New film in post-production: ǂAonin

I was back in the Namib for June and July 2018 working on a new film project, ǂAonin, which takes a different approach to my usual focus on natural history.

Modernity merges with tradition as scientists in Namibia work with the indigenous ǂAonin Topnaar community to tackle contemporary ecological questions in the ancient Namib Desert.

The ǂAonin Topnaar are a pastoralist Nama community residing in the central Namib Desert of Namibia. In addition to livestock, the !nara plant is integral to Topnaar cultural identity and subsistence livelihood. Eric Shiningayamwe, a Namibian researcher has attached GPS tracking collars to Topnaar cattle to examine movement and foraging behaviour. Other scientists are examining the impact of livestock herbivory on !nara. The Topnaar have successfully subsisted in these marginal lands for generations; yet with modernity comes cultural and environmental change. Contemporary society undoubtedly has much to learn from traditional knowledge, but can traditional communities benefit from science...?

Stay tuned...

 Left: Topnaar cows wander the desert after recent rainfall produces grass. Right: Ouma Anna, myself and Oupa Willem in the dunes after filming the !nara melon harvest

Left: Topnaar cows wander the desert after recent rainfall produces grass. Right: Ouma Anna, myself and Oupa Willem in the dunes after filming the !nara melon harvest

Youth Environmental Summit 2018

I was privileged to be invited back to Gobabeb this May for my third Youth Environmental Summit. I made a video on the 2016 event in Etosha National Park and was excited to travel to Damaraland this year to film the enriching experience for young Namibians...

Engaging Namibian students in environmental education: Filmed in Damaraland, western Namibia, the film follows the weeklong training event from the perspective of the learners themselves.

The Youth Environmental Summit (YES) is organised and run by Gobabeb Research & Training Centre with support from the Ministry of Environment (MET) and Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). The educational programme focused on familiarising learners from across Namibia with the scientific process through a week of intensive fieldwork that addresses specific environmental topics whilst always promoting the overall objective of establishing environmental leadership amongst young people.

Oases for Insects

The Ecological Society of America have begun a new series, EcoPics, in their Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment journal:

"We are looking for photos that tell an intriguing natural history story, plus a 200- to 250-word description. The photo(s) should show a behavior or trait that reflects an interesting or little-known aspect of an organism’s natural history" - ESA.

This May saw the publishing of my note "Oases for Insects" where harvester termites in the Namib Desert provide other insects with access to an otherwise unobtainable water source.

https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/fee.1804

Salvadora

Salvadora is a new short natural history film. The idea for this film was conceived from often walking past Salvadora bushes and wondering what was producing the rustling sound from within the dense vegetation. I then elaborated on this thought to produce a short film personifying the plant into a living 'biological metropolis' for animals.

 Featuring previously undocumented insect behaviour, science mixes with art in this tribute to the under-appreciated world of plants and insects. Salvadora persica is a shrub that occurs within the Namib Desert; this film explains how it survives, and explores the ecological web of its unusual ecosystem, a linear oasis.