Fowlers Toad Development 2014 Greg Gerritt
I do not know if I have learned more about Fowler’s Toad tadpoles or making videos since I started filming mating and tadpole season in Providence’s North Burial Ground. I do know that I know much more now than I did 18 months ago when the RI Rivers Council provided enough funding to purchase a used camera and pay a very small stipend that mostly went for other expenses for the project.
I break down the knowledge into 3 components. The more I pay attention to what the tadpoles are doing, both in the pond, and in reviewing what I have filmed the better I am in adapting my schedule to film them based on conditions at the pond and the developmental stages of the tadpoles. I am almost starting to think about doing some rigorous science to test hypotheses such as Fowler’s Toad tadpoles are colonial but have no recognition of other tadpoles as any different from other life forms in the pond.
The second component is how to use the camera and create the conditions for capturing high quality pictures that demonstrate those parts of the life cycle I wish to show. I now know much more about how light levels effect the camera and the quality of the pictures. Means I mostly film on sunny days, and calm is the best wind conditions for filming into the pond. But it also means that I am getting better at tracking swimming tadpoles, figuring out how what i see on the view screen transfers to the computer screen and Youtube and slowly understanding how to get the appropriate scenery shots for intros.
Finally I am learning the art of putting things together and thank Abe Vargas for a recent lesson that gave the work a big boost, tripling my editing capacity.
The video this essay accompanies is the first of a number of videos that will be made from the complete archive of Fowler’s Toad tadpole footage shot this year. I have hours of footage, most of which will never make it to the web, but a vast library for studying toads and for making a series of short videos for Youtube. This one focuses on physical development. When I first applied for funding for the project that was the goal. To document the physical development of tadpoles in the pond. I almost wanted to make a time lapse video, but the first year I had only wild shots and a few fuzzy captive shots and it would not work.
This year I pondered what kind of stage I needed to shoot on to keep the tadpoles happy and prevent them from constantly swimming out of view. Turned out a daily dose pill box worked very well. Still not good enough for a time lapse video like I saw on Walt Disney Sunday nights as a kid, but good enough for this year. I also wanted folks to have time for a second look at the little critters and pick out the changing anatomical features. I am also going to try it out with much shorter clips and see how that looks.
But documenting the physical changes is not enough for someone who was more interested in animal behavior than anatomy. Everyone knows I am no taxonomist, and some of my misidentifications have played out publicly as I crowd source identifications. Locomotion and social behavior will also be the subject of videos in the course of the fall, as well as other aspects of the micro ecosystem where the drama plays out. I also have a few ideas for a little tadpole humor that seem so appropriate for Youtube.
The issues of maintaining ecosystem health and biodiversity in our communities is intimately tied up with the long term prosperity of our communities. I am still working on how best to use these videos about a drainage swale in an urban cemetery in the community, so I am crowd sourcing again. If you have general or specific ideas of who should see this video please let me know and arrange a showing.
Greg Gerritt Watershed Steward Friends of the Moshassuck Youtube Moshassuckcritters Blog ProsperityForRI.com FOTM website TheMoshassuck.org