The Science of Sustainability

Producer's Notes: Bugging Brian Fisher

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Brian Fisher collecting ants in the Madagascar canopy

Entomologist Brian Fisher is no stranger to QUEST fans. His work at the California Academy of Sciences collecting and cataloging ant species from all around the world has been featured in a QUEST Radio story, a QUEST TV show, an interactive map called “Ants of the Bay Area”, and a QUEST Educator Guide for science teachers. We’ve also had Brian participate on several outreach and publicity events with QUEST. Frankly, I think he’s probably getting a little tired of us.

But we’re not done with him yet! Like the ants that he so passionately studies, we here at QUEST are great recyclers. Back in June 2010, when I produced the TV story about Brian, he let us use some great video footage that he shot during his field work in Madagascar earlier in the year.

A few months ago, I had the idea to use more of that footage to pilot a new type of segment for QUEST TV called “Field Notes” in which we’ll cut together raw video footage shot by scientists in the field to document their work along with an audio interview with the scientist explaining what they're doing. As with much of QUEST this season, it’s a grand experiment. But I think this first Field Notes segment with Brian Fisher successfully proves the concept.

Brian Fisher collecting ants in Trinidad

The thing that first inspired the idea for Field Notes was reading Brian’s New York Times blog “Scientist at Work”. He’s blogging for the New York Times from Madagascar! How’s that for bringing science to life for the everyday science geek? One memorable post was when he dropped his backpack from a helicopter with all of his ant specimens, notes, money and car keys. Other posts include tales of flash floods, coup attempts and all kinds of crazy insects.

Some of the other scientific activities that Fisher's been involved with recently include his continuing study of the origin of ants of Madagascar by visiting islands in the Mozambique Channel. In April 2011, he took a ship from Reunion to visit the islands Europa, Bassas da India, Juan de Nova and Mayotte.

In addition, he started a green energy project in Madagascar which includes converting the Biodiversity Center that he built there to a green building and taking green energy experts to visit a village in the southwest of Madagascar to, in his words, "study how Bay Area know-how can help reduce deforestation, which is really just energy extraction – the cutting of trees for making charcoal."

Here are a couple of recent blogs about the project:

Matter Network
Green Tech Media

As science journalists, we’d be hard pressed to find a scientist who is a better ambassador for the excitement and adventure of the scientific process. I guess that’s why we here on QUEST keep “bugging” entomologist Brian Fisher.

Watch the QUEST TV story: Field Notes: Brian Fisher in Madagascar

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Category: Biology, Environment, Television

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Amy Miller

About the Author ()

Amy Miller is the Supervising Producer and Partner at Spine Films, a boutique independent production company specializing in hard science factual television. Prior to joining the Spine team, Amy worked for six years at KQED (PBS) in San Francisco as the Series Producer of QUEST, a multimedia science and environment series. It was at KQED that she was finally able to merge her lifelong passions for science and storytelling. Originally from Iowa, Amy grew up in Colorado then landed in San Francisco in 1991. She studied biology and film production at University of Colorado and San Francisco State University, and since graduating in 1995, she has worked as a camera assistant, documentary filmmaker, TV producer and correspondent on a variety of cable and public television shows including two other KQED series, "Spark" and "Independent View". For her work in television, she has earned ten regional Emmy awards, two AAAS Kavli Science Journalism awards, and a Society of Professional Journalists Excellence in Journalism Feature Writing award.