As the beaver slowly swam toward us, we held our breaths in anticipation and exchanged looks of excitement. The beaver dove under the surface and, to our amazement, swam directly beneath us, under the bridge and out the other side! We saw it perfectly under the surface, undulating its body slowly and paddling with its huge tail and webbed rear feet.
1) First, of course, we found a location where we could stand unobtrusively above the path of swimming beavers: the bridge. But I soon discovered a small side canal next to the dam with a large fallen tree above, which allowed me to get even closer to the water!
2) Secondly, I attached a GoPro HDHero 2 with an underwater housing to the end of a monopod. In the camera settings I flipped the image over because I would be filming upside down.
3) Finally, I learned the habits of the beavers and waited patiently each evening til one began to approach. Slowly, I lowered the monopod down into the water, in the expected path of the beaver and hoped for the best.
Hal Brindley is a wildlife photographer whose enthusiasm for beavers is a joy to encounter. You should really go to his website and see the whole thing for yourself. But I have to share his underwater treasure so can think what it’s like in our beavers murky H20 world. Rusty from Napa is chomping at the bit to get a GoPro cam and try for himself, but I am less eager. To be honest, I feel like everywhere I can see our beavers, I’m responsible for them – thinking about their lives and well-being, problem solving to make sure the don’t trouble the city and worrying about their safety. I’m not sure I want to add to that job by knowing more about their lives by seeing them swimming over trash or sharp car fenders underwater.
But it would still be massively cool.
I spent yesterday in the trenches laboring over the grant for the Contra Costa Fish and Wildlife Commission. Chris Richards of the Alameda one came to the festival last year and said we should definitely apply. The goal is to get them to pay for the keystone activity at the festival, which will look a little different this year. Reading over the grueling application it is clear that the festival itself is way too much fun to get funding, but hopefully an educational activity can squeak by. Here’s my opening pitch:
The concept of species interdependence is a difficult to teach, but important to the understanding of crucial ecological relationships. The emerging understanding of Trophic Cascades, for example, is changing the way agencies and individuals understand the role of predators. The idea that one species could influence another, or make habitat for another, makes intuitive sense to children who are naturally so dependent on others. Having a firm grasp of how species interact is essential to understanding the consequences of our adult behavior later on.K.E.Y.S.T.O.N.E. Kids Explore! Youth Science training On Natural Ecosystems
The K.E.Y.S.T.O.N.E activity provides a fun way to learn about complex connections between habitat, food chain and species abundance using the beaver’s Ecosystem Services.Admit it, that might possibly be the best acronym in the history of beaver education! Well, I’m proud anyway. The sticky wicket is that the grant specifically says “Formal education” which means classrooms, test tubes and zoned-out kids. I’m trying to get around that with this quote:
“One result [of formal education] is that students graduate without knowing how to think in whole systems, how to find connections, how to ask big questions, and how to separate the trivial from the important. Now more than ever, however, we need people who think broadly and who understand systems, connections, patterns, and root causes.”David Orr Earth in Mind
Isn’t that a great quote? Wish us luck!