If you are on Facebook, you might want to check out a new conservation related social phenomenon there, started by my friends at the Nature Conservation Foundation in Mysore, India (and if you aren't already doing so, start reading their excellent new blog - eco logic, which even mentions reconciliation in their masthead!): the Weekly Wildlife, Nature and Conservation Photography Contest (the prize: fame, in having your image enshrined in the group's winners gallery). Now there are plenty of places on the intertubes, as you may rightly point out, for nature and wildlife photography, and many even have contests with real prizes - so what makes this so special? Apart from being on Facebook, where the group has rapidly grown to over a thousand members within a few weeks, the moderator is also experimenting with ways to make the experience richer than just eye-candy, and some oohs and aahs from voters in the comment fields. From the outset there has been a weekly theme, and some of them are unusual and intriguing, provoking some fresh perspectives on nature. Last week, they started a new feature: "expert" guest commentary from someone who knows a bit about the week's theme, with the intent to generate some deeper conversations where viewers/readers might delve beneath the surface of an image and explore its broader ecological context. And this week, with the theme of "creatures in the city", they invited yours truly to be said guest commentator! So I've been popping over there for a half hour or so every day, viewing the days submissions, dropping whatever pearls of wisdom are rattling around in my urban ecologist skull. Its been interesting - so much so that I forgot to mention it here on this blog! I will post a summary of my thoughts after the contest ends this weekend, but you might want to go check out the submissions before all but the winners disappear! So hurry on over there now!
And to start you off, let me share the image I posted there, with the following commentary:
Tourists (at least newcomers) visiting San Francisco's famous Fisherman's Wharf may be surprised to find that one of the docks on Pier 39 has been taken over completely by California Sea Lions! These large marine mammals started gathering at the dock exactly 20 years ago this month, and eventually persuaded (in collusion with conservationists) the human users of that dock to give up that prime roosting habitat. And in return, they've proved to be a significant draw for tourists from all over the world, giving a little boost to that segment of the industry. A fine example of reconciliation ecology, as I tell my students in that class. You don't find them at the docks all year round - they go to the Channel Islands during the summer breeding season - but they are here most of the rest of the year. You can read more about this population at the Marine Mammal Center website.
When Pavithra gave me a heads up about the theme of the competition here this week, and invited me to provide some commentary, I was excited. But then she also said I should submit one of my own pictures too! How can you ask an urban ecologist with pretensions of amateur photography to pick just *one* image to share with the world? Should I go with the hundreds of bird images I have? Or squirrels? What about spiders, butterflies, snails, and other small denizens of the city? And given that most of us live in cities anyway, surely this theme will bring a real deluge of submissions, no? There's over 40 already and its still Monday!
After browsing through my iPhoto library as well as submissions thus far, and pondering the theme of the week, I decided to go with this image because the wide angle captures something holistic about urban wildlife coexistence. What you are looking at is a group of Sea Lions dozing on the floating docks under that clear blue California sky, with the city of San Francisco rising up on the hill in the background. I probably have better - closer-up - images of these beasts taken that same day (you can see them on Flickr), but this one has become a favorite.