donation will help make all of this possible. Thank you.

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Funding period

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