A Look Back at Season Two

- Wednesday, July 17, 2013

As our production team prepares for season three of THIS AMERICAN LAND, coming soon to PBS stations nationwide, we spoke with some key members of our crew--Executive Producer Gary Strieker, Series Producer Marsha Walton, Managing Producer Walter Biscardi and Series Co-Hosts Caroline Raville and Bruce Burkhardt--to look back at season two, as well as get a sense of what season three will have to offer. We'll share their perspectives in a series of blogs.


THIS AMERICAN LAND: What was your favorite story was from season two of THIS AMERICAN LAND?

Gary Strieker: My favorite story was the segment on Rio Grande del Norte--a little-known corner of northern New Mexico, not far from where I live. I suppose it's because it profiled a landscape I see and appreciate every day.

Marsha Walton: It's hard to beat the images from our story on manatees. Our co-host Caroline Raville got to swim with them at the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, and we showed our audience how beautiful and important these creatures are. Since our story, they're facing some more threats, so we'll be following up on how scientists are working to help these endangered animals. 

Walter Biscardi: I liked the Beaver Builders story in episode 207. Nice, simple story of man learning from the animals and then helping restore balance naturally using the beavers' own skills. 

Caroline Raville: I definitely loved digging up the dinosaur bones. That is something I have wanted to do since second grade. The scenery was beautiful, and I learned so much. There is something really special about discovering new things, and that is exactly what we got to do.

Bruce Burkhardt: I liked the Idaho Wilderness story for many reasons, not the least of which was the beauty of the place. Many of our pieces have to do with striking a balance, and I think this piece epitomizes that. Protecting these amazing natural resources depends upon a delicate balance and consensus among many different types of user groups. This story is a great example of how this can be done. 

Stay tuned for more from this blog series. Next time we'll take a look at some funny stories from behind the scenes. In the meantime, share your favorite story from season two in the comments!

This American Land In the News

- Sunday, July 07, 2013

Our production team is working behind the scenes to finalize the third season of our conservation news series for PBS, bringing viewers compelling stories on issues that impact our landscapes, waters and wildlife. 

We'll feature a school in Oregon, the Albany Options School, that is working on a bioswale project, which uses a specifically-designed landscape of native plants to limit water pollution. You can read more about this project at the Captain Planet Foundation website, and also in the Albany Democrat Herald

This American Land returned to Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument for the third season in a row, this time to film a story on native plant restoration in Kanab, Utah. Kanab High School Natural Resource Management students are growing native plants in a greenhouse and on experimental plots at Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. You can read more about their efforts, featured in the Southern Utah News.

Executive Producer Gary Strieker worked with the USDA National Resource Conservation Service to highlight Texas farmers who are committed to conservation in their agricultural efforts. You can learn more about this story on the USDA-NRCS website

As always, you can keep up with the latest news from This American Land by following us on Twitter, liking us on Facebook, and visiting the "In the News" page on our website. 

High Flying, and a High Five to the "Lab of O"

- Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Series producer Marsha Walton takes a look at the many wonderful stories featured on the first two seasons of This American Land on birds, and exciting news from our friends at Cornell University's Lab of Ornithology. 

We cover all types of outdoor activities on our show. Any guesses on the most popular? Hiking? Fishing? Mountain biking? 

For the answer—look up! Birding is the number one sport in America. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says there are more than 50 million birdwatchers out there.

So it’s no surprise some of your favorite stories have featured exotic, endangered, and engaging birds. In season one, Sharon Collins of Georgia Public Broadcasting showed us “Herons and Heroes,” a look at how wading birds have recovered from over-hunting. 

In season two, our colleagues at Oregon Field Guide captured amazing pictures of Arctic white geese by the tens of thousands, and healthy new populations of bald eagles in the northwest. 

We also showed you the almost unbelievable “Miracle Eagle,” a female bald eagle that crashed into a truck driver’s windshield in Idaho and fought back to a healthy recovery.  From a haven for hawks in Idaho, to the birds of Dyke Marsh near Washington, D.C., to a most unusual peregrine falcon home in Iowa, birds and their habitats constantly mesmerize us. 

But birds and other wildlife can be pretty mercurial. On a typical video shoot we aren’t always lucky enough to get pictures of all the birds or other critters we report on. 

That’s where our friends at Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology (known by most as “The Lab of O”) come to the rescue! Ask just about any birder in the country, and chances are they have checked out the live nest cams, or taken part in citizen science projects on the Lab of O website to learn more about our feathered friends. 

The Macaulay Library at the Lab of O is the world's largest and oldest scientific archive of biodiversity audio and video. And they’ve just reached a milestone!

All the archived recordings at the lab, dating back to 1929, have been digitized and can now be heard at www.MacaulayLibrary.org

That’s nearly 150,000 digital audio recordings of about 9,000 species. While birds are by far the stars, you can hear, (and in many cases see) recordings of whales, elephants, frogs, and primates.  And on many of these recordings, you’ll hear the scientists on site discussing their work. 

So set aside some time to check out these treasures. And our sincere thanks to the folks at Macaulay for providing sounds and video to help us out on “This American Land.” 

Confessions From the Field

- Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Series Producer Marsha Walton shares a look behind the scenes at some western shoots for season two of This American Land.



Photographer David Waters and I had terrific assignments this year covering the Gold Butte region of Nevada (episode 202) and Death Valley in California, (episode 204) looking at both areas as contenders for wilderness protection.


Our day began at 5:00am for our California desert assignment. It was about 30 degrees. We hopped in a “seasoned” 4- wheel drive truck with our guide, Tom Budlong. An hour and a half of a somewhat kidney-jarring ride over gravel and dirt roads got us to our starting point, the beginning of a strenuous hike that would take us to 7,000 feet.

There was some distinct huffing and puffing going on for David and me, schlepping our gear up the mountain. Tom, on the other hand, even though he is 75, was tackling the terrain like an Olympic sprinter.

The sun was starting to come up over the juniper, Joshua and piñon trees in the mountains. It was breathtaking. Literally.

“Let’s stop here for a bit – I’d love to get a time lapse of the sunrise!” shouted David.

Now, time lapse sequences can be great techniques in video stories. But they are time consuming. To get a good 15-20 second clip, it takes 30 or 40 minutes of a locked down shot.

Tom and I said sure, and David set up his camera. As a native Floridian I shivered quite a bit but loved hearing Tom’s great historical vignettes about this land, from charcoal making entrepreneurs to the Mining Act of 1872!

So about 40 minutes later David declared the shot a wrap, and we were on our way.

Now the confession from David:

“I WAS OUT OF BREATH! THE TIME LAPSE REQUEST WAS MERE SUBTERFUGE FOR ME GETTING CATCHING MY BREATH!!!”

You can see all of David’s great camera work in our desert story in episode 204 of “This American Land”.

Sheila, the Demon Car

While we usually rent the smallest, most fuel efficient vehicles possible, on our trip to Nevada and California we had some very rugged terrain to cover and got a small SUV with a higher clearance.

Did I mention that this vehicle was possessed? (We named her Sheila.)

The computer navigation screen had, I am not making this up, about 400 different choices… literally from what color mood lighting we wanted at our feet to temperature and humidity selections for driver and passenger to Windows vs. Mac …

It was complicated enough for the passenger to peruse all these choices, I can’t imagine zipping down the freeway at 70 mph and choosing between “teal” and “chartreuse” floor lighting.

Our first clue that Sheila was haunted came when we tried to change the temperature. I like it about 80; David likes it about 64. We set those temps, and inexplicably, about every ten minutes there would be a huge blast of air, sometimes hot, sometimes cold, and the temperatures would settle at some random number that neither of us had selected.

The true moment of eeriness came when David plugged in his iPhone to charge. All of a sudden the navigation screen lit up and started flashing, “now downloading address book” “Syncing calendar entries” “Calling your mother” … and then, at a delirious decibel level, Sheila started belting out hits from David’s playlist, starting with “Les Miserables.”

It’s great to have in-vehicle entertainment. And it’s always a pleasure to work with David.

Sheila, not so much.

Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future

- Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Series co-host Caroline Raville on location for our story on the Nature Conservancy’s LEAF program.

Episode 213 of This American Land features an excellent story on the Nature Conservancy’s youth program called Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future, also known as LEAF.

The program creates opportunities for young people to engage with nature, from partnering with environmental high schools around the nation, to providing internship opportunities for students to explore careers connected to nature and the environment.

The program creates opportunities for young people to engage with nature, from partnering with environmental high schools around the nation, to providing internship opportunities for students to explore careers connected to nature and the environment.

Our story on the LEAF program follows students to beautiful Santa Cruz Island off the California coast. Watch the episode below, and visit the LEAF website for details on supporting this worthwhile program.

 

Ranger Tammy Says…

- Monday, November 12, 2012

Producer Marsha Walton shares a firsthand look at one of the stories she worked on for season two of This American Land, at Fort Ord in California.

This American Land co-host Bruce Burkhardt with Ranger Tammy

 

People remember “Ranger Tammy. “

At Fort Ord National Monument in California, Tammy Jakl, a park ranger with the Bureau of Land Management, is a dynamo…constantly teaching visitors about protecting and enjoying this transformed military base.

“I am a jack of all trades,” she told us when host Bruce Burkhardt, photographer Roger Herr and I did our story on this beautiful California coastal area earlier this year.

“Pretty much my day can go: Visiting a school and doing an environmental education with ninety 8 year olds. And coming out here and seeing 98 year olds hiking, and maybe they need some water, or a ride back to their car,” she said.

During the time we spent with her, she answered logistics questions for extreme athletes at Fort Ord’s first ROGAINE event. (And no, it has nothing to do with hair! The event known as “Get Lost!! in Fort Ord” is a hiking and biking event. ROGAINE stands for “Rugged Outdoor Group Activity Involving Navigation and Endurance.”) Among many, many other duties, she looks for lost dogs, empties trash, repairs fences, writes grants so she can do more school programs… you name it!

“Being a ranger, part of my job is trying to get people excited about the outdoors,” she said. “To me, if they don’t have a reason to care, they won’t. And so through recreation and the habitat preservation, we get a large audience that way,” she said.

And it pays off, especially with the kids who learn about wildlife, plants, and preservation.

“When you teach a 6 year old something, they go home and say, ‘Daddy, Ranger Tammy says we need to stay on the trail, otherwise we could step on some endangered plants and they may not come back and then they’ll never be there again,’ Making sure kids understand why we are doing what we are doing, sometimes it is a little easier. If you grow up knowing that’s the right way to do it, it’s a habit,” she said.

If you’re visiting the California coast, perhaps checking out the Monterey Bay Aquarium, plan to spend a day at the Fort Ord National Monument. It’s just an amazing transformation that local residents and the military made after this iconic training facility was shuttered in the mid 1990s. For hikers and mountain bikers, it’s just a treasure!

Meet Ranger Tammy in episode 202 of This American Land! 

Behind the Scenes Photos

- Sunday, January 02, 2011

Enjoy a look behind the scenes at shoots in Gold Butte, Nevada for season two of This American Land. Many thanks to photographer David Waters for the photos!

 

 


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THIS AMERICAN LAND is the leading conservation news magazine program on public television stations nationwide. Opening windows to our country’s amazing natural heritage, we report compelling stories on America’s landscapes, waters and wildlife, taking our viewers to the front lines of conservation, science and outdoor adventure with stories that inform and entertain.
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