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September 2013 - Issue #15
Battle for Bats  by David McGowan
An Interview with Dr. Carl Bell  by Ken Redeker
Finca Bohemia  by David Cottrell
Eagle Eyes  by Stephanie Shepherd, Iowa DNR
Land Trust of McHenry County  by Dave McGowan
The Venom Trail  by Steve Spence
STOP Foodborne Illness  by Mike Brockway

Yellowstone Lake State Park
Dave McGowan and Brian Heeringa at Yellowstone Lake State Park
Photo by David Cottrell
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Battle For Bats:
The Survivors

by Dave McGowan

We dropped into an unnamed cave on a snowy slope in Vermont. Scott Darling, Vermont FWD, and Jeremy Coleman, US FWS, assembled a team of biologist to band bats in an effort to determine if any bats had survived the onslaught of White Nose Syndrome. Tom Clayton and I were there to film the process.

The cave was hit hard by WNS. Historically, it had over 600 bats during the winter. Currently, there are 70 survivors. And the survivors looked pretty darn healthy. That’s a good sign that these bats can live with the WNS fungus and provides hope that they may seed subsequent generations with a tolerance for the disease.

Sadly, a month later, we were there when Rod McClanahan, Shawnee National Forest, and Megan Harris, Mark Twain National Forest, found the first documented case of WNS on a little brown in southern Illinois. Rod and Megan share resources for their multi-year bat monitoring program in Illinois and Missouri. The news was heart breaking but not unexpected. Illinois was the hole in the Midwestern donut of WNS. It had already been confirmed in Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky and Missouri.

David Blehert, National Wildlife Health Center, showed us the new tools that have been developed to detect WNS spores in the soil of caves. The Real Time polymerase Chain Reaction led them to discover 20 new species of the WNS fungus that were previously unknown to science.

Everglades National Park
Mexican Free-Tailed bats emerging from Bracken Cave
Photo by Cindy Sandeno
One of the few good things to emerge from the WNS crisis is the level of positive attention bats are getting from the public. It’s no accident. Folks like Paul White, Wisconsin DNR, have made a tremendous effort through their Bat Fest in Madison, Wisconsin to educate the public about bats and WNS. Brian Heeringa, Chequamegon-Nicolet Forest, was on hand at the event to demonstrate an acoustic bat detector. He and Paul have successfully recruited citizen scientist volunteers to use the units in understanding more about Wisconsin bat populations.

Bat boxes are turning out to be an effective alternative roost for bats. After nearly 30 years of building them, Kent Borcherding has perfected the design. His bat boxes at Yellowstone Lake State Park in Wisconsin house thousands of bats. The increase in suitable summer roosts provided by the boxes may have a significant impact on bat populations in the future.

Cindy Sandeno, Monongahela National Forest, and I visited Mammoth Cave to film their new bio-mats. Mammoth has confirmed WNS in their bat populations. Rick Toomey, Mammoth Cave International Center for Science and Learning, explained how the bio-mats reduce the chance of spreading WNS fungus and other micro-organisms to other caves.

Cameraman Coulter Mitchell joined Cindy and I on our last production location in Texas. We interviewed Merlin Tuttle, founder of Bat Conservation International, and filmed the emergence of 15 million free-tail bats from Bracken Cave. We also filmed the emergence at the Congress Ave. bridge in Austin.

Now we have to distill 50 hours of digital film and over 100 pages of transcripts into a 12 minute movie. Wish us luck!

  • Coulter Mitchell, Dave McGowan, and Merlin Tuttle, at Bracken Cave, Texas.

  • Bio mats at Mammoth Cave National Park

  • Rob Meis at Wisconsin Bat Fest in Madison

  • Paul White at Wisconsin Bat Fest in Madison

  • VT DFWS and US FWS at checking the bat survivors

  • Rod McClanahan, Shawnee National Forest

Dr. Carl Bell
Dr. Carl Bell
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An Interview with Dr. Carl Bell

by Ken Redeker

Lack of health insurance has prevented me from receiving adequate treatment for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  If I had received frequent therapy, I would have been able to graduate from college, and get a better job.

Last April, I interviewed the internationally recognized, African-American, psychiatrist, Dr. Carl Bell.  One year ago, his clinic for 37 years, the Community Mental Health Council on the south side of Chicago was closed by the state of Illinois.
Since 2009, the state of Illinois has cut $187 million from its mental health budget, and Dr. Bell’s clinic treated 26,000 low income people with funding from the state. On August 1st 2012, his clinic closed was closed.  After the closure, he rolled his chair outside and saw about 500 patients on the sidewalk until the end of August.  He said, “I'm convinced because they (his patients) are predominately black, they're in Cook County Jail”, which he and Cook County Sherriff Tom Dart say is the largest mental health hospital in the country.  The patients he did see are now in other clinics, but some are now in the hospital.  Dr. Bell says “some people would say it (his clinic) was essentially assassinated by the state of Illinois.”

Dr. Bell also advocates prevention.  “We need to do a better job identifying mental illness early on in life,” he says.  “There is solid science that you can prevent depression, substance abuse, violence, maybe even schizophrenia,” he adds.

Dr. Bell and I discussed budget cuts by the state, OCD, and preventive care.  The hidden expense of untreated mental illness in the U.S. cost more than $100 billion a year in lost productivity, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).   Suicide ranks among the top 15 most common killers in the U.S. (in the top three among young people). This video demonstrates the need for more government spending on mental health care and the imperative need for prevention.

To view more interviews, please visit

Finca Bohemia
Sun drying coffee at Finca Bohemia
Photo by Al Rasho
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Finca Bohemia

by David Cottrell

Lorena Calvo is up at 4 a.m. to begin her three hour drive west from her home in Guatemala City, to coffee plantation, Finca Bohemia. The plantation has been in her family since 1896. The 200 acre coffee farm is constantly showered with ash from the active Santiaguito Volcano. The ash is key to the region’s excellent coffee

The main export in Guatemala is coffee.  And over 70,000 coffee producers work in 8 different regions producing some of the world's best coffee beans.   "My grandmother and mother both had managed this farm.   And in 1989, I was doing my research thesis here, and I was concerned about the dynamics of biodiversity.  I saw how happy my grandmother and mother were working here, and I thought it would be a great way to live." Lorena, a professional biologist, decided to run the farm in an ecologically sustainable fashion by interweaving forested corridors amongst her coffee, macadamia, and banana crops.

Lorena is one of 3,000 women that are running coffee farms in Guatemala.  She founded Women in Coffee in Guatemala, an association that encourages training and support for women who are employed in the coffee business.  "We are trying to improve the quality of life for women so they can improve things for their families, their children, and self-esteem."    Part of her specific training regimen includes teaching the art of grafting, which involves combining two types of coffee plants to improve the quality of the bean.  This is a task that many women on farms undertake because it takes patience and deft fingers.

Everglades National Park
Agricultural worker and her family
Photo by Al Rasho
If you have forest patches between the patches of coffee, you will have more natural diversity.  I don't have to use insecticides because the insects have the forests to go into."  The forest patches are also important corridors for many types of indigenous animals as well as bird species in transit.  Part of Lorena's environmental practices include planting trees of varying heights that result in multiple ecological niches, from tree trunk to canopy, that encourages a diverse population of birds.  "Guatemala is part of a migratory highway, and these patches are critical for their passage through."

Farms in coffee growing regions across Guatemala can stretch from high altitudes all the way down to wetlands.  And having eco-corridors is critical to the movement of foxes, bats, insects, small wild cat species, and even jaguars. Ecotourism has emerged in Guatemalan coffee farms as another incentive for growers to preserve forest tracts.  "There are around 80 other coffee producers who are doing things similar to what I am doing here," says Lorena.  "These corridors will have an impact on ecotourism, and people can come and appreciate the ecology."  Part of her farm's bright future includes plans to build housing for tourists so they can come observe the daily routine of a coffee plantation, as well as the flora and fauna of the forest corridors, which keeps the Guatemalan ecosystem healthy, sustainable, and strong.

For information and reservations contact Lorena Calvo at

Eagle Eyes Screening
Screening of Eagle Eyes at USFWS in Arlington VA.
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Eagle Eyes Screening

by Stephanie Shepherd, Iowa DNR

On Monday March 4th, Dave McGowan and I attended and partially hosted a small lunchtime screening of the recently released video entitled: “Eagle Eyes: Working together for Bald Eagle Conservation” at the Arlington, VA headquarters of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (US FWS).  Several people on US FWS’ endangered species team as well as employees from the U.S. Forest Service attended the screening which was organized by David Harrelson (US FWS Endangered Species Biologist) and Alicia King (US FWS Migratory Bird Coordinator).
This video was funded by a grant from the American Eagle Foundation and was developed to support the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program.  Among other things, this program trains Iowa citizens to monitor and report on Bald Eagle nests in the state.  The US FWS became interested in this citizen science program and thought it might be a useful program for other states to employ as a cost-effective method of meeting Bald Eagle monitoring requirements.      The result was the production of the 20 minute training video by Ravenswood Media, Inc. and Iowa DNR which in Iowa, will help us reach out to more potential volunteers and nationally, will introduce other state and conservation agencies to this type of citizen science program.

The screening on March 4th was the introduction of the video to national USFWS staff.  The video was well-received and prompted great discussion and questions afterward.  On May 17th, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Iowa DNR and Ravenswood Media teamed up again to host a lunchtime webinar which was available for other conservation agencies and organizations to participate in. The webinar attracted participants from Florida, New York, Oklahoma and Oregon to name a few.  It included great questions and discussion about Iowa and other state’s programs and good connections were made.   It is hopes that these efforts will help establish a nationwide discussion about using volunteers to monitor bald eagles or other vulnerable species and how data collection can be standardized.

Land Trust of McHenry Country
McGowan filming Land Trust of McHenry County commercial.
Photo by Ken Redeker
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The Land Trust of McHenry County

by Dave McGowan

When we’re not making films about the environment, we make commercials for local businesses. Recently, the two genres met in a 1 minute video for The Land Conservancy of McHenry County. Ken Redeker and I spent a morning with the Executive Director, Lisa Haderlein, at their grounds outside of Huntley, Illinois.

It had been a long time since I was last in the area and the change in the landscape was shocking. The farms were nearly all gone and replaced with subdivisions and strip malls. Clearly, land needed to be conserved, and fast, before the last vestiges of rural McHenry County were lost forever.
The Land Conservancy of McHenry County is doing their part to conserve habitat and provide peace of mind to the inhabitants of an ever increasing urban expansion. Luckily, this isn’t just happening in McHenry County. It’s happening across the country by communities that recognize the role green spaces play in our quality of life. The Land Conservancy of McHenry County is part of a national organization, the Land Trust Alliance, that has emerged as major force in land conservation.

The Venom Trail
Filmmaker SteveSpence filming a rattlesnake.
Photo by Laura Roberts
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The Venom Trail

by Steve Spence

I have always wanted to make a film about snakes...but with a limited budget and limited time, It’s pretty hard to make an interesting piece. Think about it...snakes; even though they are amazing animals don’t really do much. They coil, the sometimes hiss and every now and again they will strike and feed on something. I decided then that in order to make a 10ish minute film interesting it had to be about more than snakes had to be about people and what people fear most about snakes...venom!

I am currently a student at Montana State University’s MFA in Natural History and Scientific Film program and a past intern of Ravenswood Media. I have always had a passion for wildlife film making and without the help of these amazing organizations, I would never have had the opportunity to follow such a crazy dream. Dave at Ravenswood taught me a lot. I had a great experience shooting with him on two projects, “The Blue River” and “Where Waters Wed” and I still use the skills I learned with him in my filmmaking today. I always find myself looking for light movement and areas backlit by the sun...two things that Dave taught me. Small subtle things like a shot of backlit leaves or cloud shadows leaving layers of light really add to the sense of place when setting up an area. The MFA program had been the best thing that I have ever done, I cant express in words how much I have learned during my time here. My filmmaking skills have been fined tuned through lecture, critique, practice and my mistakes. It is truly amazing how skills will change once you spend time and dedicate yourself to a craft.

The Venom Trail used both the skills I learned at Ravenswood and MSU. I worked every day for close to a year on the film....every day for under 15 minutes for edited footage. I worked alone on everything from pre-production, to fund raising. The only part I didn't do alone was the actual production. I had the opportunity to work with a great DP, Casey Kanode, who without his keen eye, the film would not have been the same. Thanks to the extra time I spent in pre, the post process was quick and painless, 2 months of editing (including sound and color) and I was exporting the final cut.

I have just stared on my next film exploring human’s effects on the underwater would that surrounds us all. It should be completed by the end of May 2014. Please watch the film on the link provided and if you have any questions, shoot me an email.

Steve Spence interned at Ravenswood Media in 2008.

Mike Brockway
The STOP staff
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STOP Foodborne Illness

by Mike Brockway

Ravenswood Media has the enviable position among businesses in that we believe in what our clients do. STOP Foodborne Illness is a powerful example of the kind of organization that we’re very proud to assist. Alex was a little red headed kid whose nose was too small to hold up his glasses. He died from a food borne illness. It wasn’t necessary. It was preventable. The staff at STOP work very hard to make sure other people don’t have to go through the trauma that Alex and his parents went through.

Some foodborne illnesses (commonly referred to as “food poisoning”) only cause a temporary and minor inconvenience, but many are linked to long-term disease, severe health consequences and even death. Ravenswood Media web site client, STOP Foodborne Illness is a national nonprofit public health organization that was formed in the aftermath of the 1993 Pacific Northwest E. coli outbreak caused by fast food.

STOP considers their web site, to be a “lifeline” for people affected by foodborne illness. They turned to Ravenswood Media when it was time to update this critical resource. Working from STOP Program Director Stanley Rutledge's sketches the Ravenswood Media web team, Mike Brockway and Ken Redeker put Stanley's ideas online. We incorporated input from STOP's constituency and staff and crafted the new web presence with a fresh, clean look that’s visually attractive, better organized and includes more content and resources to help those seeking information about or assistance with foodborne illnesses. The new site is CMS (Content Management System) based so that STOP staffers have the access needed to keep it up to date. We incorporated responsive features which conform the STOP site to the size of the screen used by the viewer. Our objective was to create a flexible site that could be amended quickly and easily by STOP staff. The goal of the site is to provide the user with easily accessed information and an emotional context for the organization’s existence.

The STOP staff and board are passionate about relating the stories of foodborne illness victims. Nancy Donley, STOP spokeswoman and Alex’s mother, says “When you hear a dry statistic, 48 million illnesses, 148,000 hospitalizations, and 3000 deaths – they don’t mean anything until you attach a face, a story and a life to those statistics. Every one of those stands for a human being who had dreams and loves and passions.”

It’s an honor to be part of their team.

Newsletter Editor: Ken Redeker
Webmaster: Mike Brockway
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