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IRC Hosts the National Geographic Photo Ark!

August 3, 2023

Last month, IRC and our Pine Rockland Initiative hosted National Geographic Explorer Joel Sartore, world-renowned photographer and founder of the National Geographic’s Photo Ark project, who visited Miami-Dade County to document the work that IRC and partners are doing to restore habitat for the Miami tiger beetle, Bartram’s scrub hairstreak butterfly, and many other critters that inhabit the Richmond Pine Rocklands.

Working with Frank Ridgley and Tiffany Moore from Zoo Miami and other members of our collaborative team, Joel was also able to photograph both of our focal species as well as many other pine rockland invertebrates and native pine rockland plants.

A National Geographic Society film crew was on hand to film Joel as our project team and I showed him our restoration sites at US Coast Guard, Richmond Station, and Zoo Miami. Also, on hand were key partners from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Sandra Sneckenberger, Kevin Kalasz, and Shawn Christopherson, US Coast Guard project liaison Megan Clouser, and IRC’s ecological restoration and management crew.

In April, I had the honor of becoming a National Geographic Explorer and our project became the first ever funded by Photo Ark’s new Species Impact Initiative, which supports science-based, on-the-ground conservation projects chosen through a peer-reviewed grant process. The National Geographic Society will also elevate the profile of the conservationists, their work, and their focal species as part of its amplification of the Photo Ark. Baseline monitoring for our project began in April and restoration work in May, so we had some preliminary results to show Joel and his team.

The Richmond Pine Rocklands are both critically important for the survival of many pine rocklands plants and animals, and under constant threat. These threats can be acute impacts, particularly further intensification of development in the area, such as that proposed by Miami Wilds, as well as insidious cumulative threats including the lack of periodic fire, invasive species, and climate change. It is our hope that our project, assisted through funding and amplification by National Geographic Photo Ark, can demonstrate the need for and proof-of-concept that pine rocklands can be restored to the high integrity condition needed for their many native inhabitants, including plants, invertebrates, Florida bonneted bats, and many others.

Thanks to our collaborators, especially Sandra Sneckenberger and Frank Ridgley, for making this visit a success!

George Gann Founder and Executive Director

group of young people with camers, video equipment and sound equipment in the woods
George Gann and Joel Sartore, and representatives from the National Geographic film crew, IRC ecological restoration and management team, US Coast Guard, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Zoo Miami, at US Coast Guard, Richmond Station. Photo by Lindsay Anderson, National Geographic.
filiming in the scrubland woods
National Geographic producer Lindsay Blatt and crew filming at Zoo Miami.