A Wilderness Science and Art Collaboration

Aldo & Leonardo, a partnership between Colorado Art Ranch and the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute, is a project to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The project is inspired by the scientific wisdom of Aldo Leopold and the artistic genius of Leonardo da Vinci. Our endeavor is an interdisciplinary collaboration of artists and scientists designed to celebrate the lands, resources and opportunities protected by the Wilderness Act. In 2013, we are hosting one-month residencies in six diverse wilderness areas. Artists will work alongside wildland research scientists and gain firsthand knowledge of the wonders, complexities and challenges of our nation's wildest places. The result will be a body of work that creatively illustrates the value of wild areas and honors the scientific efforts to preserve wilderness for the next fifty years.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Birds Everywhere

While working in the tern colony you are, perhaps, closer to birds than you will ever be. The birds are protecting their young, it is understandable that they attack. 
If any creature that bonds and feels their young is threatened, it will do the same. 

By Elisabeth Nickles
I spent most of the day in the tern colony.  I observed, took pictures and lingered over what may have become commonplace to the others and more familiar with the routine of collecting data.

Muybridge studied the movement of animals and humans. With photography came a greater understanding of our natural world, and how animals move through space. Here, in these images, I can see what I cannot see with the eye alone in real time. I can understand the mechanisms of flight and the amazing design of wings, and how birds respond to pressure and air. The gesture of the birds is revealed in these photos. With technology, can we get closer instead of further away? Oh Muybridge, how you would love the Iphone.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eadweard_Muybridge)

For me, being attacked by birds and touching their newly hatched chicks was epic. I have long loved birds and I have been enchanted by nests with eggs and newly hatched chicks. I have always been told not to touch them, that the mother would reject the young. These birds, not so.  My day at the colony was an immersion into reality, it challenged what I ever thought about the innocence of birds and the illusions of a fairy tale natural world.

This particular bird is not fearful and will attack you. I never took it personally and I felt somewhat guilty for being a human in their place of settlement. Why should I interfere with their place in the landscape as much as I should walk into any human's home and start looking at their infant? And so that is what we do as a human in this time frame on planet earth. It is necessary, perhaps, to keep the animals from disappearing further into a distance that does not exist any longer. The edges of the wild are far and few in between the metropolis, highways and industry. So we come to monitor what is left, and hope we can preserve, that which once was, although we really have no idea what that really is.

 Do we know how to judge what is nature and what is ourselves? If we have a word for nature and a word for humans, then are we destined to be separated by our language alone? 

another sequence of movement


  1. Inasmuch as language reflects attitudes, and I think it most certainly does... maybe we need to coin a term that is nature/man. Or maybe Nature is the word and we refuse to fall under that umbrella.

  2. Oh yes, the images are sooooooooo beautiful!

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